It's not a stretch to say that some stark power relationships exist inside a mental hospital. We'll even go ahead and say that there's a total power imbalance between the people who run the hospital and the patients who live in it. But for rule-breakers like R.P. McMurphy, this power imbalance doesn't sit so well. After all, McMurphy is in the place to begin with because he's been unwilling to follow society's rules. On top of that, he has a personal hate on for the woman in charge, Nurse Ratched. So it makes sense that things go completely to hell by the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Questions About Power

  1. To what extent does McMurphy have power in this movie? How is he powerless? Why? How does Chief Bromden choose to get power in this movie? Does he succeed?
  2. How does Nurse Ratched establish her power among the patients of the hospital? 
  3. Does this power ever waver? Why or why not? 
  4. How does McMurphy teach the other patients to empower themselves? Does it work?

Chew on This

Power isn't always in the hands of the people in charge. Just look at how McMurphy is able to change the perspectives of his fellow patients.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest shows us that those who challenge power will be crushed in the end.

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