Nurse Ratched

1363 Words 6 Pages
When McMurphy arrives at the mental institution, his chaotic nature quickly comes into conflict with the head Nurse, Ratched, who controls the ward and all the male patients with absolute authority. McMurphy sees immediately though Nurse Ratched’s tactics of using the patients weaknesses on them, so they would never question her authority.
The novel has a heavy focus on the power of women. There are only a few women this novel, but none compare to the cruelty and power of Nurse Ratched. McMurphy nicknamed her a 'ball-cutter' because of the way she intimidates her male patients. Nurse Ratched is the only woman in a position of power at the ward. She delights in her power and she continually demonstrates to the ward she has very little morals.
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The orderlies can get away with more than Nurse Ratched because she is in a higher position, but she delights in their cruelty. Bromden is the only one who sees that Nurse Ratched enjoys the abuse of her men: 'So she really lets herself go and her painted smile twists, stretches to an open snarl.' She does not bother to hide her true nature from Bromden, since she thinks that he can tell no one.
In contrast, most of the men in the novel are portrayed as weak and emasculated. This is most explicit in the way the men of the ward are unable to assert their masculinity, and this is the reason for the men’s voluntary institutionalization. When Harding is introducing the men of the ward to McMurphy, He suggests they are all "rabbits," and "weak" (Kesey 57). Harding and the entire group believe that they have failed as men, even lacking the charm and charisma unlike McMurphy (Kesey 60). Harding then begins to compare the people around him to other animals like Nurse Ratched is a wolf, and McMurphy "may be" one too (Kesey 60).
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McMurphy became the liberator of the ward, he taught them how to re-establish their masculinities and overcome their mental illness and he is the most exciting and entertaining character in the novel. In contrast, Nurse Ratched is figured as the perhaps more mentally-unstable character, whose power should be overcome, to restore "natural order" the inability of a woman to have control over men and keep it without resorting to emasculatory

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