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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Essay Example

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Date: 11/10/11 English 102/018 Title: Nurse Ratched as Castrating Female by Shari Booker Introduction Nurse Ratched is the worst in a female character, especially when one regards her as a nurse. Nurses are supposed to be caring and helpful…
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One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
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"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

Download file to see previous pages She is therefore the opposite of what a woman should be, especially one that is a nurse, and, as such, she represents the castrating female that men might fear. Argument We meet Nurse Ratched when she comes upon the black boys, who are, throughout the novel, a kind of background chorus, nameless and faceless, but always a part of the action. The boys are not doing anything particularly wrong, just standing around and talking. Nevertheless, Ratched descends upon them in fury - “she knows what they been saying, and I can see she's furious clean out of control. She's going to tear the black bastards limb from limb, she's so furious. She's swelling up, swells until her back's splitting out the white uniform and she's let her arms section out long enough to wrap around the three of them five, six times...” (Kesey, 1962, p. 5). What is interesting is the hyperbole that Kesey uses to describe the nurse – that she is large as a tractor, that her head is huge. This is told from the perspective of the Chief, and it is clear that the largeness of the nurse is symbolic of her degree of intimidation over the men. The description also makes her seem not just womanly, but not human. She seems more monstrous. This is symbolic, too, of her castrating female, as a monster is somebody who would represent somebody who might castrate a man. Nurse is somebody like a Medusa, who can turn men to stone just one glance. Therefore, it is obvious that Kesey wants us to see that Nurse Ratched is not just not maternal or caring, but that she is downright evil. Then, the description of the nurse changes, as she puts on her face for the people of the ward who might view her. It is obvious that she puts on a facade for people, as she does not want the world to view who she really is. When the other patients come out from their rooms to investigate what the commotion is, she immediately puts on her facade of sweetness - “smiling and calm and cold as usual” (Kesey, 1962, p. 5). Her actual physical features are very feminine - “face is smooth, calculated, and precision-made, like an expensive baby doll, skin like flesh-colored enamel, blend of white and cream and baby-blue eyes, small nose, pink little nostrils – everything working together except the color on her lips and fingernails, and the size of her bosom” (Kesey, 1962, p. 5). In other words, what the Chief perceived before – the nurse as big as a tractor, with arms long enough to wrap around the men six times, etc. - that represented the nurse's true self, which is that of the castrating female. The outward appearance, on the other hand, represents the face that she puts to the world, which is that of a feminine woman who is not controlling, authoritative or castrating. Like a sucubus, the mythical beautiful woman who may harm or kill men through their seductive ways, Nurse Ratched hides her true demon under a facade of beauty, which makes her all the more insidious and all the more likely to be successful in castrating men. Her allure is on the outside, while her demonic side is on the inside. The power struggle with McMurphy represents the struggle with a man that she essentially cannot castrate, and this leads not only to her undoing, but McMurphy. Ratched has effectively neutered every other man who is under her umbrella of power, so that they do what she says, but McMurphy is different. He is different from the time that he presented himself into the ward - “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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