In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey there are multiple themes portrayed throughout the story. Some of the themes such as emasculation and societal pressures are introduced at the very beginning of the story and are then slowly made more insignificant by other themes. A few of the themes are introduced when the protagonist, Randle McMurphy is arrives early in the story and starts to mess up Nurse Ratched’s outfit. The themes that come with McMurphy include the necessity for the expression of sexuality and the power of laughter. Throughout the story Nurse Ratched uses emasculation and societal pressures to control the patients until McMurphy shows them how to express their sexuality and use the power of laughter to regain their dominance.
It is clear from the very beginning of the story that Nurse Ratched is a powerful woman as she is given the nickname of the Big Nurse. Her power comes from the way she runs the mental hospital and the staff she has working for her, all attempting to emasculate the patients. It is implied that as patients first come into the hospital they are taken into a room with Vaseline and a thermometer, subjugated and then raped by the Nurse Ratched’s assistants. “I see two maybe all three of them in there, in that shower room with the Admission, running that thermometer around in the grease till it’s coated the size of your finger…and then shut the door and turn all the showers up to where you can’t hear anything.” (Kesey, 10) McMurphy avoids the thermometer telling the assistant to wait until he has introduced himself to everyone on the ward which allows him to escape this procedure.
Nurse Ratched also emasculates the patients by making them more feminine or taking away their ability to express their sexuality. This is one of the first things McMurphy notices when he comes into the hospital so he tells the other patients what he sees. He states, “No, that nurse ain’t some kinda monster chicken, buddy, what she is is a ball-cutter,” (Kesey, 60) He calls her a ball-cutter implying that she is figuratively castrating the patients to make them powerless or weak. Later in the story a patient in the insane ward named Old Rawler dies by castrating himself in a toilet stall showing the comparison of the two. To this action the Chief replies. “All the guy had to do was wait.” (Kesey, 129) His reaction shows that the hospital would have figuratively castrated him over time if he had just waited a long enough time.
Most of the women in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are castrators or people that take power from men by emasculating them. The most noticeable and prominent of these women are Nurse Ratched, Billy’s mother and Bromden’s mother. Nurse Ratched emasculated the entire hospital and Billy’s mother is friends with Nurse Ratched so she keeps him in the hospital. Bromden’s mother is very similar to Nurse Ratched as she was able to turn a big, strong Chief into a weak, small alcoholic. When talking about his father’s...