Rules and Order

Nurse Ratched: The best thing we can do is go on with our daily routine.

Even after Billy Bibbit has killed himself, Nurse Ratched's biggest concern is making sure the patients of the hospital stick to their daily routine. And what is a routine if not a method of control? This is exactly what pushes McMurphy over the edge and makes him want to strangle her.

Nurse Ratched: Some men take a long, long time to get used to the schedule.

McMurphy wants to watch the World Series, but Nurse Ratched isn't ready to change the patients' schedule just for him. She is utterly convinced that the best thing for the patients is to have a routine that never, ever changes. She thinks that by stripping away their ability to make choices and be individuals that she'll get them to be good members of society. And the creepiest part of it is that everything she says sounds totally sane and reasonable. That's how she can get away with enforcing such rigid rules.

McMurphy: F*** the schedule! They can go back to the schedule after the Series!

McMurphy obviously doesn't find the daily schedule as important as Nurse Ratched does. He thinks that it won't kill the hospital patients to break their schedule just for one night to watch a baseball game. But as you can tell, he doesn't express his frustration in a very calm way, which doesn't exactly help his case for sanity.

Nurse Ratched: Well, anyway, this is no way to proceed about this.

Nurse Ratched isn't willing to let McMurphy change the patients' schedule. And besides, she wouldn't listen to him even if he had a good point. After all, he needs to understand that she's boss around the hospital and that he can't bully her just by raising his voice.

Nurse Ratched: How would it be if we had a vote and let the majority rule?

Clever, don't you think? Nurse Ratched decides to put the issue of watching the World Series to rest by putting the question to a vote. That's because she knows that the other patients will vote the way she wants them to. She can give the patients the illusion of freedom, while really she never has to relinquish control.

Nurse Ratched: Everyone in favor of changing the schedule, please raise your hand.

When Nurse Ratched finally lets the issue of watching the World Series go to a vote, the other patients vote against it because they have no clue what the World Series is. It's clear that her knowledge of the hospital put her at an advantage over McMurphy, who has to find another way to get under the nurse's skin.

Nurse Ratched: If you had obeyed the rules in the first place, you wouldn't have lost your money.

At one point, the patients in the hospital get angry with Nurse Ratched for always making such strict rules for them. But she insists that she knows what's best for them more than they do. And here we finally see just how superior she thinks she is to them.

Cheswick: Rules? Piss on your f***ing rules, Miss Ratched!

You tell her, Charlie. Cheswick eventually explodes and tells Nurse Ratched that he's sick of obeying her rules all the time. After all, many of the men in the mental hospital are there voluntarily and can leave anytime they want. So it makes no sense whatsoever for Nurse Ratched to treat them like idiots. They want to get better, and she should be helping them do that.

Cheswick: I ain't no little kid. I ain't no little kid.

Cheswick tells Nurse Ratched that he's sick of being treated like a child. The problem is that he ends up getting electroshock therapy because of his outburst. So how's that for rewarding individual expression?

McMurphy: Is that what your schedule does for you?

McMurphy gets sick of the way the other patients rely on Nurse Ratched's schedule to keep their minds together. When things finally go wrong for all of them, McMurphy triumphantly asks if this is what their dumb schedule does for them. Of course, they all know that the schedule is just a made up way of organizing time. But none of them have ever been able to admit it.

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