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Treatment of Women in One Flew over the Cucoo's Nest

In: Novels

Submitted By TamaraSchmidt
Words 746
Pages 3
Roles of Domineering and Passive Women

Sometimes our expectation of what is good and what is evil can be surprisingly reversed. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is an example of this. Prior to the women’s rights movement in the 1970’s, men considered women to have limited roles in society. Men felt that the woman’s place was in the home. Women in the workforce were often looked upon as threats to manhood because they could take jobs and promotions away from men, who were typically the main source of a family’s income. This sentiment is reflected in Kesey’s novel. The majority of women in the book hold positions of authority. These women are portrayed as dominating and abusive with the intent to emasculate the male patients. The only other role of women in the novel is that of prostitutes who are portrayed as good because they allow men to be masculine. The prostitutes help the male patients with “women in authority” issues overcome their anxieties. In his novel, Kesey portrays nurses as threats to male patients in order to illustrate that, in general, women in authority can only result in the emasculation of men, while passive women can help restore the confidence of manhood.

The principle authority figure, Nurse Ratched, is ruthless in her mission to dominate and control her male patients. She has the power to intimidate the staff into complying with her demands. When patients do not comply, she manipulates the doctor into ordering shock treatments and even lobotomies for defiant patients. An example of her ruthless behavior is how she treats Billy Bibbit. Nurse Ratched found Billy sleeping with a prostitute and she immediately shames him, “I’m so ashamed of you.” (314) and then scares him with “What worries me Billy ….is how your poor mother is going to take this.” (314) Billy commits suicide to avoid the shame of facing his mother. .As a...

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