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Ken Kesey's book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was published in 1962, just when society was redefining conformism and individualism. The psych ward, which McMurphy is committed to and which Nurse Ratched runs, is the microcosm of the outside world which Kesey believes is far too accepting of society's rules. Of the two characters Ratched or McMurphy, I believe that McMurphy is the smarter of the two. He is able to see through Ratched's need to control everything on the ward and the people in it. He sees that instead of helping the men gain confidence, she destroys it. McMurphy begins a campaign to bring his fellow inmates to life, pushing them to what they are capable of and in doing so, breaking the tight rules Ratched has imposed. Ultimately he does destroy her control of the inmates through the party after the fishing trip, but in doing so, is taken to surgery for a lobotomy which reduces him to a zombie like state. He loses his own battle, but wins the war for the inmates, many of whom leave for the outside world including Chief, McMurphy's friend. Ratched, who fights in only one way, her way, loses the battle for her tightly held control of the ward and its inmates. Therefore, I would argue that McMurphy is the smarter of the two despite ending up the way he does.
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