Reclaiming 'Big Nurse': a feminist critique of Ken Kesey's portrayal of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

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4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nurse Ratched or 'Big Nurse' in Ken Kesey's counter-culture novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of popular culture's most arresting and memorable images of the nurse. She is, however, deemed to be remarkable primarily for her malice and authoritarianism. This paper argues that such a purely realist reading fails to fully appreciate the significance of the character of Nurse Ratched. A feminist critique of the novel contends that the importance of 'Big Nurse' is less related to how realistic/unrealistic or good/bad she is as a nurse. Nurse Ratched is important because she exemplifies all that traditional masculinity abhors in women, and particularly in strong women in positions of power and influence. This paper explores the stereotype of 'Big Nurse' and argues that Kesey's vision of her ultimate 'conquest' is not a progressive allegory of 'individual freedom', but a reactionary misogyny which would deny women any function other than that of sexual trophy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-202
Number of pages5
JournalNursing Inquiry
Volume2
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1995

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