We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Powerful vs. Powerless

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

In Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey focuses on the battle between powerful versus the powerless in order to motivate readers to fight against the higher authority. Chief Bromden looses his strength within himself by allowing others to influence his actions. Billy Bibbit is restricted on growing up from his overly protective Mother and Ms. Ratched. Furthermore, McMurphy was willing to sacrifice his life to push others to stand up for themselves. Power and control are the central ideas of Ken Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There are examples of physical, authoritative and mechanical power in the novel, as well as cases of self-control, and control over others. Chief Bromden develops his perceptual abilities and regains a sense of himself as an individual in the ward. He claims, “…I remembered one thing: it wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all” (Kesey 178). Bromden is paranoid, bullied, and surrounded much of the time by people who made him feel small and helpless. By witnessing his hero figure being his Father be taken over by the government, it discouraged him from standing up. When he tried to speak to the officials, they acted as if he was not there.

This experience largely affects his withdrawal into himself, and initiates the outside world’s treatment of him as if he were deaf and dumb. When he tried to, he was ignored and barley even acknowledged. Moreover, he believes that he is extremely weak, even though he used to be immensely strong; because he believes it, he acts and becomes extremely weak. Since McMurphy came to the ward, Chief finally isn’t treated the way all the overly powerful authorities have treated him and actually now acknowledged and appreciated. In the end, McMurphy has helped Bromden regain his sense of reality and strength to fight for himself along with escaping the ward. Through Chief’s journey, Kesey shows us that the seemingly impossible battle against the more powerful figures in society can be defeated and to not give up. Billy Bibbit is a shy teen suffering with a bad stutter being dominated by his Mother, one of Nurse Ratched’s close friends. Billy is voluntarily in the hospital, as he is afraid of the outside world due to his Mother trapping him and not allowing him to grow as a young male.

Billy didn’t have the courage to stand up for himself in the beginning until McMurphy came along and helped expand his growth as a man. Billy finally decides to stand up to Ms. Ratched and have no shame in his actions by sleeping with Candy but ends up backfiring on him. Ms. Ratched threatens to tell Billy’s Mother which leads him to being powerless and vulnerable. Both women held him back from growing up and the fact he’s failed his mother and her envision of him is too much to handle. With all the stress, disappointment, and pressure from the threat given, Billy ends up committing suicide. When McMurphy realizes what has happen he tells Ms. Ratched, “First Charles Cheswick and how William Bibbit! I hope you’re finally satisfied. Playing with human lives—gambling with human lives—as if you thought yourself to be a God!” (Kesey 266). It was all too overwhelming and unbearable for him and at this point it was too late for Billy.

Kesey is telling his readers that by Billy holding himself back from sticking up for himself earlier, he most likely wouldn’t have resulted in ending his own life due to the amount of stress and pressure put on him from those who over powered him in his life. McMurphy sacrifices himself to help the other patients regain their confidence to fight back against the higher authority in the ward. McMurphy realizes after damaging the order in the ward, he’s gotten himself into a deeper and worse situation and backs off the authority. He realizes this and things become more serious when Ms. Ratched claims, “We have weeks, or months, or even years if need be. Keep in mind that Mr. McMurphy is committed. The length of time he spends in this hospital is entirely up to us” (Kesey 137). McMurphy’s bravery and ambition to try to overpower the higher authority in the ward may not have helped him in the end but gives the patients a place to start for themselves.

After the death of Billy, McMurphys losses his patients and attacks Big Nurse for a sort of justice for Billy. In retaliation, she has him lobotomized, and he returns to the ward as a vegetable. However, Ratched has lost her power over the ward just as McMurphy was hoping for. Bromden suffocates McMurphy in his bed, enabling him to die with some dignity rather than live as a symbol of Ratched’s power. Though McMurphy ends up dead in the end, he helped the other patients escape from the confined inhumane life Big Nurse has created in the ward for them. He was a leader and role model for those who began to finally stick up for themselves and not be afraid of fighting back against the higher power.

Kesey demonstrates that though death resulted in the powerless trying to fight back to the powerful, they still made a point and progress. Each death symbolized as an effort towards overpowering the higher authority and encourages others to do the same. Ultimately, Chief Bromden becomes weak due to the way others have treated him but gained his strength back. Billy Bibbit got held back from growing into a young adult but finally engages in adult activities and steps up to Nurse Ratched about it. Lastly, McMurphy refuses to acknowledge the Nurse’s power, and encourages others to challenge the status quo. Nurse Ratched is the ultimate example of authoritative power and control over others. The other patients begin powerless, but with McMurphy’s help, learn to control their own lives.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59