One flew over the cuckoos nest - Narrator essay

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest - Narrator Essay

        A prose in which the writer uses a memorable narrative technique is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey. The story is told by Chief Bromden, a patient in a psychiatric ward who has severe paranoia giving him a distorted perception of reality. The head nurse in the ward, Nurse Ratched, is an extremely controlling and oppressing character who manipulates the patients and keeps them and the ward in a rigorous routine. Initially the ward is run as if it was a prison, but from the minute the brazen and outspoken McMurphy sets foot on the ward it is clear that he is going to cause havoc and help to change things in the ward.

In the beginning of the novel, the Chief explains that he has fooled everyone in the ward including the Nurse into thinking that he is deaf and dumb. This gives the Chief, and the readers, a privileged viewpoint of the events in the novel. A scene in which this is particularly relevant is in the staff meeting:

        “The staff always let me clean the room because they didn’t think I could hear.”

In the ward, the staff always discuss private matters in the staff meeting and because the Chief stays in the room, he hears all the secrets. In this staff meeting, the Nurse makes it clear that she doesn’t like McMurphy or his motives. We also gain insight into the fact that there is a clear struggle for power between the Nurse and McMurphy and that the Nurse feels that her power is being threatened by McMurphy’s arrival at the ward. The narrator’s unique viewpoint into this scene is essential to the readers overall understanding of the events taking place in the ward and this makes Chief Bromden’s narration memorable.  

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The theme of oppression is prevalent throughout the play and it is particularly emphasised by the narration of the novel. The chief uses various images to convey the controlling nature of the Nurse and her obsession with having full power over the patients. When the chief describes Nurse Ratched, he often uses imagery that has connotations of machinery:

        “She’s carrying her woven wicker bag...I can see inside it; there’s no compact or lipstick or woman stuff,  she’s got that bag full of a thousand parts she aims to use in her duties today – wheels and gears, cogs polished to ...

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