It has been an issue among humans for ages, a question that has plagued every person alive and deceased. How should we, as society, approach the term individual? In One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey, the underlying theme is how society destroys the individual and natural drives within its followers. By the means of machines and technology, society gains control of and subdues individuality and personal freedom. Throughout this highly symbolic novel, the reader is submitted to many examples of how society weakens and represses the very thought of being different. Kesey's usage of setting and unique characterization through both the narrator, Chief Bromden, and the main character, Randall McMurphy, reveals a bitter criticism of the American society.
The very fact that the story takes place in a mental institution is in itself a commentary on society. In the hospital, it becomes very evident that a great deal of oppression takes place. Although a considerable amount of abuse is in the physical form, most of it manifests itself in subtle psychological torture. The abuse that specifically takes place is the suppression of individualism. One cannot help but notice the same suppression of individualism that exists in society as well. Inside the hospital, the men are expected to not only act within strict guidelines, but also suppress the urges to express themselves. They are limited to doing dull, repetitive tasks and are never given the opportunity to choose their own pathways for intellectual, emotional or physical development. If they do attempt to act other than how they are expected to, they are punished not only by an arsenal of physical abuse but by psychological torture as well. In much the same way, this exists in society. Society forcefully makes people develop to their potential, but only along certain accepted routes. The profession one chooses: their education, their lifestyle, their opinions, their economic status, their intentions in life - these are all ways in which society almost forces one into predetermined guidelines and categories.