The Use Of Traditional Authority In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, authority is defined as the “power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior. ” Max Weber’s Tripartite Classification of Authority, categorizes three different types of authority which are charismatic, traditional and legal-rational. Within these three subgroups, Weber explains how each of the authorities are used by people of higher position to take charge of the individuals under them. Weber indicates charismatic authority is the type of authority in which the leader or person displays charisma and can influence a lot of people due to their charismatic personality. Leaders like these have superior skills to influence others and work under them due to their likable personality. Traditional authority is generally followed by longstanding established guidelines and traditions. In this type of authority, the leader often relies on established work ethics and leadership. This leader follows their predecessor and does exactly what they did. Legal authority is a type of authority that is defined by laws. The leader has full control of the power, rules and other protocols that exist. This authority exercises its power to get the work done at all costs regardless of the circumstances. In this type of authority, the word of the leader is absolute and must be followed. Authority can sometimes be unjust and unfitting for some people and some of misuse it to their advantage.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a movie about a prisoner named Randle Patrick McMurphy who is transferred to a mental institution to determine whether or not he is mentally ill or faking it to get out of work detail. While in prison McMurphy was described as belligerent, resentful, and lazy. McMurphy was transferred to a methodically run organization where the staff systematically follow strict rules and established protocol. The hospital is run by a team of doctors, nurses, and other staff who demand respect and authority over their patients. At the psychiatric ward, patients are expected to display obedience and not challenge authority. After analyzing the essay and the film, it is rational to deduce that the traditional form of authority is the most influential and thus creates the strongest relationship with those under control of it.

In the film, the use of traditional authority is exemplified when the nurse calls the patients in for “medication time. ” One by one, the patients line up obediently to take their medication. Another example where traditional authority is found in the film is when the nurses begin group exercises with the patients. During this exercise regime, patients are expected to fully cooperate and participate by following the lead of the nurses.

McMurphy utilizes charismatic authority when attempting to persuade the patients. During recreation time, McMurphy begins to attempt to engage some of the patients. For example, he eventually gets Chief to move the basketball over his head although he is unable to get him to take the shot. He also gets another patient to cooperate and hoist him up. Additionally, McMurphy interacts and fully engages several patients during a card game.

At times throughout the film nurse Ratchet appears emotionless and almost robotic. During one of the medication times, McMurphy gives Ratchet’s assistant a hard time about taking his medication. Nurse Ratchet exercises the institution’s legal authority and calmly explains she can arrange for his medication to be taken some other way. Additionally, nurse Ratchet adds that McMurphy may not like the alternate method. Here, nurse Ratchet is utilizing legal authority as the institution is obviously within its legal rights to insist the patients are take their required medication. It appears that McMurphy gives into nurse Ratchet’s authority here and takes his pills but later we see he did not swallow them.

During group therapy, McMurphy asks nurse Ratchet if they can change the time of their scheduled work detail so they can watch the World Series game. Nurse Ratchet explains that a majority ruled vote would have to take place in order to change the time of the work detail. She proceeds by asking the patients who are involved in the group to raise their hand if they want the time to be changed. Next McMurphy uses charismatic authority to attempt to sway the opinions of the other patients so they vote in favor of watching the baseball game. On day one, most of these attempts fail as only three people raise their hand. However on day two, nine people raise their hand but nurse Ratchet points out that there are nine other patients who are a part of the ward and therefore a majority vote has not been reached. Nurse Ratchet then adjourns the meeting and states they can revisit the subject the next day. Ultimately through McMurphy’s charismatic personality he persuades Chief to raise his hand. However, nurse Ratchet again exercises her authority reminding McMurphy the voting has closed. At this point, McMurphy utilizes his animated personality to further engage the patients. He pretends to be a baseball game announcer and gets all of the patients to view an imaginary baseball game on the TV. Nurse Ratchet is furious at this disrespect and orders them to stop the nonsense.

In an effort to subvert authority, with the Chief’s help, McMurphy climbs over the institution’s fence and sneaks on the bus scheduled to transport the patients that were able to leave for recreation time. McMurphy takes the patients on a fishing excursion for the day. At this point, McMurphy believes the institution would not be able to do much to punish him or the escaped patients. McMurphy does everything to retaliate against authority because he soon realizes that he would not be able to get out of the institution until they allow him to leave voluntarily. Later in the film, McMurphy actually makes a plan to escape from the institution. In the movie, McMurphy is not concerned with the consequences for his actions. He believes the institution would be responsible for his actions or any wrongdoing therefore the institution is the highest level of hierarchy.

The institution’s policies and procedures keep the patients in a tight check and its staff shames anyone who tries to defy their orders. Here we can see the institution uses legal authority to subdue their patients to follow their rules and guidelines. The hospital is obligated to follow protocol to ensure the safety and wellbeing of each of the patients.

In Stanley Milgram’s shock experiment, Milgram conducted a research experiment which involved sending electric shocks to participants of the experiment if they responded incorrectly. Each time the participant answered incorrectly the level of shock was increased. Regardless of how many incorrect responses the participant gave, they were sent an electric shock even if they appeared to be in an immense amount of pain from the previous shock. With that being said, this experiment helped show that obedience to authority is something prevalent within all human beings and it simply comes down to the way an individual was brought up through experiences. The power established by nurse Ratchet changed the mentality of the patients within the institution. The obedience of the patients was affected by her strict rule making and authority she held over them that caused them to change their perspectives in life.

10 December 2020
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now