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One Flew over the Cuckoos nest essay

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest, written by Ken Kesey in 1962, is set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital. During this time, women are happy homemakers, secretaries, teachers, and nurses. Moreover, women who are not married are depicted as unattractive. Women are to strive not only for marriage, children and a well-run home but also for elegance and beauty. The reader experiences the impacts of women's role and treatment through the narrator, Chief, a patient in the ward. In this tragic and comic novel, Ken Kesey presents negative stereotypes of women. Women represent not only domination, but also manipulation and as sexual objects; the author develops this idea through the nurses, Vera Harding, Chief's and Billy Bibbit's mother, and also through the prostitutes.
In this novel, women characters represent authority and domination by cause of a dominating attitude towards men. As a result, negative stereotypes of women are presented. Nurse Ratched's character is one of the most powerful and domineering character in this novel. She uses many tools to control and manage the patients. Through an aura of control, the author evokes the theme of repression. This quotation is an example of the theme of repression "She would get after him about the toilets, using that same terrible, slow, patient pressure she used on everybody, as he stood there in front of her, looking like a little kid" (Kesey 160). Nurse Ratched also infantilizes the patients to control them by treating them as "little kid". The author heightens the controlling feeling by using machinery imagery. This passage is an archetype of machinery imagery "she blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor" (Kesey 5). In an attempt to intensify how destructive and monstrous Nurse Ratched is and it also emphasizes her disconnection from the traditional female role. Furthermore, Ken Kesey presents men as "rabbits" (Kesey 67) and women as "wolf" (Kesey 67), which again appeals to the fact that men are the victim of a matriarch. Vera Harding, Harding's wife, is also a dominating figure "Dale, when are you going to laugh instead of making that mousy little squeak" (page 183). This passage clearly shows how Vera Harding humiliates Harding; she even compares his laugh to a "mousy little squeak". It indicates Harding's lack of power, enhanced by the size's symbol "little". As well by the "mouse", a prey that gets eaten by a predator. The women in this case.
Ken Kesey also presents women as manipulative beings that make men feel guilty. A situation comparable to what Nurse Ratched does to Billy when she discovers that he spent the night with a woman. She makes Billy feel guilty and manipulates him in a way she knows it is going to work "Billy, I have to tell. I hate to believe you would have behave like this, but, really, what else could I think? I find you alone, on a mattress, with this sort of woman" (Kesey 315). Nurse Ratched makes him feel so guilty that "He cut his throat" (Kesey 317). Nurse Ratched accentuates the feeling of guilt by using the term "sort of woman" (Kesey 315) to express her deception. Billy Bibbit was too fearful of his mother's reaction. Likewise, Chief experiences almost the same, but not with him but with his father "He fought it a long time till my mother made him too little to fight anymore so he gave up" (Kesey 220). This passage highlights the theme of power with the size's symbol "little". In addition, the author presents women as person that use their sexuality in their advantage. In the same way that Vera Harding uses her sexuality to have a something in return with one of the orderlies, "I tole her it wun't visitin' hours but you know she jus sweet-talk me into her right on over here anyhow. […] Don't you forget, you hear?" (Kesey 182). The author intentionally gives this image of women, as if they are evil creatures and seduced men to have something in return.
Even do women represent authority and domination they also represent a person who is only made to fulfill men as a sexual object because of the men's attitudes towards them. For instance, Vera Harding is a dominating and manipulative person, but she also appears as a seductive person. Unlike Nurse Ratched, Vera Harding uses her sexuality, she plays with people by seducing them "She smiles back bigger than before and says, "I hate Mrs. Harding why don't you call me Vera?"" (page 183). The red imagery "Her fingernails are red as drops of blood" (Kesey 183) signify many things. First, it signifies the physical passion which appeals to Vera Harding's sexuality. Second, it signifies anger and violence, which indicate a danger. These meanings assert the fear that established a matriarch. Besides, prostitutes are not respected, most of the time they are not called by their names "Two whores" (page 225) as if they are objects. Similarly, the prostitutes appeal to shame "I find you alone, on a mattress with this sort of woman" (Kesey 315). Nurse Ratched amplifies the feeling of shame by using the term "sort of woman" (Kesey 315) she uses it to make her discontent known but mostly to make Billy Bibbit feel guilty and shameful.
Therefore, the author puts negative feminine qualities such as domination and manipulation which gives a pessimistic image of women. In One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, the author presents women either domineering, manipulative or as sexual objects. Nurse Ratched, Vera Harding or Chief and Billy's mother represent the domination by their controlling aura that establishes repression and how they humiliate men. Vera Harding and Nurse Ratched represent manipulation; Vera Harding uses her sexuality to manipulate, unlike Nurse Ratched that uses pressure. Vera Harding and the prostitutes are present as sexual objects; the prostitutes appeal the shame and are not respected while Vera Harding is respected but can get something out of her sexuality because men in the ward only see that. The impact of this representation on this novel is that female characters are less likely to be identified with or respected and more likely to be despised or hated.
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