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How gender stereotypes in regard to control, are reversed in the novel “One flew over the cuckoos nest” by Ken Kesey. Until modern times, society has advocated that the male role was at work, whilst women were expected to remain in the home, adopting the role of primary care giver. Men were automatically granted power and authority as the women we pushed into the category of subservient domestic supporter.

Within their social circles, the males fared an elevated status should their success be measured in terms of domestic harmony. It was the woman’s role to ensure this, least forces of discipline by installed. These roles extended far beyond the family circuit into the mainstream of society, materialising in areas such as education, politics and employment.

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Although many women in most industrialised countries had won the vote by 1945, their status was still far from equal to men. In the early 1960’s women began campaigning for the right to break free from traditional roles and to participate equally with men in every sphere of life. It was at this time that the United States Feminist Movement gathered strength from the U.S Civil Rights movement. Literature played an important role in the conquest for Women’s liberation. Betty Friedons controversial; “The feminine mystique” had a profound effect on feminists, she challenged the values and status of marriage in society, describing it as a myth created to justify the treatment of women as second-class citizens.

Ken Keseys’s novel “One flew over the cuckoos nest” although written in 1962- a year before the publication of “The feminine mystique”- emanated the popular ideology of the woman’s mission for equality at the time. He constructs a microcosm of the 1960’s American society, based within the confines of a mental institution. This reflection of society challenges the assertion of gender-based control, where the tyrannical female oligarchy Nurse Ratched, manipulates and oppresses the pusillanimous chicken-hearted men, with her comparably totalitarian-esque regime.

In the early 1960’s the contraceptive pill became widely available. This substantially reduced the risks of unwanted pregnancy, giving women much greater sexual freedom. For the first time, women were able to possess maternal control, they could choose how many offspring they wanted, and at what time to conceive. This idea is reflected in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Nurse Ratched, as the female matriarchy, treats the all-male patients like unborn children- at any moment she has the ability to subject them to EST, or greater punishment, as is shown by the unprecedented lobotomy of R.P Mc Murphy. They fear that she has the power to end their lives.

This is even more so the case when discussing the role of Mrs Bibbit. Billy Bibbit’s mother gains her power by preventing her son from becoming a functional adult. She is often referred to by Nurse Ratched as a fear inducant for Billy, and it seems as if the Nurse and Mrs Bibbit are conspiring to keep him within the confines of the hospital when it is apparent that other than his dysfunctional parental relationship, he is not ill.

At first Mrs Bibbit does not seem able to comprehend that Billy is a mature adult and capable to of functioning in society, but it soon becomes clear that this is merely a pretence for her own vanity. When his mother tells him that he has plenty of time to accomplish things such as going to college, and Billy reminds his mother that his is thirty one years old, she replies, “Sweetheart, do I look like the mother of a middle aged man?” Here we can underline a direct parallel to the old-fashioned perception in their social circles, using their wives as tools for gaining appraisal from their peers and contemporaries.

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