Ken Kesey was both a novelist and a short story writer, and is best known for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Although many people disagreed with Kesey's stereotypes toward women and blacks, "the book is considered a masterpiece of contemporary American literature for its disjointed, colloquial prose style, its tightly constructed plot, and its exposition of modern social ills" (Marowski 223-4). Kesey was inspired to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest from his experience at a mental institution. Kesey was both "captivated and revolted" by the treatment the patients received (Tanner 261-2 ). Kesey discovered in certain cases that the doctors and nurses" treatments were ironically hurting the patients rather than helping them gain back their sanity. After studying the corrupt culture of mental institutions, Kesey creates a character, Nurse Ratched, to help explain his experience at the hospital. Kesey created the hospital to conform the patients rather than to heal them, allowed Kesey to justly portray the grotesque treatments the patients received. Through characterization, symbolism, and use of theme, Kesey portrays his characters through an overbearing matriarchal society. .
The matriarchal society was headed by Nurse Ratched or better known as "Big Nurse". "Big Nurse is certainly a personification of some negative aspects of our society, and she is just the principal figure among a number of domineering and manipulating females in the novel" (Tanner 261-62). She was the head of the hospital ward, and governed the staff and patients with an overbearing amount of force and intimidation. "Big Nurse is the ward superintendent and is the ultimate authority demanding obedience and perfect order from everyone" (One). By demanding absolute cooperation from the patients, this control allowed Big Nurse to undermine the men and slowly make their condition worse than it was before they came to the hospital.