Throughout the novel ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ written by Ken Kesey, and the poem ‘Advice to Young Ladies’ crafted by A.D. Hope, there is evidence to suggest that the discourses represented by the characters in the novel and poem unveil the ways discourses of conformity underpin the characters’ actions, perceptions and motives, as well as inviting and silencing beliefs, attitudes and values. The author and poet are able to strongly convey their beliefs to the reader from their personal experiences. The four dominant discourses that both the novel and poem share and represents: conformity, sexuality and religious. These will be analysed and compared.
The dominant discourse of conformity is characterised predominantly by influencing to obey rules described by Kesey’ novel ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. At the start of the novel, all the acute and the silence chronic conform to Nurse Ratched’s rules before the arrival of McMurphy. Since, she was in complete control over the ward until McMurphy arrived. After he arrived, he begins to take control of the patients. He begins to take the role of leader, a leader that was unexpected. Kesey has foregrounded the character, McMurphy to be different thus creating a binary opposite that is represented in the novel. Kesey shows the binary opposites as being good versus evil. The former represents the con man McMurphy, and the latter represents the head nurse, Nurse Ratched. An example of this would be, “She’s carrying her wicker bag…a bag shape of a tool box with a hemp handle…” (pg.4), showing that Nurse Ratched is a mechanic. McMurphy is portrayed as being a good character by revitalising the hope of the patients by strangling Nurse Ratched. This revitalise the hope for the patients as McMurphy defuses her power. “Advice to Young Ladies”, crafted by A.D. Hope provides a contrast with this conformity discourse illustrated by Kesey.
Power and sexuality are discourses that are depicted by the novel. One of Kesey’s central messages is how McMurphy creates a power and a sexuality structure requiring conformity. In the novel, McMurphy is positioned to be on top in the power play between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. This can be exemplified by “Nurse Ratched started popping her mouth and looking for her black boys, scared to death, but McMurphy stopped before he got to her!” (pg.186), clearly demonstrates that McMurphy is on top in the power play. Another example is at the end of the novel when McMurphy attacks the Nurse Ratched by ripping her clothes and exposes her breasts would be “…When he grabbed for her and ripped her uniform all the way down the front, screaming again when the two nippled circles started from her chest and swelled out…’ (pg.303-304) McMurphy defuses her power by showing her sexual identity as a woman. The visible sight of her femininity allows male patients to act more like men. Therefore, Kesey has privileged and endorsed the power discourse throughout the novel.