One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Study Guide, Part 1

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Who narrates the events of the novel?
Chief Bromden
Why do the aides nickname Bromden “Chief Broom?”
They make him sweep the halls for them, and he is half Native American.
Who is the “Big Nurse?”
Nurse Ratched
What is Nurse Ratched’s one feminine feature?
Her large bosom.
Who says, “It’s still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.”?
Chief Bromden
What is the irony surrounding the tours that the public relations man gives of the ward?
The PR man points out the cheery atmosphere and claims that the ward is run without the brutality exercised in previous generations; in reality, the ward is extremely brutal and cruel.
Where was Randle McMurphy transferred from?
The Pendleton Work Farm
Why was McMurphy transferred to the ward?
He says that he requested to be transferred to the hospital to escape the drudgery of the Pendleton Work Farm, and that life seemed easier at the ward.
Who is the president of the Patients’ Council?
Dale Harding
Into what two groups are the patients divided?
The Acutes, who are considered curable, and the Chronics, who are considered incurable.
Who are the Walkers, the Wheelers, and the Vegetables?
Walkers: Chronics who can walk around unaided.
Wheelers: Chronics confined to wheelchairs.
Vegetables: Chronics who cannot leave their beds and give few signs of life.
How does the ward cause some patients to change from Acutes to Chronics?
They become mentally crippled by excessive shock treatment or brain surgery, common practices in the hospital.
How does Nurse Ratched get the Acutes to spy on each other?
If one reveals an embarrassing or incriminating personal detail, the rest race to write it in the logbook. Their reward for such disclosures is sleeping late the next morning.
How does Nurse Ratched select her aides?
She selects them for their anger and cruelty.
What is the Combine?
Bromden’s idea of society. He thinks it is a huge, oppressive conglomeration that works as a machine to enforce conformity.
At the beginning of the novel, why does Bromden hide in the mop closet?
Ratched told the aides to shave him, which terrifies him.
About what does Bromden hallucinate when he’s being shaved?
A thick fog and snow coming down.
According to McMurphy, what makes a person the “bull goose loony?”
The “bull goose loony” is the craziest person in the ward. In other words, he’s the one who is really in charge.
Who do McMurphy and Harding say they voted for in order to prove their lunacy?
In the beginning of the novel, what makes Nurse Ratched “swell up to the size of a tractor?”
She sees the aides standing around gossiping, and gets angry. She doesn’t actually increase in size, but Bromden visualizes this as a symbol of the size of her anger and power.
Why does Bromden fool people into thinking that he’s deaf and dumb?
In order to stay unnoticed. Also, people say things in front of him that he shouldn’t necessarily know.
What memory does Bromden think about when hiding in the mop closet?
Chief remembers the time when he went bird-hunting with his father, hoping the memory will help him forget his current fear. He recalls how the bird was safe as long as he kept still, but if it moved because of his fear, Papa would be able to shoot it.
According to McMurphy, why was he labeled a psychopath?
He says that the courts told him that “a psychopath’s a guy fights too much and f**ks too much.”
How does Nurse Ratched begin the first Ward Meeting of the novel?
She begins by talking about Harding’s difficult relationship with his wife, bringing up his feelings of inferiority and his fears regarding the attention his wife receives.
When Nurse Ratched reads McMurphy’s file aloud to the group, on what charge does she focus? How does McMurphy defend himself?
She talks about the statutory rape charge. McMurphy regales the group with stories about the sexual appetite of his fifteen-year-old lover, calling her the aggressor and making everyone smile.
About what does McMurphy’s file warn the ward staff? How does McMurphy respond?
The doctor reads from the file, “Don’t overlook the possibility that this man might be feigning psychosis to escape the drudgery of the work farm,” to which McMurphy responds, “Doctor, do I look like a sane man?”
Why does McMurphy call the ward meeting a “pecking party?”
He states that the men acted like a bunch of chickens pecking at another chicken’s wound, and that Nurse Ratched started it.
According to McMurphy, who is a “ball-cutter?”
Nurse Ratched
According to Harding, who are “rabbits” and who are “wolves?”
He says that everyone in the ward is a rabbit in a world ruled by wolves. They are in the hospital because they are unable to accept their roles as rabbits. Nurse Ratched is one of the wolves, and she is there to train them to accept their rabbit roles.
Instead of accusing directly, how does Nurse Ratched rule others?
Through insinuation and patronizing people.
According to Harding, what is the only power men hold over women?
Sexual violence
What bet does McMurphy make with the other patients?
That he can make Nurse Ratched lose her temper within a week.
What is Therapeutic Community? Who explains this term?
TC is the idea that a person must learn to get along in a group before he will be able to function in society. Nurse Ratched explains this to McMurphy.
What does Bancini repeatedly complain about?
Being tired.
Who says that s/he was “born dead?”
Why does Bromden believe that Ratched can set the clock to any speed? How does he escape her pace?
Sometimes everything is painfully fast and sometimes painfully slow. His only escape is being in the fog where time does not exist.
According to Bromden, why has the number of instances of “the fog” decreased?
He states that whoever controls the fog machine has not turned it on as much since McMurphy’s arrival.
What does McMurphy win from the other patients when they play cards?
Hundreds of cigarettes. However, he allows them to win the cigarettes back.
Who knows that Bromden is not really deaf?
What does Bromden have a nightmare about the night that he doesn’t take his medication?
He has a nightmare that the hospital is a mechanical slaughterhouse. The staff hangs Old Blastic on a meat hook and slashes him open, and ash and rust pour out of the wound.
What does McMurphy do when one of the aides will not give him toothpaste?
He brushes his teeth with soap.
When McMurphy steps out of the shower, what is he wearing underneath his towel?
A black pair of boxer shorts with white whales on them.
Why does Ratched say she cannot turn down the music in the ward, after McMurphy asks her to?
She says that some of the Chronics are hard of hearing and cannot entertain themselves without the music turned up loudly.
How does McMurphy rebel against Ratched’s refusal to turn the music down and to allow patients to play cards in a separate room? What is Ratched’s reaction?
He goes into an interview with Doctor Spivey and charms him. When the pair go to the ward meeting, the doctor announces McMurphy’s plan for the radio to be played at a higher volume, so that the hard-of-hearing patients can enjoy it more. He proposes that the other patients go to another room to read or play cards. Since the Chronics are easy to supervise, the staff can be split between the rooms. Ratched restrains herself from losing her temper.
Why does McMurphy get angry with the patients?
He says that they are too “chicken-s**t.”
Why does McMurphy declare that he is going to escape the ward?
McMurphy requests that Ratched allow them to watch the World Series, even though it is not the regulation TV time. In order to make up for this, he proposes that they do the cleaning chores at night and watch the TV in the afternoon, but Ratched refuses to change the schedule. He proposes a vote at the Group Meeting, but only Cheswick is brave enough to defy Ratched, since the others are afraid of long-term repercussions. McMurphy, furious, says he is going to escape.
How does McMurphy plan to escape the ward?
He plans to lift the cement control panel in the tub room and use it to break through the reinforced windows.
How does Bromden feel about the fog?
He says it makes him feel safe, but McMurphy keeps dragging him and the other patients out of it.
Who is Old Rawler?
He is a patient in the Disturbed unit who killed himself by cutting off his testicles.
How does McMurphy win his bet with the patients?
When Nurse Ratched refuses to let the patients watch the World Series, McMurphy turns on the TV anyway. She cuts the power to the TV, but he sits in front of the blank TV and refuses to get up to do the cleaning chores. Soon, the other Acutes join him. Ratched screams and rants at them for breaking the schedule, and McMurphy wins his bet that he could make her lose her composure.
How does Nurse Ratched claim that the patients did not vote to change the schedule to watch the World Series?
McMurphy proposes another vote regarding the TV, with the support of some of the other patients. All twenty Acutes vote for it. Ratched declares the proposal defeated, however, because none of the twenty Chronics raised their hands and McMurphy needs a majority. McMurphy finally persuades Bromden to raise his hand, but Ratched says the vote is closed.
At first, why do none of the patients vote to watch the World Series?
They are afraid of the repercussions from Ratched.
According to Harding, why can’t the patients listen to the news?
He says that the nurse stated that the news may not be therapeutic.
How does McMurphy figure out that Bromden is not deaf?
He notices that Bromden jumps whenever McMurphy claims that one of the boys is coming for him.
When does Old Blastic die?
The night that Bromden had the dream about him dying.
How does McMurphy embarrass Billy Bibbit?
He says that Billy is known as “Billy Club” Bibbit of the famous fourteen inches.
What do Docter Spivey and McMurphy talk about during their interview?
They talk about how they went to the same high school, and they reminisced about their school’s carnivals.
What does Doctor Spivey suggest for the ward? What is Nurse Ratched’s reaction?
He suggests that they have a carnival. Nurse Ratched tells the doctor that an idea like this should be discussed in a staff meeting first.
How does McMurphy keep himself safe?
McMurphy keeps high-class manners around the nurses and the boys in spite of what they say to him—in spite of every trick they pull to make him lose his temper. McMurphy also keeps his sense of humor. He continues to see how funny the rules are. As long as he can laugh at the ridiculousness of everything that is happening around him, he will be safe.
According to Bromden, what does the fog come from?
He says that it emanates from the fog machines he saw during the war. The machines obscured the surroundings so that nobody could see anything in front of him. Bromden would get lost in the fog and always find himself returning to the same place.
In what way does McMurphy remind Bromden of his father?
He uses a sense of humor to deal with conflict.

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