One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest: The Combine
In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest the narrator also a major character in this novel is Chief Bromden. Bromden is half-Native American and has been in the hospital since World War II. Bromden also pretends to be deaf and dumb, and he is privy to many of the wards dirty secrets. While he is a very strong man and stands over six-and-a-half feet tall, he sees himself as a small man. Chief believes society is controlled by a large, malignant system which he calls The Combine. The combine is a large mind, an environment controlling mechanism concealed within the walls of the hospital. In Chief Bromdens mind, the world is run by an all powerful, all seeing secret group referred to the combine. There are three references to the combine; they are the machines, the society, Nurse Ratched and the hospital itself.
The fog as used by Chief Bromden indicates his paranoid perception that the combine emits a thick cloud when it needs to subdue and control the patients. The fog is a phenomenon that clouds our vision of the world. In this novel, the fog symbolizes a lack of insight and an escape from reality. When Bromden starts to slip away from reality, because of his medication or out of fear, he hallucinates fog drifting into the ward. He imagines there are hidden fog machines in the vents and that the staff controls them. Machines dominate chief Bromdens fantasies. The machine is seen as something that is the opposite if everything that is natural. The combine is the name the Chief gives to organize society, is a term for a threshing machine. The central metaphor of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is that of the machine.
Bromden sees society as a giant machine and he sees the same machine at work in the hospital. The machine-like combine tries to make machines out of everything, including humans. At one point in the novel Bromden dreams that the hospital workers are killing Blastic one of the patients referred to as a vegetable. When they cut him up, there is nothing human inside him. The turning of people into machines reaches to the level of language and ideas as well. People who have been processed by society no longer have any ability to understand anything that doesnt fit what they have been programmed to hear. When Bromden recalls the incident where the three government agents wanted to buy his fathers land, he remembers they were incapable of hearing any of the things he said to them. He describes their thought processes in terms of machines. He can see the seams where theyre put together (p.201). This novel refers constantly to different authorities that control individuals through subtle and coercive methods. The Chief combines these authorities in his mind, terming them the combine in reference to the mechanistic way they manipulate and process individuals.
The Authority of the combine is most often personified by the character of Nurse Ratched who controls the inhabitants of the novels mental ward through a combination of rewards and subtle shame. Nurse Ratched is the head nurse of the mental institution, who exercises near-total power over those in her care, including her subordinates. She has strict regulations that must be followed. Chief describes the Big Nurse in machine like- terms. In the first chapter, as he sees her approaching the black boys, she blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor, so big I can smell the machinery inside the way you smell a motor pulling too big a load(p.5). The machine in the Shock Shop are used to punish patients who step out of line; and machines are installed in the wall of the ward, and even in patients themselves, to keep everything running according to the Combines plan.
The combine all changes when McMurphy comes into the institution. He is the rebel of the story and does not like Nurse Ratcheds strict, uncalled for rules. The chief also sees the combine in the damming of the wild Columbia River at Celilo Falls, where his Native American ancestors hunted, and in the broader conformity of post-war American consumer society. After seeing his father a true Indian chief, humiliated at the hands of the government and his white wife, Chief falls into schizophrenia. And now believes that society is controlled a large system, The Combine.
Therefore as you can see there are many references in this novel that are referred to The Combine, the fog, the staff, the hospital, Chiefs tribe, and even the machines.