The “system” is something that people are always out to change. You see people trying to change it all the time, but few are actually successful at changing the system. The system can be a variety of things. In some cases it is the government, it can be the a boss or basically anything or anyone that has some type of control or authority. For some people fighting the system is their livelihood, their mission in life. They try to change the system because of the corruption, because of unjust actions, because they were a victim of it or to seek the truth. In the novels One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the main characters are out to change the system.
Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, it seems that his perspective on this issue is that the system is in dire need of change. Even if you are not successful in changing the system, it is still very effective that you tried and you set an example for others to follow. Kesey also seems to believe that persistence is key when fighting the system. Kesey believes that even if you change a small aspect of the system it was well worth the fight. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the main character, Randle Patrick McMurphy, fights to change the system in a mental hospital. McMurphy is outgoing, a leader and a rebel. There was a constant power struggle in the novel between the patient’s new found savior McMurphy, and the evil Nurse Ratched who rules their wing of the hospital with an iron fist. McMurphy fights to change the system to try to win back the patients’ rights and in the process gain more privileges for the patients and himself. McMurphy also seems to get pleasure out of fighting the system. His motives are simple, he wants to help out his fellow patients, his friends, to make their lives better.
McMurphy was successful in changing many of the rules and regulations that were imposed upon them by Nurse Ratched. McMurphy was a very inspirational speaker and during the regularly occurring meetings between the patients and the doctors he would rally the patients to fight against Nurse Ratched. Thus he was able to win back some of their rights. McMurphy also uses his cunning wit and his skills as a con man to persuade the doctors into giving the patients more rights and activities. McMurphy is able to con Dr. Spivey to get a room where he and a bunch of other patients can go to play cards without the loud music coming over the intercom. During one of the meetings between the patients and the doctors, you can see how McMurphy has played Dr. Spivey like a fiddle.
“You see, McMurphy and I were talking about that age-old problem we have on this ward: the mixed population, the young and the old together. It’s not the most ideal surroundings for our Therapeutic Community, but Administration says there’s no helping it with the Geriatric Building overloaded the way it is…In our talk, however, McMurphy and I did happen to come up with an idea which might make things more pleasant for both age groups. McMurphy mentioned that he had noticed some of the old fellows seemed to have difficulty hearing the radio. He suggested the speaker be turned up louder so the Chronics with auditory weaknesses could hear it…But I told him I had received previous complaints from some of the younger men that the radio is already do loud it hinders conversations and reading…I agreed with him that it did seem a shame and was ready to drop the matter when I happened to think of the old tub room…We don’t use the room at all…So how would a group like to have that room as a sort of second day room, a game room, shall we say?” (p.99)
This is one of many battles between McMurphy and the system. This one he happened to win, but in real life many fights against the system are lost. Even though McMurphy loses some of his fights, he keeps on fighting, trying to change the system. In this novel McMurphy uses many tools to try to change the system, among them are his voice and his power to rally the patients, brute force, and violence. In the end McMurphy loses his life in the fight to change the system, but he left a substantial impact on the hospital and the policies of Nurse Ratched. His fight to change the system was well worth it because of the positive change it brought to so many patients. After his fight Nurse Ratched never again had the power that she once had, “She tried to shape the ward back into shape…She couldn’t rule with her old power any more…She was losing her patients one after another.” (p.269)
Ray Bradbury has some similar views to Kesey. He also believes that the system needs to be fought and changed. He believes that it is possible to change the system, and in his book Fahrenheit 451 the system is fought against for change. Based on his works, Bradbury feels that persistence is also vital in the fight to change the system.
In the novel Fahrenheit 451 it is one man again who is fighting against the system. In this case the system is the government. He fights against the government in the future where the firemen burn books that are forbidden by the totalitarian brave new world regime. Guy Montag is a fireman who breaks free from the system to try to change it. Guy is also outgoing and a rebellious. He tries to change the system by educating himself with the new found knowledge in books. He also uses violence to attempt to change the system. Guy Montag uses a more radical approach to changing the system, Guy became a fugitive from the government and killed many government workers in the process as they tried to apprehend him. He did not make a huge impact on the system, but his fight was worth it because he ended up changing the views of several people and his fight against the authority became well know though the media. Unlike McMurphy, Guy Montag’s life was not sacrificed for a cause but many times he came close to losing it. Guy’s motives are very basic; he wants to change the government for others and himself. He wants to help others to know about the power of books, which he just recently discovered. Like McMurphy, Guy believed that the system could be changed.
I believe that the system needs to be changed due to the corruption, greed, and all of the scandals that are constantly occurring. I too believe that persistence is key to changing the system. I don’t necessarily believe that the whole system needs to be changed, but just certain aspects of it that are full of deceit and corruption. The scandals need to stop. As I look back at the times of which these novels were written I can see why the authors also wanted to fight to change the system. When Fahrenheit 451 was originally written, it was during World War II when Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini became notorious for their unjust and ruthless actions and their totalitarian rule. When Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest it was after the Korean War, which was not a very good time for America, because of the stale mate in that ended up in Korea after years of lives lost and fighting.
There have been several times in my life which I personally have fought to change the system. Even though it was on a much smaller scale than that of McMurphy or Guy it was still an attempt to change it. My fight against the system was unfortunately a losing battle, but it was worth the fight. The system that I tried to change was that in my History class last year. I , along with a bunch of my fellow classmates, tried to protest the date of a test because it gave us an insufficient amount of time to study. We plead with the teacher to postpone it another day, but to no avail. The test stayed on the same day as scheduled. It was an attempt to change the system, not much of one, but still it was an honest attempt.
It is evident that it’s very difficult to change the system, but it is possible. The right type of character and personality is a big help when you are trying to achieve success in fighting the system. In order to make a true difference you have to keep on trying and fighting. Even if you just change a small area of the system, the majority of the time it is well worth the fight. In both of these novels the main characters were successful in changing some aspect of the system. To them the corruption, unfair practices, and indecencies were enough. Something had to be done, and they did it.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. New York: Penguin Group, 1962
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950