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How and why does the play make the audience identify with McMurphy

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One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest How and why does the play make the audience identify with McMurphy? The play 'one flew over the cuckoo's nest' is set in the 1950s. During the 50's there were many patients that were coming back from WWII who was addicted to morphine and suffering what we now call PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). There were a huge number of the 'old style' mental hospitals that were still applying treatment such as shock therapy, psychotropic drugs and lobotomies. Community care was bought in but it failed to come into many of the hospitals, and the long-term patients were mistreated and undermined. However, the abuse of these patients did not go unnoticed. The government started to make small steps in an effort to help, particularly in 1953 when the government set aside millions to help refurbish the homes that the patients lived in, and they did it again in 1954-1957 when the government reconsidered and changed the laws on how mentally ill should be treated and viewed, but few actually made any change. By bringing out this play the audience had a chance to identify with McMurphy and it gave the audience a unique look into the terrible things that happened behind the closed doors of the institutions. When people watched this play and saw the hospitals through a patient (McMurphy) ...read more.


"Out miss Ratchet is the kindest, sweetest the most benevolent women I have... that I have... ever... oh the bitch, bitch". This display of emotions shows the effect of institutionalisation on even the boldest and strongest of characters, their own morals and principles are taken away and replaced by a routine. The height of institutionalisation is shocking as we see the silliest rules being put into place, such as they are not allowed to brush their teeth when they want to 'we don't open that cabinet (containing toothpaste) till six forty-five.' The influence Nurse Ratchet and this routine have on them is unbelievable, they no longer think for themselves, the second Nurse Ratchet calls them; they are at her feet, like trained dogs. We see this symbolised when they are playing a game of cards. Nurse Ratchet calls over the loud speaker that there is a group meeting and like programmed robots in the middle of the game of cards, they get up and move the tables aside, they carry their chairs across the room while McMurphy sits angry and confused. In this part of the play, the play makes us identify with McMurphy through an emotional bond that slowly develops between the audience and McMurphy. The audience sympathises in this instant and can feel his anger at the treatment that these patients are given, and how blind they are to it. ...read more.


Each time McMurphy tries to get his human rights, something that should be treated as treatment according to the institute, Nurse Ratchet treats as punishment. This also brings up the theme of treatment vs. punishment, whether the patients are being treated or punished for the illnesses they have. There is a fine line that can be drawn between treatment and punishment. This play made me identify with McMurphy because I could see these patients from a same level of perspective as McMurphy; because he is sane, I can relate him and his feelings, looking at patients get bullied and having first hand experience of the wrong that these mental homes were doing to these people that have illnesses, maybe being punished for there illnesses, therefore allowing me to see the world through their eyes. This play put the scale of institutionalisation in to perspective for me and maybe for the rest of the audience as well, taking peoples self-esteem away and own ability to think for themselves shocked me a lot, it made me feel angry and I completely understand where Mc Murphy is coming from. I'm glad to hear that the number of mental institutions have been reduced and instead of treating the patients with no respect they are now looking after patients and treating them like human beings, with the power of freedom. Nial Pembroke ...read more.

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