The doctors and Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) see McMurphy as a threat to the system, because he promotes free will, freedom, changes, and autonomy through questioning authority and inspiring fellow inmates to express themselves and demand their rights, and so the system deals with him through enforcing rigid rules and regulations and continuously breaking the spirits of their patients through oppression, manipulation, and sometimes, even though electric shocks and lobotomy.
McMurphy is a threat to the “system,” because he questions its norms and assumptions, which instigates debate and discussion on the legitimacy of its power. An authoritarian society will never condone a sane man questioning the system because that questioning can lead to a revolution that will oust those in power. In the same line of reasoning, the hospital management sees McMurphy as a sane person, because he is rational enough to question the irrationality of the system. However, they also see him as insane, because they believe that he cannot change a social institution. McMurphy is a threat to the system because he is a bad example to the rest of the subservient society, or specifically, the inmates of the hospital. The patients are called inmates because they are supposed to be free since they can leave the hospital anytime. However, because of Nurse Ratched’s control over them, they feel helpless and instead of resolving their psychological issues, they become more reliant on the system. McMurphy tells his fellow inmates: “God Almighty, shes got you guys comin’ or going.’ What do you think she is, [sic] some kind of a champ or something [sic]?” He asks others to analyze their situation by criticizing the legitimacy of its control over them. He wants them to open their eyes that their conformity to rules and regulations already stifles their freedoms and free will. He says that Nurse Ratched is not a champ, which means that they are the champ. They are the champ of their sanity and their fates.
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