Lesson Plan

Character Analysis - Cuckoo's Nest

Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of character development through documentation presented in a portfolio.
Andrea N.
Technology Integration Specialist
Springfield Local Schools
Akron, OH
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My Grades Pre-K, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts, English Language Learning, World Languages, Math, Science, Social Studies, Arts, Health & Wellness
EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of character development through documentation presented in a portfolio. 

English Language Arts
Grades 9 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Project Introduction

Activity: Other — Introduction

Distribute the student instructions to the class.  This lesson should be completed after reading a novel, although it is best practice to give the assignment BEFORE reading the novel to guide their reading.  

Student Instructions

You are a special agent hired by the FBI to investigate the strange happenings in the Oregon Asylum, specifically, on the ward of Nurse Ratched.  You have been assigned to study the character of one of the major participants in the unusual events.  Your character will come from the list below:


   Nurse Ratched                   Chief Bromden

   Randle McMurphy            Billy Bibbit

   Dale Harding


Since each character is not available for an interview, it is your job to uncover your person’s inner workings and role within the plot of the story.   This personal dossier is due to your director on ______________________________, when a conference will be held by all the investigators to share their findings of this unnatural occurrence.  The following items should be included in your investigator’s portfolio:  

A description of the suspect’s personal appearance, along with a police artist’s sketch and a photograph, if available.

A page summarizing all personal biographical information available on the individual prior to the events of the novel.  (Do not include fictional material)  Report on only what is given testimony from the character.)

A page listing any significant symbolism surrounding the character during the events of the story.  (Symbols must include the symbolism graphic organizer and an explanation of each symbol and a reference to its relevance to the novel.)

A list of at least ten (10) specific referents to the character within the course of the story.  In other words, list at least ten significant things that cause a change in behavior/mental state in the character.  Cite the page number and chapter for each referent.

A sanity over time graph for the character.  For the Y-axis, use a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the most sane and 10 being the most insane. For the X-axis use the chapters of the book.  Plot the 10 events you have chosen on your graph.  The events should show the character’s progression from sanity to insanity or from insanity to sanity.  In some cases, characters might go from insanity to sanity then back to insanity, or vice versa.  Make sure that your ten events are equally distributed throughout the four parts of the novel.  For each point (event) that is plotted, there should be a corresponding paragraph below the graph explaining why you plotted that event as you did. (No one progresses to an action alone, they are influenced by people and things around them that cause them to react and act as they do – justify your decisions).  

A final minimum one page, MLA formatted, paper discussing your character’s role in Kesey’s plot.  Specifically, you must analyze the role your character plays in the thematic development of the novel.


The above information must be submitted in electronic copy to the director no later than _________________, in the order listed above,.  The director appreciates creativity, so any additional relevant information (or creative avenues) you want to include could result in a promotion.


2 Technology and Authentic Presentation

Students can use a variety of media to complete the project.  Google Docs or Slides is ideal for the project, especially if paired with Google Classroom, due to the flexibility Docs provides and the ease of collaboration and sharing.  

3 Presentation/discussion

Activity: Presenting

On presentation day, students should sit in a conference style arrangement if possible.  One by one, each group should share their findings with the group and guide a discussion on the development of their assigned character.