The Matron and the Matriarch

3778 Words16 Pages
Throughout many pieces of literature, specific roles have been laid out for men and women. We do not always realize it, but we get used to the idea of men being the strong and authoritative ones and women being submissive and innocent. This is not the case in Ken Kesey’s novel; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Kesey writes about an overt conflict between the two sexes. Chapter four heavily contributes to the novel because it is the chapter in which we are exposed to how the Big Nurse controls the mental institution, along with its staffing, resources and day-to-day activities. I will discuss how she uses this power to undermine the masculinity of the male patients and how her established matriarchy maintains a successful order in the institution. Starting with the staffing situation, I will analyze how the the Big Nurse maintains the usual order using the other nurses on the ward. Young Nurse Flinn talks with Nurse Ratched about McMurphy, a scheming new admission with a hidden agenda. The two discuss his motivation for wanting to wreak havoc in the ward. “What, Miss Ratched, is your opinion of this new patient? I mean, gee, he’s good-looking and friendly and everything but in my humble opinion he certainly takes over” (Kesey 29), Nurse Flinn implies. Nurse Ratched does not allow room for a second opinion of McMurphy and she immediately responds by affirming that “that is exactly what the new patient is planning: to take over. He is what we call a ‘manipulator’, Miss Flinn, a man who will use everyone and everything to his own ends” (Kesey 29). Ratched implants in Flinn’s mind that McMurphy is a man that is not to be trusted, and despite his charm and good looks, he will ruin the running of the institution, which Nurse Ratched is desperate to avoid. She influences this Nurse so that she will not have any sympathy for McMurphy and that Ratched’s orders and
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