6 January 2012
Minorities in Society
John Adams, the second president of the United States once said, “That the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of the history of the whole world” (Adams http://thinkexist.com). This quote was true back in the eighteenth century when Adams said it, and it remains true now. A minority is a group differing, especially in race, religion, or ethnic background, from the majority of a population. Discrimination against minorities has been a problem in our society for centuries and has only gotten worse with time. Minorities are mistreated and looked down upon in society, as evidenced in Ken Kesey’s book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Discrimination towards different minority races is a huge predicament in our world today. Although it has somewhat improved in the last century, it still remains a problem. One of the minority races that Kesey focused on in the novel was Native Americans. During the scene where Chief explains his childhood, he states, But I remembered one thing: it wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all…And even as far back as grade school I can remember people saying that they didn’t think I was listening, so they quit listening to the things I was saying (Kesey 210). The Chief is saying that people never even gave him a chance. They just assumed that since he was different, meaning Native American, that he was dumb. A big dilemma that Americans have is they are quick to judge and make assumptions about people before they even know the first thing about them. Since as early as the 1800’s, Native Americans have been victimized by being forced out of their homes to move west. Nobody would listen to them and their opinions were always brushed aside. For centuries now, Native Americans have been ignored in our society and have been treated like nobodies, which is why Kesey included them in his novel: to show society that they do exist and to show that they can be a somebody if they are given the chance. Another example of discrimination towards a racial minority exemplified in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest would be in the scene that Nurse Ratched explains how she chose her orderlies. She experimented with many different African American males to fill the role until she found the right ones with an enormous amount of hatred towards white males; her reasoning being to ensure that they would not betray her and side with the patients. The first orderly she chose was from Georgia, where he watched his father suffer and bleed as a slave. This tormenting sight changed his view and attitude towards whites forever: His eyelids hang loose and thin from his brow…he lifts them up just a bit whenever a new white man comes on the ward, peeks out from under them and studies the man up and down and nods just once like he’s oh yes made positive certain of something he was already sure of. He wanted to carry a sock of birdshot when he first came on the job, to work the patients into shape… (Kesey 30). The orderly feels this way towards whites because he realized that the way they treated African Americans was unjust and wrong. Even though this is minor scene in the novel, it helps exemplify Kesey’s theme of the mistreatment of minorities by explicating the cruel treatment towards African Americans.
Kesey also portrays women as a minority in his novel, especially with Nurse Ratched. When Chief first describes Nurse Ratched, he talks about all her unisex facial features in a positive way, but as soon as he describes her features that make her a woman, his attitude changes to negative: Her face is smooth, calculated, and precision-made, like an expensive baby doll, skin like fresh-colored enamel, blend of white and cream and baby-blue eyes, small nose, pink...