One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Racist, Sexist, and Homophobic Nest 11th Grade

The amount of characters in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey may seem unusual and maybe even a bit overwhelming. The patients and staff of the ward make up the novel’s long list of characters. However, Kesey’s choice of numerous characters goes deeper than just names. From Nurse Ratched’s “ball-cutting” tendencies to Dale Harding’s homosexuality, the characters seem to represent an issue that was present in society during Kesey’s time. Although the issues of mental illness itself are evident in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey shows and promotes the racism, homophobia, and sexism present in society through the characters of the ward.

Living as a minority in a judgmental, discriminatory society was a common issue during Kesey’s time. Blacks were disrespected, and almost always treated as inferior to whites. Instead of addressing the racism and projecting a change in a positive, revolutionary way, Kesey reinforces the inferiority that blacks faced. This is seen throughout One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when the only orderlies of the ward are black, and seen as slave-like. To Nurse Ratched and the patients, they are seen “as the enforcers of Big Nurse’s will, they have little identity of their own. They are...

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