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Exiled Without Exception Essay

1393 words - 6 pages

The 1950’s represented a time of conformity in the United States with new suburbs containing thousands of identical houses and national television that everyone watched together. In films, viewers were bluntly informed of the ways a family should be run. It was rare to see diversion from the expectations of universal solidarity that hung over American life. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey depicts America’s 1950’s culture as a conformist, intolerant and mechanizing force. Kesey’s 1950’s society can banish citizens who have only the smallest differences to the status quo. For example, Harding is a secret homosexual who checks himself into the mental hospital because he knew that ...view middle of the document...

I indulged in certain practices that our society regards as shameful. And then I got sick. It wasn't the practices, I don't think, it was the feeling that the great, deadly, pointing forefinger of society was pointing at me—and the great voice of millions chanting ‘shame, shame, shame.’" (307)
Harding implies that he is gay because his intelligence, manner and appearance are very much conformist, but he states he was different from the beginning. Society in the 1950’s was intolerant of difference, which he acknowledges this fact when he says his gay relationship was a shameful practice. The word sick is a term used to describe those who are different in society. The connotations of sick suggest that one is not naturally sick, and that there is a cure. Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay, Harding was convinced by society to feel that not conforming to society’s standards is a shameful act. For Harding to know he was different among the millions of people around him and that they would hate him for expressing his personality is a huge pressure to for him find a cure for his sexual preference. The giant finger and voices convey the magnitude of the pressure he felt. Without a word, society pressures Harding into thinking his homosexuality was a problem, which reveals that society crushes different ideas like an authoritarian government crushes rebels. Ken Kesey shows that the pressure to conform to society’s mental standards can force men like Harding into hiding because they can’t change their personalities, crushing any ideas of nonconformity.
Billy Bibbit is grown man who is in the mental hospital because of his stuttering, suicidal attempts, virginity and stifling mother. When McMurphy realizes that he is one of the few patients who are committed, he starts asking who else is committed. He comes to Billy Bibbit, who he thinks is committed, but is not. McMurphy exclaims that he should be enjoying life outside, not rotting in a hospital. Billy responds by explaining why he feels pressured to stay inside the hospital, "'You think I wuh-wuh-wuh-want to stay in here? You think I wouldn't like a con-con-vertible and a guh-guh-girl friend? But did you ever have people l-l-laughing at you? No, because you're so b-big and so tough! Well, I'm not big and tough'" (195). Billy Bibbit is a ward patient who stays inside the hospital because society laughs at him. His difference is because of his speech impediment, which leaves him unable to communicate fluidly. Society is already intolerant of dissenters, but for Billy to suffer defects in such a simple matter as communication brings people to laugh at him. Society laughs at him because he is different in one way, but his embarrassment his multiplied by his mother’s treatment. His mother still treats him like a child, even though he is a fully grown man. Her treatment makes Billy as sensitive as a child would be. His...

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