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In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, how does Ken Kesey's concept of the Combine compare...

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nickr | Salutatorian

Posted July 22, 2013 at 4:54 AM via web

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In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, how does Ken Kesey's concept of the Combine compare with Chief Bromden's concept of the Combine in the mental hospital, which watches and controls everything?

 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 22, 2013 at 5:41 AM (Answer #1)

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It is clear that, for a large part of the book, the reality that Chief Bromden perceives is very different from normal reality. His description of what really goes on in the ward from his perspective, with machines dominating the ward and even controlling the patients, offers a terribly unsettling alternative vision of "the Combine," as Bromden calls it, in all of its horror. Note what Bromden tells the reader about the Combine:

The ward is a factory for the Combine. It's for fixing up mistakes made in the neighbourhoods and the schools and in the churches, the hospital is.

This is where Kesey's and Bromden's view on the Combine intersect, in that both recognise the ward is a dumping ground for those who are viewed as "mistakes" in larger society and don't fit in anywhere else. Bromden of course with his vivid imagination views the Combine as machines, and operating on the men and trying to make them into machines. For example, in his dream, Vegetable Blastic is cut open and only "a shower of rust and ashes" falls out, indicating that the Combine is responsible for the death of his humanity as well as his mental health. This is of course the main difference between the views of Kesey and Bromden concerning the combine. To Bromden, the Combine is presented as a scary, futuristic world of machines that try to turn the patients themselves into nothing more than machines. Kesey uses these dreams and visions to reflect his view on the way that mental care suppresses individuality and restricts humanity, turning humans into nothing more than predictable and identical machines.

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