The Role of Men and Women in Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest Essay

Words: 1160
Pages: 5

In a perfect world, men and women would live as equals, sharing power in all aspects of life. While this may be an appealing notion, it is nonexistent in society. Strong men are seen by women as abusive and dominating, while strong women are seen by men as castrating and emasculating. The text of Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in many ways, conforms to the structure of conventional male myth and asks the reader to accept that myth as a heroic pattern. From a masculinist perspective, it offers a charismatic hero in Randle Patrick McMurphy, a figure of spiritual strength and sexual energy, whose laughter restores the patients of the mental institution to life and confounds the combine’s “machines,” or authoritarians. …show more content…
The “east/west” polarity represents the opposite philosophies and social-politics at the base of their conflict; a dichotomy which represents their respective ideas. Because Nurse Ratched is portrayed as “putting ‘em inna pens,” she is seen as the oppressor, opposite to the male “hens” who are seen as innocent and helpless. Similarly, John Zubizarreta examines the extent of the rift between the patients and the nurse in his article, “The Disparity of Point of View in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” He depicts the audience as “steadily siding with the psychopathic misfit McMurphy as he provokes the inflexible, prudish Miss Ratched into a battle that takes on the proportions of myth: man versus woman, good versus evil, freedom versus confinement, individuality versus conformity” (Zubizaretta 69). These traits all exist in opposite sides of the argument – McMurphy and the patients, individualists yearning for freedom, and Nurse Ratched, the evil tyrant confining them. The idea of heroism displayed in McMurphy creates a tone of misogyny, which causes the schism between the male and female persona.

Because the masculine approach of the text creates a dichotomy between the males and females of the ward, it rejects female authority. Throughout the novel, McMurphy pushes the boundaries Nurse Ratched has so painstakingly established. McMurphy serves as