It is very evident in the novel “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” that every character had his place in the story, this, although seemingly ignorable has proven to be a very useful way in relaying a message. The background characters of the story tell more than just the obvious. Many backgrounds and background characters go unnoticed in many stories and movies, but without these elements many themes or messages could not be relayed as clearly. In many movies even the light fixture can prove to show a message or even assist in predicting future events, this I believe was used to relay an extremely unnoticed theme and message in the novel. I believe one background theme is, that the writer Ken Kessey used background characters to show the truth of the ward, not the characters that knew what was going on, or so they believed, but that the nurse will come to use these characters to her own advantage.
The most powerful message seems to be self evident, a nurse who has all the power begins to fail in her attempt to control her patients because of a new one named McMurphy. What seems to assist in showing this very clear message is the background characters called “The Chronics” they go on in the story unnoticed and talked of very little because the story focused more on the main characters called “The Acutes,” but without the chronics the acutes would have been wild or disorderly. The chronics come into play very early on in the power struggle, because the nurse uses the chronics to show the acutes what they could become if they do not confide with the rules of the ward. A very basic way of showing this is that she keeps them on one side of the room where they are not bothered, this in turn shows the acutes the isolation they are receiving, which is what none of the acutes want because in numbers is where they have their power.
The nurse begins to use the chronics as a beacon of power, or a totem pole in which she relays her power through them by keeping them in wheel chairs and under strict medications. This although seems very minute in the story, it plays a big part in showing the “whole picture” in metaphorical terms, by this I mean they are shown to be dysfunctional and broken down, but they were once functioning members of society, although they played a small role in society they still played it, but once they were committed to the asylum the nurse would break them down into pieces of dysfunctional human mechanisms in which she immediately took control of, almost like her personal slaves in which she used to scare and settle other patients to do what she wanted.
The Chronics in themselves relay a message the seemed to be self evident to myself, it was the message that they were trying to put themselves together to show the other patients what was really going on, the other patients paid no attention because they themselves believed that they knew what was going on, I also believe that the readers paid no attention because of the focus on the main characters. The message the chronics relay, or so I believe is that if they do not get out while they can, they’ll find themselves in the same position as these very same men, attempting to relay the same message to other patients which in turn will allow the nurse to have more power.
A very powerful theme I observed in the background was that towards the end of novel some of the acutes and many chronics began to die, this arose as the nurse began to loose power, almost as if her sources of power were beginning to fail, and in turn they were allowing themselves to let go of the harm she was bestowing on the other patients through them, like the totems and beacons were falling and her power was diminishing which was the cause of Mcmurphy, this allowed the acutes to gain their own power to form a sort of rebellion towards the nurse.
In a panicked frenzy the nurse went to extreme measures to recover her lost power or totems, so she began to use her final show of force to regain them, she used it in the case of Billy Bibbit who had been set free in a sense, of the nurses grasp, the night of the party, the very next morning the nurse began to see that unless she began to build more totems she was going to be overrun by her own system, so she indirectly caused Billy to commit suicide, which marked one of her very first absolute totems of power that quickly settled the patients, at least she believed. Eventually she received the most powerful totem of all, McMurphy whom she could use to her entire advantage.
I hope that I myself relayed the message of this essay, that within the story there were many themes embodied in the background and background characters, and how they were used to relay the themes through the power of nurse Ratched. All in all no background or characters should be over looked or taken for granted, because you just might find yourself missing the biggest point of the story although it may not be self evident at the time it can prove to be well worth it to attempt to decipher the message the author is hoping to convey to the readers.
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