One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Crucible c

omparisonPower and control are the central ideas of Ken Keseys One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest. There are examples of physical, authoritative and mechanical power in the novel, as well as cases of self-control, and control over others. Nurse Ratched is the ultimate example of authoritative power and control over others but R.P. McMurphy refuses to acknowledge the Nurses power, and encourages others to challenge the status quo. The other patients begin powerless, but with McMurphys help, learn to control their own lives. Many symbols are also used to represent power and control in the book, such as the Combine, fog, and the imagery of machines.


Arthur Miller develops themes of power somewhat differently in his play The Crucible. Because The Crucible is a play, it can be expected that Miller will use dialogue and characterisation to show the reader power.
Miller created Rev Parris, who believes that the church is the authority of all people in the town. Since he is a Reverend, he considers himself an authoritative figure. He believes that people are not following their obligations to the church. He comments about the authority of the church. He demands that the people of Salem be obedient to the church and to him. He says that if they are not obedient, then they will burn in hell. He does not leave much room for people to live their lives other than by what the church dictates. Through Parriss comments, Miller is showing the reader the control the church exerts over its parish.
Kesey also uses characterisation to show power. The Big Nurse Ratched runs the ward in which the central characters reside in a manner that induces fear in both patients and staff. The Nurse controls almost everything in the mens lives; their routines, food, entertainment, and for those who are committed, how long they stay in the hospital. Nurse Ratched is the main example of power and control in the novel. The Big Nurse has great self-control; she is not easily flustered and never lets others see what she is feeling. Rather than accusing the men of anything, she insinuates. Although she isnt physically larger than the small nurses, The Chief describes Nurse Ratched as Big because of the power she holds this presentation of size is used for many characters.
Once McMurphy attacks the nurse and exposes her breasts and thus her sexuality which she has always tried hard to conceal she loses control over the ward and ultimately loses the ongoing battle between herself and McMurphy.

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In The Crucible, Miller too created a character that would stand against authority; John Proctor. When Proctor is questioned as to why he has not been to church in so long, he admits that he has ill feelings towards Parris and the way that Parris gives sermons. Proctor does not like authority, and since Parris talks as though he is an authority figure, Proctor has an issue with this. Proctor is very critical over representatives of authority. Proctor changes from a timid character held in bondage by his sin, to a strong, righteous man who will die for the truth. This drastic change in his character is the basis of his significance to the outcome of the play. When faced with the prospect of either confessing to something he didnt do, or dying, he tells judge Danforth that he cannot have his confession and name nailed to the church door because it would betray his friends who have already died for the truth. When Danforth refutes this, John says, Beguile me not! I blacken all of them when this is nailed to the church the very day they hang for silence! (143). Proctor seizes the power back from those who are misusing it, simply by refusing to be a part of the false confessions. The unyielding faith of Proctors wife, the influence of the people who share his beliefs and his triumph over an inner struggle help him make a decision that he believes will finally set him free from his past.


Keseys character against power is Randle Patrick McMurphy. He is a loud-mouthed, defiant and unpredictable man. He has power simply because of these characteristics. He rejects authority and keeps them on their toes. The Chief sees McMurphy, like the Big Nurse, as big. McMurphy teaches the men to gain control over themselves by questioning their compliance and apathy towards their own lives.

Miller created Danforth to be similar to what Big Nurse is in Cuckoos Nest. Danforth is strict in terms of his authority in the court. And not only is he adamant about his own personal authority, he acts the same way about the authority of the institution of the court system. He thinks that the court is the highest authority in the land, and because he presides over it, he will not stand for people questioning the way he runs it. When anyone tries to speak out against how the court and Danforth are handling the witch-hunt, they find themselves accused of witchcraft.


In his efforts to over-power the nurse, McMurphy learns to control his anger. The only times that he really loses self control are when the Black Boys (aides) bully rub-a-dub George – for which McMurphy receives EST (Electro-shock therapy) and when Billy Bibbit commits suicide – the incident following Billys death was what led to McMurphys own lobotomy and eventual death. Throughout the book, many symbols are used to portray McMurphy as a religious icon, which indicates he is powerful. He claims that a girl once referred to him as a symbol, at his EST he asks for a crown of thorns and at once stage he leads twelve patients (disciples) fishing (Christ has been described as the Big Fisherman or fisher of men).

Although McMurphy dies, he does not lose all power. Performing euthanasia on McMurphy is the final step in the Chiefs growth, and after McMurphy is lobotomised, all the other patients decide they are ready to leave the hospital and the Nurse loses all power over them.


At the start of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Dale Harding describes all of the patients as rabbits. They have no power over anything and are scared of the outside world. With McMurphys help, they are able to grow (in the Chiefs eyes) and gain control of their lives. An important part of this growth is their discovery of their own power. During the fishing trip, Harding states
Never before did I realize that mental illness could have the aspect of power. Power. Think of it: perhaps the more insane a man is, the more powerful he could become (185)
This is a far cry from his original rabbit theory.

Charles Cheswick is a minor character who exhibits childish, angry behaviour when he challenges the Nurse. Soon after that, while at the pool, he is still agitated and distracted. He dives into the water and drowns accidentally. At the end of the book, the Chief still sees Billy Bibbit as relatively small. Although he has experienced some growth, he still has no power over his mother because he is still afraid of her. Billy commits suicide because of this fear. Kesey exaggerates these examples to show those without power and control cannot survive.

After McMurphy helps him, Chief Bromden manages to grow back to his full size (figuratively), and eventually uses his own physical power to escape.


Miller also uses actions by characters to show us power. Parris, the figure of authority along with Danforth, yells that Proctor has only come to the court to try and overthrow it. Like Danforth, Parris is overly concerned that his and the church’s authority will be undermined. Hale even speaks up in his anger at Danforth and Parris. Hale begins to see that they are taking their power of authority to unjust heights. They begin to consider every person’s comment as an attack against the court.


Many symbols operate throughout Cuckoos Nest to represent power and control. The Nurses supposed ability to change the rate of time is a symbol of the extent of her control over their lives; the Chief believes she is so powerful she can do the work of God. The fog that the he refers to occurs when the Chief feels out of control like when he is scared or confused and the fog disappears once the Chief grows and takes control.

The Combine is an organisation that the Chief imagines that makes everything the same on the outside (of the hospital). He believes that the hospital is a dumping ground for the Combines failures. The Combine is yet another symbol of control as seen by the Chief.

Throughout the novel, things are referred to as machines, such as the Nurse and the Black Boys. These machines are controlled, emotionless and powerful. The Chief presents them in contrast with nature, which is beautiful, unique and comforting to him. All of the symbols used present a negative view on power and control in the book. The nurse changes time to annoy the men, The Combine is against him, and the machines are the enemy.


Miller however does use a symbol of books, and the churchs blind belief in them, to show the reader that the people in authority are naive. Reverend Hale arrives and Parris says that his books are heavy. Hale responds by saying that the books are weighted with authority. This gives a little insight into the minds of not only Hale but others in the town as well. They think that the written word, whether it is in books, or written as the law, has such a heavy weight as an authoritative voice in the society. There should be little or no questioning as to the righteousness of the written word.


Millers final attempt to show misuse of power is when Parris begs Danforth to postpone the executions because Parris is trying to get them to confess. Danforth says that there will be no postponement. Danforth knows that what has happened is not totally right and just, but to hold up this view of himself as an authority he continues to act in complete control over the situation. To postpone the deaths would be to possibly admit that he has made a mistake with the other twelve people who have already been hanged. This is something that he would not dare admit, for it would question the authority of himself as a judge, the court, and the church.


The book One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest provides many examples and symbols of power and control, although these are depicted in different ways. Nurse Ratcheds power is due to the fear she instils in others and she has control because she makes the rules. R.P. McMurphy stands up to the Nurse, and gains power through his defiant ways. The inmates of the hospital gain power and control over their own lives with McMurphys help. The symbols that operate include the Chiefs Combine, the fog he imagines and his imagery of machines. All of these examples contribute to a novel that has a central idea of power and control. Arthur Millers The Crucible, shows us power through the actions the characters make, rather than by using symbols as Kesey does. Millers use of dialogue and events in the play communicates to the reader a gross exploitation of power.
TASK : Explain how the two authors develop power in the texts. Focus on the significant similar methods and significant differences in making a reading of a theme explicit to readers.
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