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"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey is about a man named Chief Bromden. He is half Indian and is locked up in a mental institute. He has led everyone in the ward to believe that he is deaf and dumb; instead he is just quiet and observant. Big Nurse is the head of the ward and mentally controls every patient she has, not allowing them to become better. McMurphy is a transfer to the ward and loosens up the atmosphere. He is a very relaxed, outgoing, funny guy that loves to joke around and be loud. When he too notices the Big Nurse's mental control on everyone, he sets out to help the patients become sane and not be influenced by the Big Nurse. One of the possible themes for this story is that women, although not physically stronger than men, can mentally be stronger than men and can control them with that alone. In the following paragraphs I will show how Kesey portrays women's control.
The Big Nurse was the first women introduced in the novel, and she definitely has the most overpowering characteristics. She is the main woman with power throughout the novel. She is introduced and described by Kesey through the eyes of Chief Bromden. Ken shows her overpowering nature by writing, "She dips a nod at me as she goes past. I let the mop push me back to the wall an smile and try to foul her equipment up as much as possible by not letting her see my eyes-they can't tell so much about you if you got your eyes closed"(10). From this passage you can tell that the Big Nurse terrifies Chief and has a mental advantage over him. She keeps him scared and willing to do what she wants.
A man named Harding is also in the institute. While at a meeting, Mrs. Ratched, The Big Nurse, starts talking about Mr. Harding's wife. She is a beautiful woman that receives many stares from other men. Because of this Harding is afraid that his wife is cheating on him. Ratched shows her mental superiority by asking the other patients to comment on the subject, which further embarrasses Harding making him even more intimidated by the nurse. Kesey shows his embarrassment when he writes, "Harding shuts his eyes, and nobody says anything" (44).
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Many of the patients voiced their opinions on some issues at another meeting they had. They were unhappy about when their dorms were locked, if they could smoke cigarettes, as well as other things. Ratched responded firmly on the situations and did not let things change. Later that day, while at the swimming pool, Chief began to reflect on what the nurse had said, "I remembered what the Big Nurse had said in the meeting, and I began to feel afraid"(149). The Big Nurse had his mind and conscience wrapped around her finger. She mentally had him beat and scared.
The Big Nurse caused much of the mental illness in the institution. By her desire to control everything and everyone, she ruined many people's minds and strayed away from her job of helping others. Because women can mentally be stronger than men, men tend to fall under their created power and even become afraid as shown in the book. Although there are many possible themes, women's control is one of the themes revealed in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey.
Kesey, Ken. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." First Signet Printing, 1963. Penguin