Feminism lens essay about "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey: Stereotypical female roles against matriarchal female (Big Nurse)

Topics: Woman, Randle McMurphy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Pages: 4 (1502 words) Published: May 22, 2007
Throughout history, the struggle of women to gain and sustain power in society has proven to be difficult, and has coexisted with a rivalry against the opposite sex. Women have been denied many throughout the course of history. They have been discriminated against, lost jobs, lost privileges. Women's suffrage had not developed in the United States until the Nineteenth Amendment, which became effective in time to allow the voting by women nationally in the Presidential election of August 18, 1920. Stereotypical views of the ideal features of women are femininity, maternity, gentility, care, nurture, and dependency. Not matriarchy, independence, nor strength. Women are not generally associated with these traits, and society generally expects women to posses the assumed feminine characteristics.

This is not the case in the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, in which Ken Kesey shows a woman can hold a dominating, powerful role in society and be contrary to the stereotypical woman figure to depict the validity of the society's views about women and their roles using the failure of the matriarchal female character to succeed at her role assumed by her occupation.

The matriarchal female, Mildred Big Nurse Ratched, gains control over her realm in the mental hospital, but fails to fulfill her duties as a nurse of healing or helping her patients. The sexist description of her physical appearance provided by her patients are those typically associated with women, however, she completely contradicts the typical female. She is a matriarchal figure, not maternal. She is powerful, not dependent. And she manipulates complete power over the staff and patients of the hospital. However, her matriarchy does not fulfill her duties assumed by her occupation; to heal and help the patients. Instead, she worsens the situation by diminishing their strengths and exposing their weaknesses; which she does to gain control in a way which appeals to her senses.

Big Nurse, or Mildred...


Cited: (MLA Format)Boardman, Michael M. "One Flew over the Cuckoo 's Nest: Rhetoric and Vision." Journal of Narrative Technique 9. No. 3. Fall 1979.: 171-83. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism.
Quinn, Laura. Moby Dick vs. Big Nurse: A Feminist Defense of a Misogynist Text: One Flew Over the Cuckoo 's Nest. Censored Books: Critical Viewpoints. Ed. Nicholas J. Karolides. Lee Burress. John M. Kean. Scarecrow Press, 1993: 398-413. Rpt. in Novels for Students. Vol. 2.
Zubizarreta, John. "The Disparity of Point of View in One Flew over the Cuckoo 's Nest." Literature/Film Quarterly 22. No 1. 1994: 62-9. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism.
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