Nurse Ratched and Martha - Relevant Characters

Aug 3, 2018 in Literature

At the beginning of the 60’s, in America, two authors wrote and published their pieces of literature. The play and the novel became fantastically popular and beloved. Soon, the movies were made based on them. One of the reasons of such success was the relevance of the plots and, what is more important, of the characters to that period of time.

The spectacular play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? is written by Edward Albee. This is a story about the meeting of two couples, when one of them pretends to be very happy; however, the reality is opposite as they do not get well together. The main character Martha is a woman with unhappy destiny. She lives in marriage without love. The former circumstances and the will of her father were the reason why she got married to someone she used to love, but under the father’s influence, did not feel the same anymore. The other similar poor woman is a character of the famous novel written by Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It is about the nurse Ratched. She is merciless and does not listen to anyone. She does not even try to understand the people, the patients of the Combine. The possible reasons of her behavior lie in her past.

Nurse Ratched has got a nickname “Big Nurse” which showed the desire of the former army nurse to have to the total authority. She manipulates the patients on the ward in different ways; for example, she encourages them to “spy on each other” or to write interesting facts in the log book. Everything seems to be under her control until the new patient Randle MacMurphy comes. For her aim, nurse Ratched organizes group meetings where she controls everyone. The patients are like in trance during them, every time they feel ashamed to be controlled by this woman. Her dictatorship has also influence on Doctor Spivey, who is afraid of Nurse Ratched. As the Chief describes her, she is the one who can “set the wall clock to whatever speed she wants”. She is so cruel that she used the electric shock therapy for the patients to stop the rebel. The hard-nosed character attempts to get the total control of the patients and co-working staff. Nurse Ratched feels comfortable when she castigates the men. Her speeches and behavior help the reader to understand her personality. As a result, she “wins”. She is the symbol of bureaucracy and authority shown in the numerous conflicts and in each action.

Martha, in her turn, does not really differ from Nurse Ratched. She also tends to be mentioned and accepted. She is a loud and domineering woman. She behaves as an angry, unfulfilled, and frustrated person. Her husband George says that she is satanic and destructive. That is why he treats her as a perverse and demonic woman. She does not think about how her husband is going to look in the eyes of the public, so she does not hesitate whether she wants to degrade him. Martha seduces the young man who came with his wife. Her point is to dominate. She calls herself “earth mother” and her husband George a “flop” because he does not meet her expectations. She gives the same “nickname” to Nick after his failure. She feels satisfaction when she humbles men and sees in George the best candidate to the role of a humbled victim. Nick is a bonus. Martha’s dictatorship and domination failed when George “killed their child”. This action of her husband disarmed her. The main character was not ready to meet the reality. It is her phobia. In the end, she needs the sympathy of the reader. It is the time of her defeat.

These two characters, Nurse Ratched and Martha, represent the new place of woman in the society. They want to control everything and dominate over men. They take the charge and lead. The sixties, the time period when the play and the novel were released, were the most significant period because the women of that time became independent because of the sexual revolution. Considering the time period in America, it was the time of anger and violence after Kennedy’s death. The aggressive notes of the characters of these two women confirm the general mood of the society. Besides, the young people were disappointed, because their parents used to teach them the ideals of hard work, believing in God, and serving their country. Those “middle class” values became invalid in the 60’s, so the new generation felt that these values will not be enough to help them deal with such problems of the new society as racial and social difficulties. The characters of Albee’s play and Kesey’s novel are the prediction of the new behavior trend.

At the same time, the new status of women played a meaningful role. The new rules and laws as, for example, the 1964 civil rights act were the guarantee of equal rights and treatment of all groups, including women. The characters of the pieces of literature are typical for that time when the women’s liberation movement was active. Firstly, the activists of the movement were rich and wealthy white women and later women of all colors and ages, poor, rich, educated and not. Nurse Ratched is not the wealthy woman by her social status, but she is powerful in the field where she works and can allow herself this power. Martha is a woman of an age when she should live normal calm life, but she strives to be realized.

Edward Albee and Ken Kesey depicted two spectacular characters relevant to the time period of the play’s and the novel’s releases. Martha and Nurse Ratched try to dominate to represent the striving of the current women to be equal and, in some way, to revenge men for such a long centuries of their submission.

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