Why does Nurse Ratched value order in the ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Nurse Ratched's primary motivation throughout the narrative is one of control.  She seeks to control the patients in the ward with a sense of totality that is beyond question and above reproach.  The doctors are only peripheral because the ward is hers, and she ensures that her embrace of rules and order is done to consolidate her own power of the patients.  She views control as the most important element in the life of her patients.  This is shown not to be maternalistic, as much as representative of a totality where structure and order is the most important element.  Her background as an Army nurse is present as there is a clear chain of command and she starts it.  Nurse Ratched represents that element of society and political order that values control over all, including personal expression and individual entitlements.  McMurphy's presence represents the anomaly that always is present to such orders, demanding social and political change.  In the end, her power driven sense of control is shown, and while McMurphy might have failed for freedom in his own setting, his example towards her has inspired others to bring down her environment of control and dominance.

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