One of the society’s standards provides the most pervasive theme in the book One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest. What is oppression? Is oppression in compliance with culture and its customs? Or is conformance a sense of personality as detached from society? In portraying McMurphy’s struggles, Kesey questions his society’s definitions of oppression, which seem to ask all people to be traditional and follow the same standards of behavior.
When McMurphy discovers that many of the prisoners are at the hospital willingly, he wants to know why? He discovers that they do not have the strength to survive in the society, but sarcastically, Nurse Ratched’s methods are intended to challenge the men’s confidence, not give confidence it. In this way, Kesey portrays his society’s definition of oppression and cruelty as something used by an authoritarian culture to dehumanize the individual and replace it with a machine that dwells in a safe, sightless conventionality.