Define "matriarchy" in the book "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main female presence in the book is Nurse Ratched, she is in charge of the ward where all the patients are male.  She is described as severe looking.

"A sexless, rigid caricature of a nurse, Nurse Ratched imposes discipline on her ward with all the fervor of an Army nurse, which she had been."

Nurse Ratched is controlling and demanding as head of the ward.  She delights in intimidating the men, playing loud music to drown out any possible conversation.

She is in total control of the ward.  When the men get out of line, she sends them for shock treatment.  She particularly does battle with Randle McMurphy, whose spirit she eventually breaks with a lobotomy.  

"McMurphy immediately engages in a long, hopeless, and endless battle with Big Nurse, a classic control freak. What McMurphy has brought to the ward is a touch of normalcy. What Nurse Ratched wants is a group of docile and quiet men who do not upset or question how she has ordered things."

john-smith-co-au | Student

Matriarchy refers to a community/society/group in which women exercise all control. In relation to the novel, the Oregon mental institution could be considered a matriarchy because of the strong presence of women as authority figures. Good examples of this include Nurse ratchet and the supervisor of the hospital.

In the novel, Nurse ratchet emasculated the all-male patients through obvious threats such as EST, lobotomies and the Disturbed ward. In addition, Ratchet uses 'therapuetic' meetings to repeated remind patients of their lackings. This has the effect of introverting the patients thus making them docile and suceptible to her influence. A good example of this occurs in part 1 where Ratchet exposes the sexual frustrations of Dale Harding to the other patients.

 In addition to the meetings Nurse Ratchet uses her demeanor and words to patronise and embarise the patients into an emasculated state.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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