One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is not only filled with symbols and references, but with standardized mental pictures that are held in common by members of a group and that represent an oversimplified opinion, stereotypes . Some characters aren’t even stereotypes, but they still get subjected to the racism and uncritical judgment that will forever remain pinned to their skin colour. Through his creative use of such characters and their interactions, Ken Kesey shows the reader the benefit of being aware of these things and how the stereotypical groups will remain in human culture.
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The black boys. They look, speak and act like the generic sixties black man and are the most stereotypical characters in the book. They play their part and are treated as one would expect, stereotypes are simple. The black boys always do the same job every day, and every day they’re subject to the same racist comments, Sam, Coon, it’s always something. The only one who seems to really break the boundaries of stereotyping them would be the Big Nurse herself. She’s the only main character who never uses any slang or slurs, instead referring to the individual black boys by their actual names. No specific page is has a better example of the generically done speech of the black boys, one chapter with even a few words from any of the black boys would be sufficient. Ken Kesey didn’t just make the black boys so stereotypical for nothing, there’s a meaning in all of it.
The Chief may not be a complete stereotype, but he gets treated as one every day. He is of half-aboriginal descent and even the name, “ Big Chief Bromden”, is a very palpable label. The feel of racist aboriginal stereotypes is best felt when the Chief is has a flashback to when he was a child, living with his parents in their home in the woods. His parents are out and a small party turns up at the little clearing with intentions to buy the land. These would be the stereotypical white people, and white as they are, they tag the young Chief as not even important enough to hear, let alone listen to. Bromden, although not the general “ Indian” that the white people take him for, is still subject to the partiality they are willing to exert. Even non-stereotypical people like the Chief get marked as generic and the novel’s other symbols , like the black boys make a good comparison to how much different people match the stereotypes given to them.
The Japanese nurse from the disturbed ward fulfills the actions of a typical Japanese woman in every way, taking care of McMurphy and the Chief when they’re hurt, putting themselves before herself and generally seeking their approval. This stereotype is a strong display of the cultural influences on a stereotypical group, besides things like language. She always puts the men first, this is pure culture influence. It make’s no difference if she’s sick, what she ate or how old she is, she’s had this taught to her as a part of her culture in her youth and it fits snuggly into place with the racial tag she’s been dealt. The Chief was raised with his own culture, just like the little Japanese nurse and the novel has made it easy to see which of the stereotypical characters have had a strong cultural influence on them.
Most people are judged into racial groups whether they like it or not, no matter how they act or what they say. Ken Kesey wants to show the reader strong stereotypical examples to wizen them in the ways of Western culture and human nature. The Chief isn’t actually a stereotypical person, but everyone thinks he is. McMurphy can be the stereotypical gambler and yet at the same time he can portray the stereotypical cowboy. The characters that Kesey uses in the novel give the reader a healthy dose of reality veiled with delusions at the eyes of the Chief The combination of these things and the stereotypes in the book open one’s eyes to even the smallest injustice due to simple categorizations in the mind.