After many incidents, Ratched finally puts her foot down and decides to give McMurphy Electro-Shock Therapy. He also realizes that he is committed to the ward and temporarily stops his mischief and fun. However, McMurphy soon grows tired of listening to Ratched and begins to once again act like his former self. He gets many of the patients to go on a fishing trip with him and even though Ratched does not agree, she is forced to let them go as even Dr. Spivey falls for McMurphy’s charm and volunteers to go with them. The patients sing and laugh and realize that they can truly live independently, and upon realizing this, McMurphy decides to go even further. He invites a few girls, and they spend a night at the ward, partying with music, dancing, and drinking alcohol. The morning after the party, Ratched catches Billy in bed with one of the girls and unintentionally coerces him to commit suicide by threatening to tell Billy’s mother what had happened. McMurphy gets extremely irate and strangles Ratched in his anger. As a result, she orders McMurphy lobotomized. This sacrifice plays a great deal in helping the patients at the ward realize their achievements and many of the patients check out of the hospital. “McMurphy helps the people in the ward find their way back from the fog and return back to the real world” (Lupack). McMurphy’s laughter and jokes, along with his personality, cause a great change in the patients of the ward and he helps them cure their “mental illness”.
Laughter is also integral in helping the patients in the ward realize their independence. “In a world without laughter, the inmates are suspicious of McMurphy, whose big wide-open smile makes everyone uneasy” (Wallace). This statement is obviously true because smiling is not enough to get the patients to trust McMurphy. Only with his laughter and charm is McMurphy able to penetrate the patients’ fortresses of solitude. Laughter is extremely contagious, and getting even one patient to trust McMurphy is enough to influence all of the members of the ward. Although it takes time, McMurphy is finally able to remove or mitigate the fears that most of the patients have for Ratched. “Indeed, McMurphy, clearly resembles the typical comic book superhero who uses his secret powers and physical strength to defeat the evil scientific villain” (Wallace). He first uses his charm to become acquainted with Dr. Spivey, who works with Nurse Ratched. This is an extremely important move as it helps McMurphy have a say in what goes around in the ward. Dr. Spivey is the reason that the patients are able to play basketball, gamble with cards, and even go on a fishing trip. With Dr. Spivey as his ally, McMurphy is also able to challenge Ratched with great success, as she seems to be intimidated by him and his potential to cause chaos in her otherwise perfect ward. Near the end of the novel, Ratched gets genuinely scared by McMurphy and attempts more aggressive measures. These methods do not work for McMurphy and she ends up turning him into a vegetable in order to destroy his influence on the patients, but ironically only succeeds in destroying his body. McMurphy’s spirit and meaning live on, and even when he’s not around mentally, his lessons are able to help the patients overpower her and attain their freedom.
McMurphy not only helps the patients learn to overcome their weaknesses and become independent, but he also teaches them to live in a society. Chief Bromden is a prime example of McMurphy’s feat, because at the start of the story, Bromden pretends to be completely deaf and unaware of his surroundings. By the end of the novel, however, he is able to become completely independent and leaves the ward by force, hitchhiking his way to freedom. “Bromden’s growth towards health and a comic understanding of himself and his society grows and develops in the course of the novel, and in the end, he emerges as a complete and strong individual” (Wallace). Dale Harding is also a great example of the work done by McMurphy. Before McMurphy’s arrival, Harding is absolutely scared of Ratched as she knows a great deal about his major weaknesses and shortcomings. McMurphy quickly realizes that Ratched is exploiting the patients’ weaknesses and turning them against each other, so he gets Harding to understand that. In return, Harding helps McMurphy rebel against Ratched. This is an essential mutualistic relationship, as Harding was the leader before McMurphy’s arrival and with Harding following McMurphy, all the other patients followed. Near the end of the novel “when the nurse lies to Harding about McMurphy’s return, he checks himself out of the hospital” (Telgen). He was also able to overpower Ratched and escape, and he attained this courage by indulging in the laughter and character of McMurphy.
McMurphy plays an essential part in helping the patients attain independence, the ability to co-exist with others, realize their weaknesses, and live amongst others in society. McMurphy’s attitude is essential in overpowering Nurse Ratched, because his laughter and humor help the patients bond with each other. With this bond, they become a bundle of sticks, unable to be broken by Ratched, as opposed to a single stick. Laughter is a key part in uniting the patients and with this newly acquired unity, the patients become stronger, unable to be influenced anymore by Ratched. “In the course of the novel, good finally subdues evil, and although McMurphy loses his life, most of the inmates in the asylum go free, their health and vitality restored” (Wallace). Although McMurphy’s sacrifice was huge, it was not in vain, as the patients realized how independent they had become after McMurphy’s arrival and that they could co-exist in society, something which Ratched viewed as not possible.