1984/ One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
How can one compare a novel about a mental ward with a novel which paints a bleak picture of an futuristic dystopia? In the case of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and George Orwell’s 1984 the similarities are startling . Although they take place in vastly different times and settings, Ken Kesey and George Orwell were trying to express almost exactly the same theme. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest uses a mental ward as a microcosm of the world and how he was afraid the world was becoming. 1984 uses the future a device to show what society could become. Both novels show how those in power can manipulate and enslave the masses.
Nurse Ratched and Big Brother are very similar in the ways they present themselves and manipulate people. Nurse Ratched control her image so that she seems more powerful. She always wears the same neat smile which does not seem to crack under any kind of pressure. Even when Randle McMurphy is trying his best, he can hardly get her to flinch from that perfect, unmoving expression. She would also stand in her office behind the big glass window for hours at a time, emphasizing the fact that she is watching them. . Nurse Ratched leaves a book out and rewards the patients if they can get compromising information about someone else and write it down. Big Brother also is presented as an unmoving face which watches the people. Big Brother himself is never seen by the people who live in Oceania, but his presence is everywhere in the form of giant posters which are plastered everywhere with the caption “Big Brother is Watching”. The picture on the poster is drawn so that the eye!
s seem to follow anyone who is looking at the picture. Big Brother used the Youth League to get kids to spy on their parents to see if they were going against the Party. By turning their people against themselves it makes it very difficult for them to join together in any collective effort against the hospital or government policy.
In both novels there is a place that no one wants to be sent to. It is a place they have heard about, but have not seen. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest there is also a room, it is called Electro-Shock Therapy or abbreviated as EST, but it is commonly known as the “Shock Shop.” Randle McMurphy and Chief Bromden are both taken here and put on the table. Two electrodes are touched to the sides of their heads. One shock sends the “patient” into unconsciousness, only to awaken up a day or two later and to be in a semi-conscious stupor for several days. Thought criminals are punished in a way very similar to the mental patients. In 1984 this room is called Room 101. It lies deep within the Ministry of Justice. Winston Smith was brought to this room and strapped to a table. O’Brien turned a dial to a number between one and one hundred. The higher the pain, the higher degree of pain that Winston would experience. For more severe thought-crimes, or infractions of hospi!
tal policy multiple sessions are prescribed.
The societies presented are also run in very similar ways. The best example of this in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is when the patients want to switch the work time with the television watching time so that they can watch the World Series. The nurse prevents them from doing this even though there is no good reason for it. The patients are awakened by the lights being turned on every morning at the same time. Nurse Ratched plays the same music over and over in the day room where the patients spend their leisure time. She allowed her them to watch the six o’ clock news as their only outlet for receiving news from the outside world. The Mental Ward and Oceania both have same rules. Winston Smith also can’t miss work or else he could be arrested by the Thought Police. Party members are awakened each day by the telescreens. The telescreens constantly play music, and the people are forced to listen to it. This is just one way that a ruler can display his power by makin!
g the people more miserable. In Oceania the newspapers were written by government officials to serve the purposes of the government. Both societies strictly control when people can eat, sleep, and work.
These two novels both serve as warnings, or reminders, of how those in power can manipulate people, and prevent them from having any avenue to gain power or to escape the rule under which they live.Many patients on Nurse Ratched’s ward were there voluntarily, and in 1984 the Party members felt privileged to be part of the Party and looked down upon the Proles.Anyone who lives in a free society and reads one of these books should be disturbed, not only at the degree to which people be oppressed or controlled, but that they can be manipulated into not even realizing how horribly oppressed they are, and even liking their oppressors.