Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Writer's Craft

             My most recent writing piece was about the comparison of McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. I thought that this essay turned out very well, because I had been thinking about this topic the entire time we were reading this book. I had a fairly strong opinion on this topic, so my essay came to me pretty easily.


Two characters who appear to be the most sane, in actuality, have the most severe psychological problems. Both Ratched and McMurphy feel the urge to act as the most dominant members of the Ward. Each needs to be the most powerful individual, and as a result, they subtly battle one another in an attempt to gain the support of the patients. However, each of them has varied methods to attract the power needed to rule.
Ratched, a woman who has controlled the ward since before Bromden arrived, has sent the wheels of motion into play, and took control of everything around her. The entire ward functioned in conjunction with her very thoughts; everything was attuned to her senses. From the actions of the black men, to the strict day-to-day procedure, Ratched knew every small detail about the ward. Even the glass separating her workstation is crystal clear. Nurse Ratched even held precedence over the Ward doctor, the supposed top authority of the building. She controlled and manipulated him, just as she did to anybody else that set foot in her little world.
McMurphy, however, proved to be the only one that could resist her rule. As he began his stay at the ward, every one of his actions invariably found a way to break one of Ratched's rules, or just annoyed her. He did not give in to her control, instead, he began to form his own empire. He began by trying to win the support of the men around him. Unlike Ratched who ruled through her reputation and the fear she generated, McMurphy attempted to act friendly with the men, joking around with them and promoting their manly instincts which Ratched had put away. He showed them pictures of nude girls, encouraged them to gamble, and incited them to fight in support of something they wanted; the World Series.
Although these two psychological conditions are essentially the same, the thirst for power, the approach that each individual takes towards the same problem is completely different. Since the mindset requires the individual to be in total control, it is impossible for two people with the same condition to coexist. They would be in turmoil until one ceased to exist, just as was the case in the novel. Furthermore, the completely different approaches to the same issue show the extent of difference between the two individuals. To McMurphy and Ratched, the situation upon the ward was turned into a survival of the fittest scenario, where both individuals continually battled towards the same goal.
Personally, if I had to chose, I see myself living with the philosophy presented by McMurphy. He chooses to lull the people he wants to control in a sense of security by becoming their friend and mentor. He plays a psychological game with their head, making them think that they are in control of themselves, when in essence, McMurphy's every wish is carried out by them. Furthermore, I do not believe that ruling through fear is a smart idea, simply for the reason that given a proper incentive to rebel, the incentive in the novel being McMurphy, the people will immediately begin to rebel, and what you worked so hard to create will slowly deteriorate. We see both approaches in both history and modern day society, as rulers attempt to take control of their people, through one method or the other. Although both work, one must always dominate over the other.


  1. Hi Cooper! I agree, I think Ratched and McMurphy are power hungry. You did a really good job comparing Ratched and McMurphy, and you had really great word choice. Keep up the great work!

  2. This piece goes very in depth on how the two characters interact with each other, the other patients, and society. Great job using descriptive words and phrases! Keep up the great work! Tehe

  3. Nice job digging in a little deeper to these classic characters. I wonder if the author had any first-hand experience with an old school institution like this one and its characters, or if he's doing what you describe and using the hospital setting and extreme characters to make points about the human condition. The stark contrast to the old, mute Indian is interesting too. The point that they simply cannot co-exist is a strong one. I think you're right. It's all a psychological game and power struggle. Good analysis. Thanks for sharing!