What is the novel saying about the role of women?
The novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, is saying that women are like castrators. Women are portrayed in the novel as powerful, dominating, emasculating and disabling. The novel looks at the power women have over men. These viewpoints are illustrated through the character Nurse Ratched and the control she has over the male characters and through some patients and their personal experiences with the women in their lives.
Nurse Ratched is the head nurse of the mental institution in which the story is set. The story is set around the suffering of the male patients under the hands of Nurse Ratched. She is sometimes referred to as 'Big Nurse' referring to both her physical and mental size and power, for example, the more power she is using the larger she gets "she blows up bigger and bigger, big as a tractor".
Nurse Ratched is described as oppressive, powerful and all knowing. The members of the staff and the patients fear her. An example of how she is feared is described by the cold feeling she gives people, "She slides through the door with a gust of cold". Nurse Ratched is not described as a warm or lovable character, or in any sense feminine, the men describe as "handsome" and she is described in a mechanical manner like "automatic...smooth, calculated and precision-made". She has no warm or natural feminine aspects, except for her "rather extraordinary breasts" which she attempts to conceal.
Nurse Ratched exercises complete control over the ward by hand picking her staff. She chooses people she can manipulate to do exactly what she wants and in the same precision, efficient manner she herself does things. Even the head doctor of the ward fears her...