Nurse Ratched and Power

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Nurse Ratched's Power Methods
What would you do for power? In the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, there is a power struggle between the protagonist Randle Patrick McMurphy and the antagonist Nurse Ratched, also known as Big Nurse. The story takes place on a mental ward and is narrated in the perspective of a patient named Bromden. Nurse Ratched has complete control of both the ward staff and the patients, but when newly admitted McMurphy arrives, Nurse Ratched's position of power is threatened as he tries to dominate the ward. The question is: how does power function on the ward? Even with McMurphy's presence, Nurse Ratched still has the most power and she uses various techniques to maintain and increase it. Nurse Ratched uses intimidating stares, insinuations, and knowledge to make other characters weaker and achieve her goal of being as the most powerful person on the ward.

Nurse Ratched's stares serve the purpose of making her victims feel insecure and frightened, granting her more power. Throughout the novel, Nurse Ratched stares down those who oppose or question her. She does this in order to weaken them, which makes her stronger. An example of this is when Bromden is talking about how Nurse Ratched chooses her staff: “Year by year, she accumulates her ideal staff: doctors, all ages and types, come and rise up in front of her with ideas of their own about the way a ward should be run, some with backbone enough to stand behind their ideas and she fixes these doctors with dry-ice eyes day in, day out, until they retreat with unnatural chills”(31). The dry-ice eyes that lead to unnatural chills are symbolic of Nurse Ratched's cold, hard stare and its effects. If a doctor were to make a suggestion, Nurse Ratched could just give him or her an emotionless stare that would make the doctor feel so insecure about his or her idea that he or she will no longer provide suggestions. The stare also makes the doctor feel worthless. In a normal...
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