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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Discussion Questions

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

This story superbly depicts an epic battle of wills between two stubborn characters. This lesson provides teachers with discussion questions to use for a class that has finished reading the novel.

Mental Health

Published in 1962 by Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest gives a bleak look at society's approach to dealing with mental health. Your students will likely be cheering for Randle McMurphy when he faces off with the maddening Nurse Ratched; however, there are many significant aspects of this novel that should not be overlooked. Use these discussion questions to guide your class through the many literary concepts in this novel.

Questions About Characters

  • The ward has certain terms used to refer to the patients like Acutes, Chronics, Walkers, Wheelers, and Vegetables. What does each one mean? Which characters fall into these categories?
  • The story's narrator is Chief Bromden. Analyze his character. Is he insane? Is he a trustworthy narrator? Why does he pretend to be deaf and dumb? How does McMurphy's influence change him? Would you have chosen a different character to narrate the story? Why?
  • Discuss McMurphy. Why does he arrive in the ward? Is he guilty of a crime? Is he insane? Why does he choose to battle Nurse Ratched and help the patients? Is McMurphy the hero of this story? Use examples from the novel to support your answers.
  • Analyze Nurse Ratched. Is she simply a cold-hearted villain? How does she maintain power over the patients? What is the meaning of her name? Does she change over the course of the story? Explain.

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