McMurphy enters the psychiatric ward and changes the mood of the atmosphere. He carries a self-assertive and unperturbed aura that no man has ever possessed during their time in the hospital.
One Bet Changes All
Hating how the ward restrained the men's liberty, McMurphy began challenging its rules. Doubted by everyone else, McMurhpy made a bet that he could make Nurse Ratched go mad without getting in trouble.
Winning over the Dr.
McMurphy's convincing arguments were able to sway the Doctor to allow the Acutes to have a game room to themselves. It is the first time that a suggestion, from the men, breaks through Nurse Ratched's firm decisions.
“No. He isn’t extraordinary. He is simply a man and no more, and is subject to all the fears and all the cowardice and all the timidity that any other man is subject to." (121)
"To hell with what you think; I want to know, can you promise me to lift it if I get you big as you used to be? You promise me that, and you not only get my special body-buildi' course for nothing but you get yourself a ten-buck fishin' trip, free!" (172)
I'll Help You Grow
Chief Bromden's backstory swayed McMurphy to build up the Indian's confidence back to when he was bigger. Since McMurphy was the first person Bromden ever opened up to, their late night conversation developed a profounding friendship between the two.
The Calm Before the Storm
After the pool's lifeguard told McMurphy that he hadn't been able to leave the ward in eight years, it made the rebellious redhead question whether his reckless actions were for his good or not. Over the next few days, McMurphy toned down his turbulent attitude and compliantly listened to the Big Nurse.
Isn't He Just a Coward in Disguise?
After McMurphy's big ruckus over television time, Nurse Ratched called for a staff meeting to be held. Inside the staff room, the despotic woman revealed that she was confident that McMurphy was going to lose his daredevil behavior quickly and succumb to timidity.
The 2nd Step to Freedom
McMurphy convinced the Doctor to join his side again for a fun fishing trip. The brief journey on the boat opened up more room for the Acutes to breathe and relax freely without worrying about their actions' consequences.
"They could sense the change that most of ue were only suspecting; these weren't the same bunch of weak-knees from a nuthouse that they'd watch take their insults from the dock this morning." (196)
His True Intentions
After the fishing trip, the Big Nurse immediately challenged the Acutes on whether McMurphy's intentions were actually for their benefit or not during his absences. Her arguments made them doubt their trustworthy leader. However, their views changed back when McMurphy stood up for George in the washroom, proving his honest and reliable character.
"...right at that time all of us had a good idea about everything that was going to happen, and why it had to happen, and why we'd all been wrong about McMurphy." (209)
Where It All Went Downhill
Shortly after being reminded by the Big Nurse of his mother's disappointment, Billy Bibbit had a mental breakdown and ended his life. His sudden and decisive death was a reality check to McMurphy and the other Acutes. The men were never safe under Nurse Ratched's torments.
“What worries me, Billy,” she said - I could hear the change in her voice - “is how your poor mother is going to take this."She got the response she was after. Billy flinched and put his hand to his cheek like he’d been burned with acid." (242)
The Final Attack
Losing his friend to the wicked, unsympathetic nurse tipped McMurphy over. He and the otherAcutes knew that this was the only opportunity where he could lash out their pent up anger into one last, ultimate strike at Nurse Ratched. As a result, McMurphy strangled the despotic woman until he had to be pried off.
“We couldn’t stop him because we were the ones making him do it. It was our need that was making him push himself slowly up from sitting, his big hands driving down on the leather chair arms, pushing him up..." (246)
Embarking on a New Life
Chief Bromden finally gathered the courage to leave the psychiatric ward after departing from McMurphy's body and Scanlon. His escape is symbolized by the cuckoo bird flying past its restrictive home, welcoming its newfound freedom.
"I'm a rabbit. The Doctor is a rabbit. Cheswick is a rabbit. Billy Bibbit is a rabbit. All of us in here are rabbits of varying ages and degrees." (49)
"...any of you sharpies here willing to take my fivebucks that says that I can get the best of that woman - before the week's up - without her getting the best of me?" (56)
"What, Miss Ratched, is your opinion of this new patient? I mean, he’s good-looking and friendly and everything, but in my humble opinion, he certainly takes over." (21)
Harding revealed to McMurphy that every men is powerless under the despotic nurse. He claimed that every single patient is a coward, hence their symbolical animal is a frail, jittery bunny.
"So how would the group like to have that room as a sort of second day room, a game room, shall we say?"- Doctor (87)
“He swam over to the steps at the shallow end of the pool and sat there the rest of the period, tugging that little tuft of wool at his throat and frowning. Watching him sitting there frowning all to himself, I remembered what the Big Nurse said in the meeting and I began to feel afraid." (132)
“I ran across the grounds in the direction I remembered seeing the dog go, toward the highway. I remember I was taking huge strides as I ran, seeming to step and float a long ways before my next foot struck the earth. I felt like I was flying. Free." (250)