One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

4025 words - 17 pages

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Study Guide
Note: There are no numbered chapters in this book, but each of the four parts is broken
down into scenes. For clarity in this Unit, the first few words of each scene are used as the heading.

✪ PART 1
They’re out there.
1. Why do the black hospital workers not “…bother not talking out loud about their
hate secrets when.” the Chief is around? (Pg. 10) In what ways does being half-
Indian help the Chief?
2. What does the following description of Nurse Ratched suggest to the reader about
her character?
“A mistake was made somehow in manufacturing, putting those big, woman-
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What evidence is there in this section of patient abuse?
3. Briefly describe R. P. McMurphy. What does the description of McMurphy’s hands
suggest to the reader about his character? Why is the Chief impressed with
McMurphy’s laugh?
4. Define “psychopath.” Why is McMurphy in the hospital?

The new man stands looking a minute, to get the set-up of the day room.
1. Briefly identify Ellis and Ruckly. Why do you think the author includes so many
details about these two minor characters?
2. Describe Harding. Why do you think Billy identifies Harding as the “bull goose
loony”? What do Harding’s hands reveal about his character?
3. What new information is revealed about Chief Bromden when McMurphy asks Bibbit about him?
4. What pieces of information are revealed near the end of the section? (Pgs. 27-Billy

In the glass Station the Big Nurse has opened a package…
1. What is the dictionary definition of the noun “Combine”? What is the Chief’s
2. Nurse Ratched maintains control of her ward by hand-picking the doctor and the
orderlies. Briefly describe the doctor, three black orderlies, and why she thinks they qualify for their jobs.
3. Find a passage on page 32 that illustrates the recurring motif in this novel that
Bromden feels the hospital is like a machine.
4. Find an example of irony on page 36.
5. What happens to Mr. Taber under Nurse Ratched’s care? Why do you think the
author includes this information about Mr. Taber at this point in the story?

Before noon time they’re at the fog machine…
1. Find a simile on page 42.
2. Review the definition of a psychopath from the first section in Part I. What
Evidence is there in McMurphy’s record that supports the diagnosis that he is a psychopath?
3. What is the theory of the Therapeutic Community? Cite incidents from the
story to support or refute the following statement: Nurse Ratched’s ward follows the principles of a Therapeutic Community.
4. What is the double meaning of Pete Bancini’s comment, “I’m tired”?
5. Harding has been humiliated by the others concerning his wife and her affairs.
How does McMurphy describe what happened at the group meeting?
6. What is Harding’s reaction?
7. Define “matriarchy.” Some critics of this book believe Kesey is accusing women
of trying to run the world and emasculate the males of the world. Cite incidents from the story which support this idea.
8. List the punishments in order of severity that await any patient who refuses to
answer Nurse Ratched’s questions.
9. “You are strapped to a table, shaped, ironically, like a cross, with a crown of electric sparks in place of thorns. You are touched on each side of the head with wires.” (Pgs. 64-65) Why do you think the punishment for disrupting the routine of the ward is described using Christ-like images? Speculate on what the author may be implying about...

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