Man and (Dale Wasserman's) "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

Essay by robmeister15University, Bachelor's March 2004

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When the original version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was presented to the public, the author noted that Cuckoo's Nest was meant as a story of a "Christian character who puts his life on the line for the down-trodden (Porter 23)." However, this story, as seen in the reformatted play by Dale Wasserman, has taken on much more meaning than possibly intended, and actually presents very insightful views about the society the play was written in. Namely, this play's underlying themes are the conflicts of man's individuality versus the control of a conformist society in the person of a harridan wielding her authority in the setting of a madhouse. Wasserman's solution to the protagonist's double-bind situations, as well as that of the other patients, is simply that laughter has the power to heal many wounds.

The first theme of Wasserman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a parallel between the patient's powerless state in the insane asylum and that of "Joe Six-Pack," both of whom are in fact "derived from the real-life subculture of the Pacific Northwest (Schwartz 48)."

Every character is a recognizable human type (Schwartz 49)." Through its characters, this play portrays the structures, rules, and boundaries that exist in a madhouse are strikingly similar to those observed in modern day society. Furthermore, the writer criticizes to what extent conformity is such a major part of our everyday life, and how we sacrifice a part of ourselves in the struggle to maintain our individuality amidst a conformist society.

This play's characters all quite clearly display such conformity, each in his own way. First and foremost, we see conformity as manifested through the choices of patients in the asylum. Of these patients, we see it predominantly through Chief Bromden and Billy Bibbit, but we still...