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...