Biases and stereotypes influence substantially the life of people. People take their lifestyle for granted and often they are unable to re-evaluate their current position and change the status-quo. However, there are situations, when the change of the status-quo is essential, even if it provokes the conflict and confrontation with the community and its traditions and beliefs. On the other hand, people attempt to resist to consistent changes in their life, being unaware that sometimes, it is impossible to change their life and they have to find the balance between their expectations and traditional lifestyle they get used to and new conditions of life they cannot change or modify. In this respect, it is possible to refer to plays “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”ť, “Wit”ť, and “An Enemy of the People”ť, which reveal the failure of commonly held assumptions and attempts of main characters to rebel against these assumptions or to preserve status-quo to find peace and to balance their life.
First of all, it should be said that basically the main characters of the three plays find themselves in quite extreme situations, which force them make choices that define their further life and, what is more, the decisions they take can influence substantially the life of their social environment and people who are important to them. For instance, the main character of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”ť, McMurphy seems to be an individual inclined to anti-social behavior. He does not accept the commonly held assumptions. From the first day, when he arrives to the asylum, he attempts to change the order established by the Big Nurse. The main character is unwilling to keep peace with the authoritarian regime in the asylum and he views the Big Nurse as his main opponent in this struggle.
At first glance, McMurphy seems to be a simple man, who does not really look like a mentally ill person. However, in actuality, he is not as simple as that. In stark contrast, he proves to be a clever person, who is able to lead a “war”ť against the Big Nurse. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that all the patients were unable to challenge the order established by the Big Nurse. They lived in accordance with her rules. They were afraid of her and could not even argue with her. McMurphy could not accept this order, which humiliated human dignity and, what is more, he could not afford the total destruction of personality of patients who were in the asylum. He uses different methods of struggle, from the fierce, violent behavior, such as crushing objects and struggle with the personnel, to quite sophisticated organization of the opposition to the Big Nurse’s rule in the asylum. The latter was particularly important because McMurphy against the established rules which were highly authoritarian and humiliating in regard to patients. McMurphy openly opposes to the Big Nurse and shows patients that they can argue with the Big Nurse. Gradually, he totally changes the self-perception of patients, he increases their self-esteem, while after their journey, patients are ready to return to the normal life. In such a way, the opposition to the established order leads to the consistent change of relationships in the asylum, but, what is more important, McMurphy changes patient’s personal philosophy. They become confident in their own power and ability to return to the normal life in the normal world.
In such a way, the main character of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”ť rebels against the commonly held rules and norms for the good of patients, who are simply terrorized by the Big Nurse and conditioned by her rules. For instance, patients are afraid to speak without the Big Nurse’s permission. Moreover, patients have forgotten what the laughter is until McMurphy joined them in the asylum. The “revolution”ť conducted by McMurphy returned many patients to the normal life. However, the outcome of such a revolution is tragic to McMurphy himself because he ends up being killed by the Chief, although it is not a murder, but rather the liberation of McMurphy, whose mind has been already dead, while body still remained alive after the Big Nurse’s “treatment”ť.
Unlike McMurphy, the main character of “An Enemy of People”ť, Dr. Thomas Stokmann, is not as successful in his attempt to change the public opinion and ruin the commonly held assumptions. To put it more precisely, Dr. Thomas Stockmann discovers that waste products from the town’s tannery are contaminating the bath, which is the main town’s attraction for tourists. In this respect, the play focuses the attention of the audience on the conflict between consumerism-driven society and Dr. Stockmann who is concerned with the public health.
As soon as he learns about the potential danger of the bath to the public health, Dr. Stockmann starts acting. He appeals to his brother, who is the mayor of the town, and attempts to persuade him that the bath is dangerous since its water is contaminated. However, the mayor ignores the demand of Dr. Stockmann and, what is more, he recommends him to stop his efforts to inform the public about the danger of the bath. Nevertheless, Dr. Stockmann ignores this recommendation of his brother and he openly declares that the bath is dangerous since its water is contaminated. Paradoxically, people ignore this warning and, what is more, they criticize and taunt him as lunatic.
On the other hand, it is obvious that the main character struggled for the well-being of the community, but, unlike the majority of the population, he believed that money and prosperity of the community were worthless compared to the health of people. In stark contrast, the community stood on the ground that the bath was a source of income to many people and to the community at large. As a result, the commonly held assumption that financial prosperity of the community was important than health of people was apparently wrong. The main character is apparently conscious of the fact that his demand to close the bath contradicts to the position of the community and he understands that people will not like this idea, but he is convinced that someone needs to rebel and save the public from diseases, which may lead to numerous deaths within the community. Unfortunately, Dr. Stockmann is not as successful as McMurphy in his attempts to change the position of the community.
The theme of the disease and its impact on an individual is central in the play “Wit”ť. The main character of the play, Vivian suffers from the ovarian cancer. In fact, it is clear that her disease is incurable and she have practically no chance for survival. At first, Vivian attempts to rebel and she attempts to find salvation but, eventually she understands that she cannot save her life since her disease is incurable. In such a way, she takes her disease for granted, but she does not really give in to the disease. Instead, she attempts to find the balance in her life, the life between her health problem and her personal happiness. She finds happiness in art, which becomes extremely important to Vivian because it is due to the art she understands that there are eternal values, which are more important that short-running human life. In this respect, she learns that she was too concerned with herself and she was unaware of truly universal values. As soon as she understands that she can live happily till the end of her life, regardless of her disease, she decides to maintain the status quo and stops her useless struggle with the incurable disease which takes her forces and shortens her life even more.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the main characters of the three plays discussed above attempt to struggle against the commonly held assumptions. McMurphy proves to be successful in this struggle since he rebels against the existing order and helps patients of the asylum to change their life for better, Dr. Stockmann fails to succeed in his attempts to change the public opinion, while Vivian understands the vanity of her struggle and prefers to preserve the status-quo.