One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Treatment Of The Theme Of Sexuality In "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

Sexuality has always been a powerful tool for writers: it can make heroes or break them, forge relationships or destroy them, suggest utter misery or heavenly bliss. Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest offers a unique take on this theme: there is no single long-standing relationship in the whole of the novel, and yet sexuality is one of the most important themes in terms of plot development.

Before examining the details, one must first concentrate on the larger issues at play in this work. The Oregon State Mental Hospital, where the novel is set, immediately suggests the importance of this theme to the plot. The institute is run almost entirely by women, and all of the patients are men. The radical division of the two sexes asserts the role of each gender in the story from the start. Women are the ones in charge, the ones who dictate the rules and enforce them (if they choose to do so). Men, on the other hand, must be quiet, submissive, and obedient. As Harding puts it in one of the book's most memorable quotes, "We are victims of a matriarchy here." Given that the book was written in the 1950s, during a time when decidedly concrete gender roles were commonly endorsed, it is likely that this inversion was intended to...

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