One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Glossary


The inmates who have treatable conditions. The hospital expects that they someday will be able to return to functioning in society. They are generally the most lucid of the inmates and the ones who can take care of themselves. The worst possible punishment is for an Acute to be turned over to the Chronic ward, such as if the nurse notices a consistent thread of disobedience that suggests the patient is not going to recover--or if a vindictive nurse just wants it to seem that way.


One of McMurphy's more lewd epithets referring to breasts, particularly Nurse Ratched's large ones.


Those whose mental impairments are such that they have no hope to return to functioning in society. They operate as their own dysfunctional cabal. They essentially have surrendered their lives to the hospital.


One of Chief Bromden's hallucinations, a systematized, robotic, control mechanism that demands human obedience. He consistently imagines that he hears the machine sounds of the Combine in the silence of the hospital.


Green uniforms the inmates are asked to wear during their stay at the hospital--another way of eliminating individualism on the ward.


An anti-seizure drug. Sefel refuses to take it even though he is an epileptic because he is afraid it makes his hair fall out and gums go black.


The "Disturbed" wing of the hospital is the much-feared floor where the most disobedient inmates are sent to receive electroshock therapy or other physical punishments for their disobedience. Inmates often come down from Disturbed quite changed, quiescent because of their experiences. The Nurse has the power to send someone up to Disturbed. She sends both Chief Bromden and McMurphy up after they beat up her henchmen boys during a shower incident.

electroshock therapy

EST, a form of therapy whereby electrodes are attached to the head and a force of electrical current is sent into the brain. The idea is to cause a virtual "reset" of the brain waves. After doctors noticed that EST tamed wild cattle, they used it for many years to tame the most inscrutable institutionalized patients, only to abandon the so-called treatment in later years after the numerous and palpable negative side effects were studied and made public.

Shock Shop

The Shock Shop in Building One is where the most disturbed patients are sent for electroshock therapy to punish them for disobedience.