Transformation: Randle McMurphy & Patients
He waltzed into the ward and introduced himself to every patient as a gambling man with a zest for women and cards. Randle P. McMurphy, a swaggering, gambling, boisterous redheaded con man, arrived at the ward from the Pendleton Work Farm. He was sentenced to six months at the prison work farm, but pretended to be insane in order to obtain a transfer to the hospital because he thought it would be more comfortable than the work farm. Bromden senses that there was something different about this new patient. After his first experience with the excruciating routine of the Group Meeting, McMurphy tells the patients that Nurse Ratchet is a genuine “ball-cutter.” The other patients tell him that there is no defying Nurse Ratched because, in their eyes, she is an all-powerful force. True to his nature as a gambling man, McMurphy makes a bet with the other patients that he can make Ratched lose her temper.
At first, the confrontation between Ratched and McMurphy provides some humorous entertainment for the other patients. However, McMurphy’s confrontation soon becomes their confrontation as he draws them into the conflict by encouraging their rebellion. The success of his bet hinges on a failed vote to change the television schedule so they can watch the World Series. The Series was on television during the time allotted for cleaning chores. McMurphy and the other patients staged a protest by sitting in front of the blank television instead of doing their work. Nurse Ratched becomes hysterical and screams at them to return to their chores. The struggle between Ratched and McMurphy takes on the symbolic overtones of a mythological, comic battle.
McMurphy learns that involuntarily committed patients cannot leave the hospital without staff approval. Therefore, he cannot leave at the end of his six months sentence, but when Nurse Ratched says he can and he begins to submit to her authority. However, by this time, he had become the leader for the other patients. Their sanity, their claim to manhood lies in the balance. Cheswick, dismayed by McMurphy’s surrender, commits suicide.
Cheswick’s suicide signals to McMurphy that he has unwittingly taken on the responsibility of rehabilitating the other patients. However, after protecting Big George from the cruelty of Ratched’s aides, McMurphy is sent to Disturbed for electro-shock therapy. The weight of his obligations to the other begins to wear away his strength and his sanity. Nevertheless, McMurphy arranges a fishing trip for himself and nine other patients. He guides them through the process of dealing with the...