One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest Study Guide

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Vocabulary

* Ornery- of a stubborn and mean spirited nature. “The Acutes look spooked and uneasy when he laughs, the way kids look in a schoolroom when one ornery kid is raising too much hell…” (P. 14) * Pinochle- a popular card game played by two, three, or four persons, with a 48-card deck. "Hello, buddy; what's that your playin'? Pinochle?" (P. 17) * Oxblood- a deep dull-red color. "His face and neck are the color of oxblood leather from working long in the fields." (P. 17) * Sinewy- muscular; strong. “The first one she gets five years after I been on the ward, a twisted sinewy dwarf the color of asphalt” (P. 31) * Feigning- to give a false appearance of. "Don't overlook the possibility that this man might be feigning psychosis to escape the drudgery of the work farm."(P. 46) * Grimaces- a contorted twisted of the face that expresses disgust or pain. “Harding’s face and hands are moving faster than ever now, a speeded film of gestures, grins, grimaces, sneers.” (P. 58) * Veritable- absolute; used to emphasize figurative concept. “…our Miss Ratched is a veritable angle of mercy and why just everyone knows it.” (P. 58) * Ethereally- very delicate or highly refined; heavenly. “And when our angel leaves- throwing kisses, smiling ethereally- she is so intoxicated with the sweet milk of human kindness…” (P. 58) * Egomania- psychologically abnormal egotism. "Psychopath with definite sadistic tendencies, probably motivated by an unreasoning egomania." (P. 59) * Matriarchy- government by women. “Big Nurse and her boss run the matriarchy at the insane asylum.” (P. 66) * Impregnable- too strong to be captured or entered by force; unbeatable. “She’s impregnable (Nurse Ratched) herself, and with the element of time working for her she eventually gets inside everyone.” (P. 68) * Stoicism- detachment; emotional indifference. “Gentleman, already I seem to detect in our redheaded challenger a most unheroic decline of his TV-cowboy stoicism. (P. 73) * Knack- an easy and smart way of doing something or handling a problem; skill. “You got some kinda uncanny knack, makes a man leery of playing against such sharpies for real money tomorrow.” (P. 75) * Shrewd- showing or possessing intelligence, insight, and sound judgment, especially in business or politics. “Jules was a shrewd old white-haired Negro with a theory the world was being tipped over on its side during the night by the black boys; tipping it.” * Maudlin- overly tearfully sentimental, especially because affected by alcohol. “Anyway- to put an end to this maudlin display of nostalgia- in the course of our conversation McMurphy…” (P. 97) * Relinquishing- to renounce of surrender something. “Yes? And how do you feel about relinquishing your world news to watch a bunch of men play baseball?” (P. 123)

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Characters
 
Main Characters
* Chief Bromden- The longest resident of the mental asylum. Noted as half American and Native American. Bromden pretends to be deaf and mute, though this disguise allows him to become rather sharing of the all the asylum’s secrets. He implies that society is composed of one big “Combine” and that all the patients, including himself are the parts that are unable to function as parts of the giant machine, society. He describes the nurse’s control as using a thick fog to lose the patients from their mental awareness. He typically goes in and out this fog, likely due to his medication. * Randle McMurphy- This new resident is introduced, through the eyes of Bromden, as a hell-raising convict sent from a normal prision. He is revealed as an addict of gambling and guilty of battery. He is transferred from a work farm (prison) to the hospital thinking that it will be an easier way to serve his sentence, in comfort. McMurphy proves as a strong force against Nurse Ratched. He challenges her authority in...
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