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One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: 3 Points

1053 words - 5 pages

In Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, the author refers to the many struggles people individually face in life. Through the conflict between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy, the novel explores the themes of individuality and rebellion against conformity. With these themes, Kesey makes various points which help us understand which situations of repression can lead an individual to insanity. These points include: the effects of sexual repression, woman as castrators, and the pressures we face from society to conform. Through these points, Kesey encourages the reader to consider that people react differently in the face of repression, and makes the reader realize the value of alternative ...view middle of the document...

One of the most controversial points McMurphy makes in the novel is fear of woman as castrators. The women in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest are uniformly described as threatening and terrifying figures. Most of the male patients have been damaged by relationships with overpowering women. For example; Bromden's mother is portrayed as a castrating woman; her husband took her last name, and she turned a big strong chief into a small, weak alcoholic. According to Bromden, she "got twice his size; she made him too little to fight anymore and he gave up" (p.187). By constantly putting him down, she built herself up emotionally, becoming bigger than her husband. The hospital, run by women, treats only male patients. Through nurse Ratched's strict regime, we see how women have the ability to emasculate even the most masculine of men. An example of this can be seen when a patient named Rawler commits suicide by cutting off his own testicles. Brombden remarks that "all the guy had to do was wait," (p.57) implying that the women running institution itself would have castrated him in the long run. More images and references to castration appear later in the novel. When Nurse Ratched suggests taking more drastic measures on McMurphy with "an operation," he jokes about castration despite knowing full well that she is referring to a lobotomy. Both operations remove a man's individuality, freedom, and ability for sexual expression. Kesey portrays the two operations as symbolically the same to make this point.
The hospital, just like society, suppresses the individuality of the patients by gaining control of their lives and forcing them to conform. In the novel, the mental hospital is a metaphor for the oppression Kesey sees in modern society. Through Brombden's narration, we see how his way of interpreting the world emphasizes the oppressive social pressure to conform. He sees modern society as a machinelike, oppressive force and the hospital as a repair shop from the people who do not fit into their role as cogs in the machine. Those who do not conform to society's rules and conventions are considered defective products and are labeled mentally ill and sent for...

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