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Published: 07-10-2019

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The Construction of Theme of Sexuality and its Portrayal

Sexuality has constantly been a powerful tool for writers: it can make heroes or break them, forge relationships or destroy them, suggest utter misery or heavenly bliss. Ken Kesey’s One particular Flew More than the Cuckoo’s Nest delivers a special take on this theme: there is no single lengthy-standing relationship in the entire of the novel, and however sexuality is 1 of the most essential themes in terms of plot development.

Ahead of examining the details, one need to 1st concentrate on the bigger issues at play in this work. The Oregon State Mental Hospital, where the novel is set, immediately suggests the significance of this theme to the plot. The institute is run almost entirely by females, and all of the patients are males. The radical division of the two sexes asserts the role of every single gender in the story from the begin. Ladies are the ones in charge, the ones who dictate the guidelines and enforce them (if they pick to do so). Guys, on the other hand, need to be quiet, submissive, and obedient. As Harding puts it in one of the book’s most memorable quotes, “We are victims of a matriarchy right here.” Given that the book was written in the 1950s, throughout a time when decidedly concrete gender roles have been generally endorsed, it is probably that this inversion was intended to shock readers. Much of the scandal brought on by the book originated from the silent implication that females could manage men.

The novel’s matriarch is Nurse Ratched: a when-desirable woman of 50 and the head of the ward. She wields her power over the sufferers and other employees members with a total lack of remorse. The metaphors used in her initial description are decidedly unnatural: “Precise, automatic gestures. Her face is smooth, calculated and precision-produced, like an pricey child doll, skin like flesh coloured enamel.” The implication is that she is the tool of a machine-like society, and as such, has assumed its characteristics. She is devoid of feelings such as compassion, empathy, and regret: all that remains is a plastic smile of practiced sympathy that hides wholly opposite intentions. The dehumanization of her character extends beyond her character. The “Big Nurse” wears an overly-starched, tight-fitting uniform in order to hide her huge breasts – a symbol of her womanhood, and consequently of a carnal weakness. “A error was made somehow in manufacturing, placing those large, womanly breasts on what would have otherwise been a ideal perform, and you can see how bitter she is about it.” The outcome is a ruler as impenetrable as a fortress: merely place, she has no weakness to exploit. Insinuation and guilt are her major weapons, used to crush any rebellious behavior and make sufferers believe that they are performing incorrect. “She doesn’t need to accuse. She has a genius for insinuation.”

The intentions behind Nurse Ratched’s sexless, cold attire are explained by Harding: “man has but one particular weapon against [girls] but it is definitely not laughter. A single weapon, and with every single passing year in this…society, far more and more men and women are discovering how to render that weapon useless.” Harding is speaking about the male phallus – a tool that men use to subvert ladies. Nurse Ratched’s composed attire and frigid attitude, even so, repulse the human feelings a man would feel towards a lovely (though old) woman such as she. In doing so, she is able to undermine males, reversing the scenario. McMurphy is forced to agree: “I couldn’t get it up over old frozen face in there if she had the beauty of Marilyn Monroe.”

Nurse Ratched’s nemesis is Randle McMurphy. He is the newest admission on the ward, and diverse from anyone that Nurse Ratched and the other patients have observed. He is a con-man, a joker, a gambler, and – most importantly – a playboy, so considerably so in truth that his sexual relations are a single of the causes he has been sent to the hospital: “‘psychopath’ implies I fight and fuh – pardon me, ladies – signifies I am overzealous in my sexual relations.” The novel depicts him as emotionally sturdy simply because he possesses two qualities that no one particular else on the ward has: sexual freedom and the capacity to laugh. For these causes, he is also the only actually “sane” character in the novel. McMurphy can, in a way, be seen as a beacon of light in a world of darkness: amidst the madness of the patients and the institution, he reminds the reader what true sanity looks like.

McMurphy is the most sexually achieved of the individuals, but does not brag about his conquests openly because he knows that to do so would only discourage his comrades. Rather, he puts his expertise to use against Nurse Ratched. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched are opposites, and should inevitably clash. One particular loves controlled order, even though the other revels in utter chaos. One particular is a remorseless megalomaniac, whilst the other is a enjoyable-loving trickster. One is sexless, while the other can not get enough of it. This final difference is the strongest weapon in McMurphy’s arsenal: by alienating herself from sex, Nurse Ratched has forgotten that she herself can be topic to sexual scrutiny and humiliation.

Throughout the book, McMurphy and Nurse Ratched remain locked in a energy struggle over the sufferers. However, McMurphy is fighting for the patients’ physical and mental freedom, although Nurse Ratched seeks their imprisonment for the purposes of her own ego. The weapons they wield are as different as their goals. Nurse Ratched utilizes insinuation and a divide-and-conquer tactic to subvert McMurphy, while he makes use of what comes most naturally to him: his sexuality.

The sufferers see Nurse Ratched as much more than a woman, far more than a human, even. Her sexless nature helps produce this illusion, but by distancing herself from her own sexual instincts she makes herself vulnerable. McMurphy continuously harangues Nurse Ratched, asking “if she didn’t thoughts tellin’, just what was the actual inch-by-inch measurement on these massive ol’ breasts that she did her very best to conceal but by no means could.” Later, “through the back of her uniform, [he] gave her a pinch that turned her face red as his hair.” As a consequence of McMurphy’s jokes, the patients’ notion of Nurse Ratched as an impregnable becoming ceases to exist, and with each one particular of McMurphy’s sly comments the energy structure shifts slightly. At the finish of the novel, this energy is totally dispelled by way of McMurphy’s final, desperate sacrifice for the sake of his buddies: “he grabbed for [Nurse Ratched] and ripped her uniform all the way down the front, screaming again when the two nippled circles began from her chest and swelled out and out.” This gesture not only exposes Nurse Ratched as a human becoming, but also nullifies her power – never again will the sufferers see her as the superhuman becoming they after thought she was.

Significantly of the proof for this theme is hidden in symbolism. One particular clear symbol of sexuality in the novel is McMurphy’s boxer shorts. In one of their a lot of confrontations, McMurphy meets Nurse Ratched wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, “coal black satin covered with large, white whales with red eyes” and curiously similar to the figure of Moby Dick. This is essential due to the fact Moby Dick was frequently interpreted as a phallic symbol, and here it is representative of McMurphy’s sexuality. The Moby Dick shorts are also symbolic of McMurphy’s struggle with Nurse Ratched, which mirrors Ahab’s struggle with the whale. Lastly, several have interpreted Moby Dick as a holy figure, significantly as McMurphy mimics Christ in One particular Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The shorts were initially provided to McMurphy as a present “from a co-ed at Oregon State, a Literary major…She gave them to me simply because she stated I was a symbol.”

One more crucial symbol is the pack of cards McMurphy plays with all through the novel. The pack is the very first object he presents the individuals with, and the cards depict “fifty-two positions.” Exactly what these cards depict is created clear by Cheswick’s reaction: he is “pop-eyed already…what he sees on those cards don’t help his condition.” Apart from getting an obvious representation of McMurphy’s open sexuality, the cards also reveal anything about his character. This is no standard pack of cards the pack therefore reveals McMurphy’s non-conformist nature and need to have to shock, to be the center of focus.

McMurphy’s association with symbols does not end there. Although he and the sufferers are returning from their fishing trip, he notices a small dress hanging from a tree, “a rag, yellow and black.” The dress inspires him to tell the story of how he initial lost his virginity to a girl of nine, whose dress ended up in the boughs of a tree right after McMurphy cast it into the wind. McMurphy wears his sexuality like a dress in the wind, waving it proudly for everyone to see. Symbolism aside, this element of the novel is incredibly important to both the theme of sexuality and to the improvement of McMurphy’s character. This insight into McMurphy’s youth assists the reader comprehend exactly where his special personality originated, as famously stated by McMurphy himself: “[she] taught me to love, bless her sweet ass.” It reminds the reader how essential a healthful sexuality is to the growth of a man: the other individuals had troubled sex lives, and are now deemed mad. The scenario is hence infused with a heavy dose of irony: the other individuals have been institutionalized due to the fact of an below-active or unhealthy sex life, whilst McMurphy due to the fact of his over-active sexuality.

Billy Bibbit is an insecure 34-year-old virgin with a speech impediment. The root of his troubles is his non-existent sex life, which left him unable to mature into a man. The blame for this falls not on Billy, but on his mother. Getting been treated like an infant all his life caused Billy to be overwhelmed by the world’s complexities, making the foundation for his insecurity. In the one particular scene exactly where his mother comes to pay a visit to, it becomes obvious that Billy’s mental condition was borne from his mother’s oppressiveness: “Billy was talking about looking for a wife and going to college someday. His mother laughed…at such foolishness.” Had been Billy younger such a conversation might have sounded rational, but Billy is “th-th-thirty-one years old,” and is clearly no longer college-bound.

Later in the novel, McMurphy aids Billy lose his virginity with Candy, a prostitute who breaks into the hospital, thereby eradicating his life-lengthy stutter and insecurity. The gorgeous moment, nevertheless, is short-lived: right after Nurse Ratched discovers what has taken place, she threatens to tell Billy’s mother, sending Billy into a nervous breakdown: “He was shaking his head like a kid that is been promised a whipping just as soon as a willow is cut.” Quickly following he is taken away, the other folks get news that he has “cut his throat.” Billy’s suicide is not entirely surprising. He behaves considerably like a youngster facing punishment, blindly attempting to escape the guilt and the fear.

Indeed, all sufferers in the hospital have had a strong, emasculating female figure in their lives. In Harding’s case, this was his wife. Harding has been institutionalized simply because he is a homosexual. Although no one explicitly reveals this data, the reader can deduce this each from his 1st conversation with McMurphy (“I have been accused…of getting relations with male buddies of mine, of holding my cigarette in an impacted manner…” ) and the description of his wife’s visit (“She talks of some of Harding’s friends who she wishes would quit dropping about the home looking for him…The hoity-toity with the good, long hair combed so completely and the limp small wrists that flip so nice”). What is not identified is whether he was a homosexual before or right after he married, even though there is strong evidence to recommend the latter. Harding claims to have been intimidated by his wife, who is certainly a extremely gorgeous lady who attracts a excellent deal of interest. Harding also states that he was afraid he would not be able to satisfy her. Evidently his fears swamped any adore he might have had for her or any other woman, causing his interests to wander elsewhere. For Harding, there is no fast remedy as there was with Billy, but he states in the final pages of the novel that he wants to come to terms with his sexuality ahead of confronting society once more.

The narrator of the novel, Chief Bromden, has also had a traumatizing encounter with a lady: his mother. She was in a position to gradually sap any self-confidence and power from both him and his proud father and tribal leader, Tee-Ah-Millatoona (“The-Pine-That-Stands-Tallest-On-The-Mountain”). Only her surname is pointed out in the book, Bromden, an indication that the Chief is trying to forget her stifling presence. She imposes her surname on the Chief’s father and himself: a symbol of the permanent influence she has on their lives and a direct usurpation of Tee-Ah-Millatoona’s part as head of the loved ones. His downfall into the sorry drunkard he becomes is a consequence of the mother’s oppressive nagging, which the Chief says “made him also little to fight any more” and eventually persuaded him to sell the valley that was home to him and his ancestors. The Chief’s mother can be observed as a tool of a mechanistic society, infiltrating a single of nature’s last havens in an work to conquer and exploit it.

We know that the Chief ultimately became insane while fighting in Globe War Two since he was committed shortly following the war ended, but his perceptive abilities had currently been drastically stunted by his mother. When McMurphy asks the Chief how massive his mother was, he replies that even though a carnival worker when told him she was “five feet nine and a hundred and thirty pounds,” he imagines her to be bigger than his father, “twice his size.”

Sexual violence is yet yet another theme present in the book. When Nurse Ratched pretends to get McMurphy’s name incorrect and calls him “McMurry,” he delves into a story about “an uncle whose name was Hallahan…he went with a lady as soon as who kept acting like she couldn’t keep in mind his name proper and kept calling him Hooligan just to get his goat. It went on for months prior to he stopped her.” When the medical doctor asks how he stopped her, McMurphy replies, “I preserve Unk Hallahan’s approach a strict secret, you see, in case I want to use it myself someday.” He is, of course, referring to rape. In One Flew More than the Cuckoo’s Nest, rape is portrayed as the final resort for men who wish to assert their “natural” authority more than females.

The first time this theme appears in the novel is throughout Chief Bromden’s recollections about Taber. Without having warning, Nurse Ratched’s cronies “catch Taber in the latrine and drag him to the mattress room,” where Nurse Ratched is waiting, “smearing Vaseline on a extended needle.” Shortly afterwards, she reappears, “wiping the needle on a shred of Taber’s pants.” Considerably, she “[leaves] the Vaseline jar in the room” for the wardens to use on Maxwell. Symbolically, it is as if she has raped him. Not only is Nurse Ratched in a position to nullify men’s last weapon over girls, but she is even capable of employing it against them.

The last time this theme appears in the novel is in the course of McMurphy’s final sacrifice. Prior to being committed to the hospital, he was never violent in his sexual relationships – contrary to what the hospital believed. The atmosphere of the hospital, nevertheless, with its twisted absence of sexuality and horribly cruel psychological ordeals, forces McMurphy to turn to sexual violence as a final resort. He rebels against the cruel matriarch, tearing off Nurse Ratched’s uniform. In a way, McMurphy has to resort to “Unk Hallahan’s” method to bring about change – eventually, the uncanny prophecy proves to be correct.

Yet yet another key theme in the novel is castration. The most memorable usage of this theme occurs for the duration of Rawler’s suicide: he bleeds to death right after cutting off his personal testicles. Specifically striking is the phrase with which the Chief concludes the anecdote: “What tends to make folks so impatient is what I cannot figure, all the guy had to do was wait.” The sentence can be interpreted in a number of distinct approaches. Firstly, the Chief may well be suggesting that the institution itself would have killed him in the long run: becoming classified as “Disturbed,” Rawler would have been subjected to electroshock therapy and other operations that would most likely have brought about his demise. However, the Chief may possibly also have meant that Rawler would have ultimately been castrated by the institution. The sexless nature of the hospital would drive any man to a mental – if not physical – castration.

This theme becomes even far more crucial towards the end of the novel, soon after McMurphy has been subjected to 3 electroshock remedies. Nurse Ratched, seeing no adjust in McMurphy’s behavior, suggests “that we contemplate an operation” – by which she means a lobotomy. Prior to she can continue, however, McMurphy retorts that “it wouldn’t be any use to lop’em off I got an additional pair in my nightstand.” As usual, he tends to make a joke out of the nurse’s grave announcement, pretending to believe that they want to castrate him. Each operations, nonetheless, rid a man of his individuality, his freedom to select, and his pride. Kesey’s implication is that the two operations are symbolically identical.

There is significantly debate more than the function of this theme in the novel. Several have merely labeled the novel as offensive towards girls, but the truth of the matter is in fact far a lot more complicated. Kesey’s negative portrayal of ladies is not intended to undermine the female sex. In order to successfully convey the extreme differences between the nurses and the sufferers, Kesey not only had to separate them not only morally, but also physically. By dividing them by gender, Kesey creates a planet in which females can instantly be identified as “evil” and male characters as “good.” The notion of a society totally governed by girls is very alien to us (and would have been even a lot more unimaginable to Kesey’s contemporaries), thereby emphasizing that the hospital atmosphere is twisted and unnatural.

Possibly foreseeing the reaction to his novel, Kesey included a character intended to discredit the theory that he was blatantly misogynistic. The Japanese nurse who treats McMurphy and the Chief’s wounds is the only actually “normal” woman in the novel: she has a tiny of the prostitutes’ goodness and a little of the nurses’ authority and status – in other words, she is a accurate neutral. Her kindness and thoughtfulness come through when she “[offers] McMurphy a cigarette and me a stick of gum,” but her lesser authority prevents her from becoming able to shield the men by maintaining them in her ward. Her remark that “It’s not all like [Nurse Ratched’s] ward. The Army nurses…are a little sick themselves” strengthens the theory that Kesey did not want to portray ladies negatively: the hospital nurses are exceptions, and not indicators of girls as a whole. The criticism that ladies are portrayed as tiny more than sexual playthings is also countered by the Japanese nurse. McMurphy attempts to flirt with her, asking “how extended [they] could have the pleasure of her hospitality” and spinning her response about: “Not extremely lengthy, you are afraid?” but her indifference to McMurphy’s advances clearly indicates that Kesey did not want ladies to be merely objectified.

Similarly, some have called the novel racist simply because of the decidedly negative portrayal of the black wardens. This accusation is likewise unfounded because of the presence of the Negro evening warden Mr. Turkle, who “unties the sheet from across [the Chief] if it’s so tight I squirm around” and participates in McMurphy’s midnight celebration.

The theme of sexuality in “One Flew More than The Cuckoo’s Nest” is central to the novel. It is McMurphy’s major weapon against Nurse Ratched’s cold rule, culminating in the profitable toppling of the evil matriarch and the subsequent liberation of the individuals. On the other side of the spectrum, it has the power to render guys insane when wrongly used, as is the case with several of the hospital’s patients. Sexuality can even lead to men to do horrific factors, as when Billy Bibbit ends his own life. The novel is woven with intricate sub-plots: castration and the subsequent dehumanization, the emasculation of males, and sexual violence as a resolution. Several have criticized Ken Kesey as offensive and misogynistic, but I think that he is a visionary able to infuse inflammatory themes with elements of pure truth.
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