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In Ken Kesey's novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, published in 1962, three main themes show up, and the fishing trip is an example of all three. The first theme is the individual versus the society and its rules. McMurphy's planning a fishing trip OUTSIDE the confines and rules of the ward and against everything Nurse Ratched stands for as the representative of society and its ruling constraints, is McMurphy's fighting to help the men and force the society in the form of Nurse Ratched to back off the rules and actually help the inmates. The trip is truly an outrageous event in the routine of the institution and sets the fight between McMurphy and Ratched in stone. The second theme is sanity versus insanity, and when you look at these two character, which one is committing insane acts to preserve her power? How is it insane to want to go fishing? The ordinariness of fishing for men who have been afraid of the world beyond their walls confirms for the men that they are capable, that the destruction of their confidence by Nurse Ratched is only her opinion, not the reality. The third theme is sacrifice which is exemplified in the fishing trip when McMurphy knows that this will make the fight with Nurse Ratched more intense and will be to the bitter end. He does it anyway, understanding that it will demand a sacrifice from him for defying the rules of this microcosm of the world outside the institution.
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