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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes
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"We are victims of a matriarchy here, my friend," Harding says
as he explains Nurse Ratched's reign. A matriarchy is a society
where power lies solely in the hands of women; throughout the
book we'll see women who repress and destroy men's sexuality-
and in the process destroy their power and freedom as well.
This is perhaps the most controversial theme in the book, one
that many feminist critics have found highly objectionable.
Whether Kesey intended it so or not, it does seem that the
Combine is primarily represented by women: Nurse Ratched,
Chief Bromden's mother, Billy Bibbit's mother, and (to a lesser
extent) Dale Harding's wife, Vera. They rob men of their
dignity and manhood; in the Nurse's case, her power is
presented in explicitly sexual terms-men can't become sexually
aroused by her. If this is Kesey's complete view of women, it is
a harsh, unfair one; in his defense, he does have McMurphy
specifically stating that not all ball-cutters are women, and, in
Scene 6, part one, that sexual repression is only part of a
larger problem. There are also secondary female characters-
the prostitute, Candy, the girl in the cotton mill, a Japanese-
American nurse-who are portrayed sympathetically.

At the end of the discussion, we see how thoroughly the Nurse
monitors her patients-she's been listening to and taping every
word of the discussion.

But McMurphy thinks he can find a way around the Nurse. If
he plays strictly by the ward rules, she can't send him to the
Disturbed ward or for electroshock therapy. If he can anger her
without violating any rules, he will win. As a gambling man, he
wants to make the contest more interesting by taking bets on
the outcome. He's cocky, confident of his success. Harding and
the other Acutes place bets, but Harding throws cold water on
McMurphy by reminding him, "You won't be going anyplace
for awhile."

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - Barron's Booknotes

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