Discuss the notion that the text is concerned with the individual's struggle against a restrictive society and in the end, that society triumphs.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

McMurhphy's failure to establish individuality and uniqueness in a social setting that emphasized control and conformity as its primary values would suggest that the statement is correct.  McMurphy tries his best to bring uniqueness into a world devoid of it, spark individuality and dissent in his fellow patients, and attempts to overthrow Nurse Ratched' controlling measures.  In the end, he fails, as Billy commits suicide, and none of the other patients rise up in McMurphy's footsteps.  Certainly, in McMurphy's case, society triumphs.  However, if the scope of McMurhpy's actions are expanded, one sees that he was able to create a sense of change and his struggles against the restrictive society were not entirely in vain.  The bond he formed with Chief Bromden, and his futile demonstration with the concrete slab and throwing it through the window for freedom represents the conclusion of the novel.  Scanlon encourages Bromden's desire for freedom in reminding him that McMurphy had previously demonstrated how to escape.  In this action, McMuphy's liberating and sacrificial attempts against a restrictive society's control had been validated, as community had been formed (Scanlon reminding Chief how to escape), and freedom had been established, as the Chief leaves.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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