One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Essay
How does Ken Kesey explore the theme of emasculation?
Exploring the theme of emasculation is demonstrated throughout Ken Kesey’s novel, ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. The novel, set in a mental institution, is narrated by a schizophrenic Native American man, Chief Bromden, who pretends to be deaf and dumb. The theme of emasculation is a prevalent issue in the novel, where Kesey portrays this message through the antagonist, Nurse Ratched, who is a dictatorial nurse that represses and intimidates the patients. Kesey further conveys the theme of emasculation through the use of literary techniques including characterisation, simile and dialogue. As the novel depicts the idea of emasculation, this allows the readers to understand the effect of an oppressive and tyrannical environment, where the men are victimised and belittled.
Throughout the novel, the theme of emasculation is prevalent, this is explored through Kesey’s use of characterisation. The men within the ward “are victims of a matriarchy” as they are dictated and intimidated by women, who are portrayed as threatening and terrifying figures. Nurse Ratched, a former army nurse is the cold, implacable head nurse of the psychiatric ward. Kesey characterises Nurse Ratched as a woman who prides herself on efficiency and order, her existence within the ward induces fear, where her dominance over the men belittles them. Kesey further develops Nurse Ratched’s character through Chief Bromden’s perspective of her, where he believes that the she is part of the Combine. Chief Bromden’s perception of the Combine “is a huge organization that aims to adjust the Outside as well the Inside." The Combine is also perceived as an omnipotent force that manipulates and controls all aspects of life, where the patients identify her as the head of the Combine. The Combine symbolises Nurse Ratched’s character as a machine that is capable of manipulating and terrorising the patients to emasculate them. Ken Kesey also characterises her through her name, where Ratched is a pun for ‘ratchet’, this is a tool that is used to tighten bolts. Throughout the novel, Nurse Ratched keeps the men ‘adjusted’ by implementing rules and regulations in the ward. By controlling and emasculating the men she establishes a tyrannical and intimidating reputation, which enables her to achieve a controlling and fretful environment. Through Kesey’s use of characterisation it allows the reader to identify the development of Nurse Ratched’s character and to understand her actions and perspective.
The theme of emasculation is continuously revealed throughout the novel; this is portrayed through Kesey’s use of simile. Within the novel, the patients are persecuted and tyrannised, where they perceive Nurse Ratched as a large and forceful woman, that abuses her authority to control and loom over them. Kesey impleme...