Comparison Of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", "The Picture Of Dorian Grey", "All Quiet On The Western Front", And "Balzac" And The "Little Chinese Seamstress".

2077 words - 8 pages

A look into the Violent Truth

In the four books One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Picture of Dorian Grey, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress each author gives us a clue into their world, into their lives, and into their views on gender roles, violence, isolation, and self-knowledge.

Ken Kesey has plenty to share with his readers about his idea of gender roles in society. In his novel One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kesey uses a method of comparing the roles of men and women by reversing them. The ward is a perfect example. In this ward Nurse Ratched, the head nurse, has power over the patients in the ward. She also, curiously enough has control over the male staff in the ward, including the doctors and the black boys, whom she uses for spying on the patients. Kesey portrays the character of a highly manipulative, shrewd and heartless Head Nurse, who would stop at nothing to achieve her goal: to attain total control over the ward, a role that traditionally would be associated with male totalitarian dictators such as Stalin or Hitler. Oscar Wilde's views differ significantly from that of Kesey's. In The Picture of Dorian Grey, Lord Henry aphorisms often revolve around the idea of women being objects through which men can become more refined and respectable. Lord Henry tells Dorian on page 54 that "[T]here are only two kinds of women, the plain and the coloured. The plain women are very useful. If you want to gain a reputation for respectability, you have merely to take them down to supper." Wilde often categorizes women in this way throughout the book, but he always maintains the idea that women are meant only as tools, which is also a reason why there are no dynamic female characters. In Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress the message of gender roles is simpler; it is a story of breaking free from the classic social ideal. The Little Chinese Seamstress is the "flower" of the city, and many suitors come to take her hand in marriage. Described as the delicate daughter of the local tailor, she is admired by the two main characters. She becomes intrigued by both of them because they are different. As they try to refine her with literature and stories, she becomes more interested in the city life. At the climax of the novel, the little Chinese seamstress runs away, leaving her traditional female role in the village. Sijie's beliefs are the antithesis of Wilde's. Wilde portrays women as static characters, while Sijie shows women as independent entities. All Quiet on the Western Front does not contain many female characters, which represents the fact that women did not play a pivotal role during the war. At that time period, women were seen as not "fit" to fight, and most were nurses, or stayed at home while the men were off fighting. A more important female character in All Quiet on the Western Front is that of Paul Baumer's mother, who fits this mold well. She is heartbroken over the fact...

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