Archetypes In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

1598 Words 7 Pages
For whatever reason, writers tend to categorize female characters more strictly than they do male characters. Generally using the “Big 8” archetypes, women are placed into confining molds with little to no room for variation. Whether they play the role of the sweet, virginal Innocent or the plain and wise Sage, women, especially when written by male authors, rarely exhibit the same complex personalities as their male counterparts. Even worse, authors sometimes pervert these archetypes, exaggerating the worst qualities of each, as seen in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By dramatizing the most unsavory aspects of The Lover, The Caregiver, and The Ruler, Kesey portrays women as sex objects and cruel tyrants, drawing their power …show more content…
Kesey begins by removing all aspects of her humanity, describing her from the outset as one does a machine, with “precise, automatic gesture[s]” and a face “smooth, calculated, and precision-made,” (Kesey 11). Far from a benevolent and wise Ruler, Nurse Ratched makes it quite clear that she tolerates no disobedience and holds a firm belief that “everyone… must follow the rules” (Kesey 28). She practically holds the patients hostage, using subtle forms of control and humiliation to keep them in line. Ironically, she describes McMurphy as a “manipulator”, someone who “can influence the other patients and disrupt them to such an extent that it may take months to get everything running smooth once more”, when it is she who manipulates the patients and reduces them to states from which there is no recovery (Kesey 29). Rarely does Nurse Ratched actually help her patients; instead, she submits them to painful electroshock therapy or allows her orderlies to torture unruly patients. Though nearly half of the ward lives there voluntarily, not one of them chooses to leave because Nurse Ratched dominates them so entirely that they have no free will. Her ultimate goal is to create “ world of precision efficiency and tidiness …show more content…
In fact, One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest was released only one year before Betty Friedan’s pivotal book The Feminine Mystique. After a decade and a half of servility, women around the country became restless and sought outlets to demonstrate their strengths. As a result, a large portion of work by male writers of the period (Kesey included) demoted women to either sex objects like Candy, uncaring Caregivers like Billy Bibbit’s mother, or masculine and emasculating disciplinarians like Nurse Ratched. The break-out of women from their societal roles and confines forces minds like Kesey to shove them back into place when it comes time to write about them. In doing so, Kesey reveals only his fundamental lack of understanding of the female character and his clear, antiquated

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