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Discovering the Misogyny in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

“Hell yes, we have a quota…We do keep females out, when we can. We do not want them here — and they do not want them elsewhere, either, no matter whether or not they’ll admit it.” This statement, issued by an unnamed dean of a healthcare school in 1960, generated an uproar within the feminist community. Two years later, author Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, a novel that sparked second wave feminism, a political movement focused on women’s proper to perform and break out of the domestic sphere. These ideals, nonetheless, had been not without backlash. Many males felt that girls would push them out of the workplace and firmly believed in the function of a housewife. The identical year The Feminine Mystique was written, Ken Kesey published 1 Flew More than the Cuckoo’s Nest, a novel which shows the author’s misogyny by way of his portrayal of females. The antagonist, Nurse Ratched, is a females in a strong position who utilizes her power to belittle and control the patients in the psychiatric ward, therefore earning her the nickname “ball cutter.” The rest of the novel is scattered with female characters that overpower the males in the psychiatric ward.  Kesey uses the sexuality and movement of female characters inside the novel to suggest that girls in power are unnatural, by depicting powerful females as stiff and tight, and subordinate ladies as loose and sexual.

By means of Nurse Ratched’s hidden sexuality and stiff movement, Kesey shows that girls in power are unnatural because girls need to modify their all-natural tendencies in order to have power. Kesey illustrates that females must cover their sexuality for power, since guys dominate women through sex. At the starting of the novel, Miss Ratched covers her physique in order to have complete energy over the ward. Nevertheless, Kesey establishes Miss Ratched as a sexually appealing particular person by emphasizing her very large breasts, “In spite of all her attempts to conceal them in that sexless get-up, you can nonetheless make out the proof of some rather extraordinary breasts” (159). Even though Miss Ratched has appealing physical characteristics, Kesey shows how the males cannot overpower her simply because her “sexless get-up” gets in the way of his vision of the natural order of power. Then, towards the finish of the novel, McMurphy, who is portrayed as the savior, rips open Miss Ratched’s uniform. When she returns to the ward right after the attack, the narrator, Chief Bromden, describes her look, “In spite of its getting smaller and tighter and far more starched than her old uniforms, it could no longer conceal the truth that she was a woman” (268). When McMurphy violently assaults Nurse Ratched, he is asserting his physical dominance more than hers. Kesey sees this as the natural order women are subordinate to guys just simply because of their bodies. Following the attack she can “no longer conceal the fact” that she is a woman because her masculine facade generated by her “starched uniform” has been assaulted. Nurse Ratched came to be subordinate as her sexuality became uncovered simply because she no longer possessed the masculinity Kesey claims is needed for power. To additional his ideology that women with energy are unnatural, Kesey not only utilizes Nurse Ratched’s hidden sexuality, but also her mechanical, unnatural movement.

To deepen his argument against women in energy, Kesey uses numerous minor characters to compliment Mrs. Ratched by also portraying them as stiff. Simply because the Combine, or societies institutions, is such as vast concept, Kesey need to show other girls in positions of power throughout the Combine to strengthen his argument. Kesey very first makes use of a memory of Chief Bromden’s to additional illustrate his disillusionment with women unnaturally in the workplace. When a woman comes to Chief Bromden’s property to evaluate the land, Kesey immediately sets up this woman as an antagonist. She is a leader within the Combine set out to destroy the all-natural lands of the Indian Reservation. Kesey then draws connections amongst this woman and Miss Ratched via the woman’s outfit when he writes, “an old white-haired woman in an outfit so stiff and heavy it should be armor plate” (179). Kesey compares Miss Ratched’s nurse attire and this woman’s “armored plate”  as both stiff and nonsexual. However, this woman’s outfit is a lot more exaggerated having been compared to a knight’s breastplate to ward off sexual attacks from men. The outfit not only hides the women’s sexuality but confines movement and is unnaturally “heavy” for such a hot day. The woman also desires to destroy the all-natural landscape of the reservation, making her go against nature each literally and figuratively. Kesey makes use of stiff, unnatural, and restrictive clothes to once more illustrate that girls in power are unnatural.

Finally, stiffness is also portrayed by way of Billy’s mother, a lady who is close close friends with Miss Ratched and abuses her energy as a mother, “…lead [her son] out outside to sit close to exactly where I was on the grass. She sat stiff there on the grass” (246).  Kesey places her in a organic setting becoming unnaturally stiff, just like the lady at the reservation. Generally when folks sit outside in the grass, they lay carelessly at ease, but not Billy’s mother whose stiffness seems uncomfortable. Kesey makes use of her connection to Miss Ratched through to show Billy’s mother’s ultimate power over her son’s life as she holds him back from recovery. Soon after Billy tends to make his “recovery” by sleeping with Candy, he kills himself due to the fact he can not face his mother, providing her ultimate power more than him. A mother is a person who is supposed to be “the cure” for their sons or daughters, not the death of them. So not only is her stiffness unnatural, but so is her position as a mother who killed her son. Through Billy’s mother’s stiffness and her position of power in an antagonistic role, Kesey asserts that women shouldn’t hold positions of energy simply because it is clearly unnatural. All through minor female characters within the novel, Kesey asserts their unnatural positions of energy via covered sexuality and stiff movements that examine to Miss Ratchets’ personal.

To further his position on females in power, Kesey portrays a prostitute, Candy, with blatant sexuality and loose movement to highlight the natural female position of subordination. Kesey tends to make it obvious that Candy is the very opposite of Mrs. Ratched when Chief Bromden describes Candy’s garments, “…it didn’t appear like that was close to adequate material to go about taking into consideration what it had to cover” (197). If Nurse Ratched covers herself by means of her clothing, Candy is just the opposite as she does not even have “near adequate material” to cover her physique. Nurse Ratched is used to show Kesey’s belief that it is unnatural for women to be in energy, whilst Candy serves to show the position that Kesey sees as organic for girls: subordination. To show his appeal to Candy’s character, Kesey tends to make Candy the only purpose the guys can go on the fishing trip. Only one particular auto comes to choose them up, and McMurphy requirements a second automobile to get all the males to the pier. The medical professional is so attracted to Candy he agrees to drive one more vehicle. Simply because of Candy’s physique and her revealing clothing, the individuals are in a position to go on the fishing trip that tends to make them far more confident. By means of this interaction in between the medical professional and Candy, Kesey is putting a positive connotation around subordinate and sexual girls. Then on the trip, when Candy is on the boat, she insists on having her turn to fish. When she gets a big fish hooked on her line and struggles with holding onto the rod, Chief Bromden describes, “the reel and the reel cranks knocking against her as the reel line spins out… the T-shirt she had on is gone- everybody gawking… with the crank of that reel fluttering her breast at such a speech the nipple’s just a red blur! Billy jumps to help” (211). The moment Candy loses energy handle of her fishing pole, she is observed as sexually desirable by the guys who are “gawking” at her as her shirt flies up. Billy jumps in and exerts his physical dominance over hers, displaying her subordination in her all-natural sexual state. Kesey uses the fishing boat situation to show how it is organic for females to be subordinate to men. Kesey creates a natural, light feeling to the way Candy moves because, as a prostitute, she willingly shows off her body to guys. By juxtaposing her occupation and her organic movement, Kesey illustrates the natural position of ladies as subordinate to males. By way of each her movements and sexuality, Kesey uses Candy, a prostitute, as the cure for the patients in the psychiatric ward to show the all-natural subordination of girls.   

Throughout the novel, Kesey condemns girls in energy as unnatural through movement and sexuality. The concern of discrimination of women in the workplace started in the 1960s, but nevertheless continues today. Although feminism and misogyny had shaky definitions throughout history, Rebecca West, an influential feminist writer in the mid 20th century, clearly depicted the struggle for ladies when she wrote, “I only know that men and women contact me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
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