Compare the Ways Plath and Kesey Present Psychological Disorders and ‘Minds Under Stress’ in the Bell Jar and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

3284 Words Apr 20th, 2008 14 Pages
‘One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘The Bell Jar’ can be linked considerably. Both the novels in question are products of the author’s own experiences and the specific culture in which they were written. They both draw upon similar events throughout, yet the philosophy and reason behind them is often significantly contrasting. However, it cannot be argued that their presentation of psychological disorder and the pressure that it forces on the mind are intrinsically linked due to the circumstances in which they take place.

One of the most patent presentations of minds under stress is reflected in the way that Plath and Kesey portray a gender dominated society. Both novels display a governing gender that suppresses the other,
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Bromden’s mother is also a significant example of this, with the Chief explaining how his once proud and “real big” father was reduced to a suffering alcoholic because his mother made him “too little to fight anymore”. The suggestion that women are presented as castrators is also noteworthy, as throughout the novel both McMurphy and Bromden make references. When Rawler castrates himself, the Chief observes that “all he had to do was wait”, implying that the institution and the women running it would have castrated him in the long run. This can be related to the Freudian theory of ‘Penis Envy’, in the sense that because Ratched and other female oppressors lack the manhood usually associated with men, they must exert their dominance in other ways. The fact that the hospital, run by women, treats only men is a further example of the matriarchal society that Kesey creates within the novel. Perhaps the most obvious reference to castration is when Nurse Ratched suggests an “operation” for McMurphy. Of course, she is referring to a lobotomy, but it could be interpreted as another “besides, it wouldn’t be any use to lop ‘em off. I got another pair in my nightstand”. Both procedures remove a man’s distinctiveness, liberty and ability for sexual expression. In this sense the operations are symbolically the same. The general consensus seems to agree with Harding, who complains, “We are victims of a matriarchy here.”

Furthermore, in ‘the Bell Jar’, the restricted role

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