Gender Inequality In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

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Ken Kesey’s comic novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, takes place in an all-male psychiatric ward. The head of the ward, Big Nurse Ratched, is female. Kesey explores the power-struggle that takes place when the characters challenge gender dynamics in this environment. One newly-arrived patient, McMurphy, leads the men against the Big Nurse. The story is told through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a patient who learns from McMurphy and fights for his freedom. In Ken Kesey’s comic novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, gender is a definer of one's power in the hospital, and this leads to Nurse Ratched hiding her femininity, the patients’ attempts to boost their own masculinity, and both sides trying to expose the other. Kesey uses these examples to explain that men cannot handle a female leader. Nurse Ratched, a female who is head of the ward, attempts to hide her femininity so the men respect her power. At the beginning of the novel, Bromden is describing the Nurse’s appearance. He states, “A mistake was made somehow in manufacturing, putting those big, womanly breasts on what would of otherwise been a perfect work, and you can see how bitter she is about it” (6). Bromden explains that the Big Nurse is a “perfect work” because she is physically commanding which makes her an effective leader. However, “a mistake was made”, and this error is the…show more content…
Kesey explains that men cannot handle a female leader throughout the text. The Nurse suppresses the masculinity of the patients because she would have no power against them in their full strength. The men would not respect her power and revolt. Though Kesey’s characters convey misogynistic messages in the novel, the reader understands it as a critique of the male conscience. This timeless novel promotes awareness of gender issues in an uncommon fashion that relates to problems in today’s social

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