The Book of the Year Committee encourages teachers, book groups, and individuals to utilize the following set of discussion/study questions to enrich your understanding and discussions of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.
1) The main conflict in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is described in
three different ways: as the struggle of the "sane individual vs. a crazy
institution," "man vs. machine," and "a primeval, wild, unsocialized,
anti-family form of masculinity vs. asexual women, institutions, and
society that want to tame it." Discuss how these views differ from one
another. Choose the theme that you think most accurately describes
the conflict in the book and explain why.
2. Compare Ken Kesey's concept of the Combine—as demonstrated by
President Eisenhower's policies, and corporate America's views on an
efficient, well-organized, and compliant society—with Chief Bromden's
concept of the Combine—an all-powerful, all-seeing secret group in the
mental hospital, which watches and controls everything.
3. During the mid-1960s Kesey and his group, the Merry Pranksters,
referred to those in their counterculture as being "on the bus." Describe
what you think it means to be "on the bus." Is this concept different in
the early-2000s than it was in the mid-1960s? Who and what in today's
world are "on the bus" or "off the bus?"
4. Kesey states that One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest helps the reader to
"question reality" by "tearing away the fabric of what we've been told is
reality and showing us something that is far more real." Do you agree
with Kesey's analysis of his book? Select a scene or two that does or
does not effectively accomplish this.
5. Describe Chief Bromden. Why do you think that Kesey chose him to be
the narrator of the book?
6. The Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead epitomize the rebellious
generation of the 1960s. Is there a contemporary equivalent to this
phenomenon? Why or why not?