Essay on Suicide and Cuckoo’s Nest

Submitted By stephaziz
Words: 377
Pages: 2

Women as Castrators
With the exception of the prostitutes, who are portrayed as good, the women in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are uniformly threatening and terrifying figures. Bromden, the narrator, and McMurphy, the protagonist, both tend to describe the suffering of the mental patients as a matter of emasculation or castration at the hands of Nurse Ratched and the hospital supervisor, who is also a woman. The fear of women is one of the novel’s most central features. The male characters seem to agree with Harding, who complains, “We are victims of a matriarchy here.”
Indeed, most of the male patients have been damaged by relationships with overpowering women. For instance, 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 built herself up emotionally, becoming bigger than either he or his father, by constantly putting them down. Similarly, Billy Bibbit’s mother treats him like an infant and does not allow him to develop sexually. Through sex with Candy, Billy briefly regains his confidence. It is no coincidence that this act, which symbolically resurrects his manhood, also literally introduces his penis to sexual activity. Thus, his manhood—in both senses—returns until Ratched takes it away by threatening to tell his mother and driving him to commit suicide.
More explicit images of and references to castration appear later in the novel, cementing Kesey’s idea of emasculation by the…