Misogynistic and Sexist Undertones in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" Essay

Misogynistic and Sexist Undertones in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" Essay

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From the moment that the apple touched Eve’s lips, women have been seen as an embodiment of all that is evil. This reflects misogynistic societal beliefs that women are below men. While many of the prejudices towards women are hidden in modern American society, some misogynistic stereotypes are still present. In Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, one can see many misogynistic and sexist undertones. Big Nurse Ratched is in a position of authority over a large group of men and is seen as a tyrannical and unjust ruler. Although most of her methods would have been seen as awful when used by any person, the saturation of bad women in the novel creates an unfavorable picture of women in general. The balance of power in the ward is never equal; it is either in the hands of women, or of men. Nurse Ratched is determined to take power from the men, while McMurphy is determined to win it back. Therefore, a push-pull situation is created, in which each group is attempting to take power from the other. Kesey’s misogynistic tones create the feeling that men and women cannot be equal; for one to rise, the other must fall.
One of the defining characteristics that embody men is their manhood. Take away this manhood, and the person is stripped of power, thus becoming genderless. One of Nurse Ratched’s methods for extracting power is a metaphorical castration. From the moment McMurphy enters the ward, he understands the nurse’s methods. He knows that “what she is is a ball-cutter… [she tries] to make you weak” (54). McMurphy goes on to tell the men that by removing their balls, the Nurse is removing a source of their strength. By implying that men’s power resides in their sexuality, Kesey is giving in to sexual stereotypes about men. In ...


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...done in a completely passive manner, and it at times seems as if she is not doing anything at all. The cunning demonstrated by the nurse is Kesey saying that women realize that they do not have the inherent powers that men do. The nurse is afraid of McMurphy and therefore must remove the parts of him that are threats. In doing this, she must remove what makes him a man. The misogyny demonstrated by Kesey shows women as exploiters, which, ironically, is what the nurse names McMurphy. The nurse creates a ward full of genderless robots. McMurphy is the hero, because he breaks free from the mold. Women have always attempted to break out of whatever they are trapped in, and are often the ones who encourage others to do so as well. Kesey’s words create a world where women want everyone to fit the mold, as well as being the main obstacles between men and their freedom.


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