Sexism And Gender Roles In Cuckoos Nest English Literature Essay

The 1950s was a decennary characterized by traditional gender functions of adult females as housewifes relegated to the domestic domain and work forces as economic suppliers. With the coming of the 1960 ‘s, nevertheless, stereotyped gender functions were contested as American society was swept up in the “ drug civilization, the Civil Rights motion, and the 2nd moving ridge of feminism ” ( Napierski-Prancl 229 ) . While American society underwent a assortment of societal transmutations, American writers, such as Ken Kesey, responded to the alteration through authorship. Kesey ‘s response to the times was his 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo ‘s Nest, which is non merely a societal commentary about mental unwellness but besides a response to altering gender functions. By demonising powerful adult females and elating powerful work forces, Ken Kesey ‘s One Flew Over the Cuckoo ‘s Nest promotes sexism and finally holds the misogynous stance that powerful adult females need to be subjugated.

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo ‘s Nest, powerful female characters are demonized as “ ball-cutters ” ( Kesey 54 ) because they do non adhere to traditional female functions and they emasculate the male characters. The negative portraiture of powerful adult females can be seen in the debatable relationships that the male patients have with their female parents. Bromden, the half Native-American storyteller, has a female parent who invariably undermines his male parent, the head of the Columbia Gorge folk and a once-powerful adult male. Bromden ‘s female parent dominates her hubby and her boy by moving in non-traditional ways, such as utilizing her inaugural name for the household ‘s last name instead than utilizing her hubby ‘s, which convinces Bromden ‘s male parent that he is weak and incapacitated. Another male patient, Billy Bibbit, is wholly emasculated by his female parent who keeps him so dependent on her that even though he is 31 old ages old, Bibbit seems like a kid and is unable to turn up. Bibbit ‘s female parent ‘s appreciation on his life is so strong that he commits suicide when Nurse Ratched threatens to state his female parent of his first sexual brush because he would “ instead dice than hold his female parent disapprove of him ” ( Napierski-Prancl 228 ) . Through such negative portraitures, Kesey argues that overmastering adult females are a destructive force that forces otherwise normal work forces into insanity.

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Of all of the maligned powerful adult females in the narrative, Nurse Ratched is the caput castrating figure and the chief “ enemy. ” The male supporter, McMurphy, describes Nurse Ratched ‘s manner of commanding the patients by, “ gettin ‘ you where it hurts the worstaˆ¦going for your vital organs ” ( Kesey 54 ) . She psychologically castrates all of the male patients in her ward by invariably minimising them. For illustration, Nurse Ratched uses the curative meeting Sessionss to pull strings the patients into knocking each other and weakening their senses of maleness. At the meetings, Nurse Ratched places particular accent on a male patient ‘s job with a female relationship, such as Harding ‘s issue with his married woman ‘s usage of her sex entreaty to chat up with other work forces and Bibbit ‘s issue with a miss he loved and proposed to but was rejected by. Nurse Ratched ‘s powers of emasculation besides extends to the Black male orderlies she bosses about and the mental ward physicians, who complain that “ Since I started on that ward with that adult female I feel like my venas are running ammoniaaˆ¦ [ and ] my married woman wo n’t kip with me ” ( Kesey 26 ) . Nurse Ratched has the eldritch ability to feminise the work forces around her, which makes her monstrous.

Nurse Ratched is able to exert so much power in the mental ward non merely because she does non suit with traditional gender norms but because she actively represses her muliebrity. Harmonizing to Napierski-Prancl, Nurse Ratched “ falls into the class of “ Iron Maiden, ” an nonsexual powerful adult female who dismisses traditional impressions of muliebrity ” ( 227 ) , and this is depicted by her non transporting makeup and by her attempts to hide her big chests. Nurse Ratched is besides normally described utilizing images of machines or animate beings to farther stress her gulf from the traditional female function. Bromden compares Nurse Ratched to a truck, stating that “ she works the flexible joints in her cubituss and fingers. I hear a little squeakaˆ¦she rumblings past she ‘s already large as a truck ” ( Kesey 85 ) , mechanising her and depriving her of any human heat. McMurphy refers to Nurse Ratched as an “ old turkey vulture ” that pecks off at work forces ‘s “ vital organs ” ( Kesey 54 ) which, harmonizing to Meloy, “ besmirches feminine power as something degrading and black – residing at the underside of the nutrient concatenation, feeding off of dead carcases ” ( 8 ) . By quashing her muliebrity, Nurse Ratched is non merely demonized but dehumanized, portrayed as a mechanical bottom-feeder with no delivering value.

While powerful adult females are characterized as counter because they emasculate work forces, the two cocottes in the book are depicted favourably because they empower work forces. Harmonizing to Meloy, “ the cocottes of the fresh exist in a strictly sexual manner, doing them less terrifyingaˆ¦Their sexual handiness encourages work forces to let go of their innate gender ” ( 10 ) . Prostitutes in society are normally looked down upon because of their line of work and are viewed as perverts who get paid for meaningless sex that is traditionally supposed to be sacred. However, the two cocottes in One Flew Over the Cuckoo ‘s Nest, Candy and Sandy, are sided with the supporters because they encourage and help the male patients retrieve their maleness. In a sense, the cocottes adhere more to traditional gender functions than adult females like Nurse Ratched because they play a supportive function to the male characters, and they are rewarded by being portrayed positively.

While powerful adult females are demonized, the chief supporter, Randle McMurphy is looked upon as a hero and a Jesus because he is the lone powerful male in the mental ward. Unlike Nurse Ratched who hides her gender in order to psychologically emasculate the male patients, McMurphy is characterized as a sexually powerful adult male who is able to authorise the male patients through male bonding. Harmonizing to Vitkus,

aˆ¦male bonding in this context can be founded on a shared aggression toward adult females: “ strong work forces ” assert their “ heroic ” male gender against adult females like the Big Nurse, Harding ‘s married woman, or Billy Bibbit ‘s female parent – aggressive, commanding adult females who are represented from the masculinist position as castrators. ( 79 )

In the book, McMurphy invariably challenges Nurse Ratched, rectifying her when she calls him by the incorrect name and declining to obey her bids, in order to remind the male patients what a adult male looks like when he is non emasculated. He restores the patients ‘ self-esteem by stating sexual gags and learning them how to arise against Nurse Ratched. McMurphy is a natural leader to the group, non so much because he is magnetic, but because he pig-headedly refuses to subject to female power.

Throughout the book, Kesey builds up the tenseness between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched in order to put up the book ‘s climactic onslaught, a sexist illustration that powerful adult females need to be dominated. At first, McMurphy ‘s concluding onslaught on Nurse Ratched appears to be a physical effusion, but harmonizing to Vitkus, “ McMurphy ‘s onslaught on the Big Nurseaˆ¦is non simply an effort to kill Nurse Ratched – it is in fact a rapeaˆ¦Only the sexual misdemeanor of the Big Nurse can vouch a conclusive triumph for the work forces of the ward ” ( 82 ) . Before choking Nurse Ratched, McMurphy tears off her uniform to uncover her big chests which signifies her muliebrity, the one thing that Nurse Ratched tries really difficult to hide. By uncovering Nurse Ratched ‘s chests and coercing her muliebrity on her, McMurphy takes off her female power and restores male power to the male patients. The book really condones the “ colza ” of Nurse Ratched, which is seen through Bromden ‘s comment that the onslaught was “ a difficult responsibility that eventually merely had to be done, like it or non ” ( Kesey 275 ) . By excusing McMurphy ‘s onslaught, the book moves beyond sexism to misogyny, stand foring an “ attitude toward adult females that is throwback and barbarous ” ( Viktus 83 ) and finally inexcusable.

The male and female relationships in Kesey ‘s One Flew Over the Cuckoo ‘s Nest promotes sexist positions of traditional gender functions in order to promote male power. While the political and societal clime may hold influenced Kesey ‘s anti-feminist stance, it does non warrant excusing work forces ‘s usage of force upon powerful adult females like Nurse Ratched. In his effort to voice his male chauvinist sentiments, Kesey merely succeeds in making unidimensional characters that lack deepness and substance. The linearity of the characters leaves the male characters as mere imitations of work forces, powerful and dominating or weak and wisplike, while the female characters are either neuter machines or submissive sex tools. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo ‘s Nest, Kesey ‘s failure to accept a adult female who is powerful without holding to give her muliebrity reveals his ain paranoid fright of being emasculated. Possibly if he were able to encompass altering gender norms, Kesey would non hold merely been able to populate free of fright but besides write a novel with multi-dimensional characters that the audience could love and care for instead than merely commiseration.

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