It's pretty clear that a violent man like R.P. McMurphy doesn't like having his life controlled by a female nurse like Miss Ratched. It can be subtle at times, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest explores the ways in which McMurphy's treatment of women leads to his downfall. After all, he went to prison for statutory rape in the first place. Then he got Billy Bibbit in trouble by fixing him up with a woman named Candy, and he gets himself lobotomized for attacking Nurse Ratched. So at the end of the day, you could even say that McMurphy would have ended up fine if he'd just learned to treat women better. Then again, maybe not.

Questions About Gender

  1. Do you agree with the idea that McMurphy's treatment of women is his biggest flaw? Why or why not? 
  2. Do you think that McMurphy's battle with Nurse Ratched is a "battle of the sexes"? Why or why not? 
  3. How is Mr. Harding's masculinity different from McMurphy's? What does the difference tell us about their characters?

Chew on This

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the main conflict for men like McMurphy is learning to accept that women have just as much power as them in the modern world.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest teaches us that it'll be very, very hard for some kind of men to adjust to a world that wants to redefine what's acceptable for a "manly man" to act like.

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