Illustration of Nurse Ratched

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

by Ken Kesey

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What do Nurse Ratched and the ward symbolize in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

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In my opinion, Nurse Ratched and the ward symbolize society and its attempts to force conformity upon all and to repress any creativity, intelligence, individualism, or exuberance. The time during which this book was written was a time of great conformity and repression in many ways, the 1950's, and writers were beginning to explore the idea that such conformity was a bad thing for all of us.  I would say that this book was part of the foundation that led to the turbulence of the 1960's and early 1970's, during which many kinds of conformity and conventional wisdom were questioned, and in some cases, overthrown.  Having been a child in the 1950's and a teenager in the 1960's, I can personally testify to the conformity of the former and the wonderful rebellion of the latter.

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