One Flew Over The Cuckoo 's Nest Essay

One Flew Over The Cuckoo 's Nest Essay

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From the mid-twentieth century, the role of females and other minority groups in society have drastically changed following the feminism movement and World War II. In Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the author emphasizes the roles of females by presenting characters that exhibit behaviors contrasting the expected ones given by society. He assigns perceived nurturing and caring characters, such as a nurse, wife, and mother, dominating and abrasive roles that contradict typical roles at that time. Stereotypically, nurses, wives, and mothers are expected to submit to male influence in society along with honoring their dominance. Kesey chooses to have his characters reject these gender roles by giving them power over various men. In addition, other minority groups, such as prostitutes and the Japanese, were discriminated against in 1950s society. Throughout the plot, two prostitutes and a Japanese nurse express compassion and sympathy for the male patients, thereby empowering the men while the nurse, wife, and mother often emasculate them. Kesey develops characters of these minorities to depict how they should be assimilated and more accepted into society. Because minorities’ roles have drastically changed in the 1950s, Ken Kesey deviates his female characters from their typical gender roles by allowing women to emasculate men and having other minority groups empower them.
The main female presence throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nurse Ratched, expresses her dominance over male patients, thereby deviating from the expected role of nurses in society. Most often, the nurse’s strict rules and punishments emasculate the men rather than empower them. Generally, nurses are perceived to be caring and compassi...


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...e way down the front, screaming again when two nippled circles started from her chest and swelled out” (Kesey 275). After McMurphy exposed her breasts, the weakness she was trying to hide was also fully exposed, leaving her ultimately powerless. The femininity Nurse Ratched hid for many years was finally exposed, symbolizing her lack of power and identity as a woman. This act also parallels the status of women in society. The feminism movement became prevalent in hopes of empowering women, so when the Nurse is finally identified as a true woman, her lack of power is also recognized. Kesey effectively depicts how different Nurse Ratched behaves from established gender roles for women during the mid-twentieth century in American society. By forcing her power onto others, she differs from a typical woman in that time and thereby defies the stereotypical roles of women.

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