Sanity is described as the capacity to think rationally and to have a clear mind, whereas insanity is defined as the failure to think rationally and the inability to distinguish between delusions and realities. Insane individuals are not permitted to communicate with any rationally reasoning entities and they are thought to be dangerous due to a loss of self-control. In the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Forman seems to disagree with the concepts that we have been taught to think are realities, and thus someone who contradicts them is seen as having a mental disorder or being out of touch. In the film, the patients brought to the mental institution possess different levels of psychiatric conditions that have been perceived as abnormal because they cannot reason and think like the majority. They have been confined in the ward receiving treatment that will avert their irrational thinking to the rational one. Except for one epileptic man, Jim Sefelt who we can consider as sick, the other patients seem to have a different way of thinking. He is sick because, he cannot control the disease, but for the others, the difference in their thoughts automatically defines as them insane.
Some of the patients in this facility are here out of their own volition, while few of them have been forced here by their conditions. It would therefore sound inconsiderate to refer to them as insane. For example, Chief Bromden pretends to be deaf and dumb to avoid confrontations with people. He is sane who is in the facility for his known reasons. The others appear to suffer from delusions, aggressiveness, anxiety, and paranoia, which are standard and are not permanent state of mind, for any human being. Thus they all seem sane. Our common definition of sanity differs in this context because one is only considered rational when they can reason well and make real decisions. The people in the ward have a different way of thinking, and that does not imply that they are insane. They do not act crazy; they are set to follow specific orders, which they are made to believe will lead to their recovery and bring them back to reality.
McMurphy, who is depicted as a criminal has been in jail because of raping his underage girlfriend. He decides to act like a mad person so that he can evade the hard labor that comes with being a prisoner. He succeeds with his tricks and is placed in a psychiatric institution where he hopes to serve his term peacefully but instead finds an oppressive nurse, Ratched, who almost drives him crazy due to her strict rules. He assesses all his fellow patients and doubts whether they belong in the facility, and later decides to influence their lives by changing their conditioned routine. He feels they deserve better engagements since they are not much different from him only that they are conditioned to think that they are mad.
The nurse and other orderlies can sense his rebellious attitude, and they keep a closer look, with the nurse terming him as a committed patient who can only leave institutions when she approves. This enrages McMurphy, especially after learning that most of the patients can leave the facility at will but they cannot because of the nurse’s dominance and fear. His uncontrollable rage seems to rise due to the circumstances in the in the facility like the compulsory treatment they received after a fight broke out, and the nurse’s manipulation of the patients that led to one of them committing suicide. His state of lacking anger control is evident when he strangles the nurse almost killing her, where afterward an orderly knocks him unconscious and later he is taken in for treatment. He seems to have developed a sense of being irrational and not in a position to control his anger in this psych ward.
Mostly, a psychiatric ward is supposed to offer treatment and therapy sessions to mentally ill persons. In the case of the psych ward in the film, the benefits received by the patients are outweighed by the harmful experiences of their mental and overall well-being. For instance, a nurse in such ward as much as he/she is required to get hardy because of the nature of the patients, he/she should not be over-controlling. He/ she should be an approachable person who cares about the getting well of the patients rather than their regression, for her personal or an otherwise gains.
In this film, nurse Ratched is oppressive and only focuses on a regular session that makes it difficult for patients to heal. He threatens the very fragile with exposing their secrets thus derailing their journey to recovery. In an example, Billy ends his life as a result of the nurse’s reckless utterances. McMurphy ends in a ward unconscious and receiving treatment that he had never before. Chief Bromdon escapes, and the fate of the other patients is left to the mercies of the nurse. Also, the fact that the patients who are here voluntarily cannot leave whenever they wish is an indication that the institution is not benefitting them but requires them to stay longer for other gains.
Furthermore, the fact that one of the patients succeeded in organizing with the orderlies in sneaking in strangers into the facility raises questions on how the institution is devoted towards the recovery of the patients. Also, a patient commits suicide in the nurse’s office; this implies that there are not enough safety mechanisms in the institutions. The outcome at the end of the film shows that the routine counseling and treatment sessions offered by the psychiatric ward are not beneficial to any of the patients as they are triggered to doing more activities that seem to gratify them.