Emasculation In One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

1984 Words 8 Pages
In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey uses the emasculation of the patients at the hands of Nurse Ratched paired with the wild abandon and rebellion of the criminal, McMurphy, to illustrate the opposing forces of control and freedom, along with demonstrating the controlling nature of society. Kesey uses the introduction of McMurphy and the depiction of the ward along with the change after McMurphy’s introduction to illustrate the emasculating effect of control. The introduction of McMurphy is a catalyst to break the complete control and order of the ward. When McMurphy arrives on the extremely orderly and controlled ward, he makes a mockery of the system itself, claiming that he is “accustomed to being top man,” and he figures that …show more content…
In regard to Ratched’s manipulation, critic Theodora-Ann Hague states that “Ratched is able to foster doubt as to McMurphy's motives with regard to the other patients whose mental states are extremely susceptible to suggestion” (Hague 2). She reveals that her goal is to remain in complete control, and protect the order that she so dearly values. She does not care for the good of her patients, merely the order that can be obtained. The behavior of the patients in the group therapy session demonstrates that they are emasculated to the point of not questioning the motives of the nurse and are eager to throw their free will out the window for the sake of pleasing her. McMurphy compares the behavior of the patients to chickens at a “peckin’ party,” in that they see “a spot of blood” and peck at the chicken with it on them until “they rip the chicken to shred, blood, and bones, and feathers” (Kesey 57). This shows how emasculated the patients are, as it was over a concern with Harding’s wife that the others started attacking him, and in the way they were so eager to please …show more content…
The vote that the patients hold over what they watch on TV represents the elevated self determination and level of freedom for the patients due to McMurphy being present and his influence on the patients. When the vote comes down to a tie when a majority is called for, Chief Bromden, the narrator who the staff and other patients think is mute, deaf, and dumb, raises his hand to get a majority but sacrifices his protected state. While raising his hand he says that it is like “McMurphy’s got wires hooked to it, lifting it slow” before realizing that it is he himself lifting it (Kesey 142). This shows the large effect that McMurphy has had on the patients. Before, they never questioned anything that the nurse did, while now, they are willing to stand up for themselves. Diane Telgen states that “Kesey portrays his society's definition of "madness" as something used by an authoritarian culture to dehumanize the individual and replace it with an automaton that dwells in a safe, blind conformity” (Diane 226). This vote shifts the balance of power appreciably away from Ratched and her use of calling the patients mad to control them and towards freedom. This also shows that while the patients recognize McMurphy’s large effect on them, as seen by Bromden initially

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