Very much calm and controlled, she runs the ward in a tyrannical fashion and with mechanical precision. Without direct threats or accusations, her authoritative manner bullies all the patients into submission. Her own name is a combination of the words "rat" and "wretched" (H.J. Summers and S. Summers, 2003).
In spite of what one would expect, Mc Murphy's charisma and energy win the respect and admiration of the patients in the ward. He fits well within the ward's environment and his presence causes some of the patients to show improvement; for example, he involves the Chief in a basketball game, other patients in card games and takes them all on a fishing trip. However, he soon becomes aware of the injustices and mistreatment they are the subject of and starts a personal battle. The incident regarding the use of the television to watch the World Series is a good example of this.
One night, McMurphy organizes a party involving the patients, a couple of women and alcohol. During the party, McMurphy notices that Billy likes one of his female friends and he asks her to sleep with him. In the morning, nurse Ratched finds the ward in a mess with the patients sleeping all over the place after passing out from alcohol consumption. When they perform a head count, the nurses find Billy with the woman in his room. Nurse Ratched confronts him and humiliates him once more. The argument causes Billy to commit suicide. At this point, McMurphy physically attacks nurse Ratched and is close to murdering her. The reprisal is terrible: a lobotomy1 that leaves McMurphy severely disabled.
When McMurphy is returned to the ward, the Chief realizes that they will not be escaping together now and, as he does not want to leave his friend behind in that state, he suffocates him with a pillow. The closing scene shows how the Chief followed the plan that McMurphy had proposed, throws a hydrotherapy fountain through a window and runs away in the search of freedom.
The movie is a fantastic attempt to encourage debate about insanity. Psychology had gone through a very prestigious phase in the USA at the end of the 1950s; but, by the 1960s, this notion had changed radically. Philosophers and sociologists argued that the modern definition of insanity is a cultural invention and a means of control. In this manner, individuals branded as "mad" or "insane" were isolated from society and secluded into asylums, where they no longer posed a threat for society (K. Kesey, 2002).
Randle Patrick McMurphy and Mildred Ratched are the main characters of the movie. In fact, the plot is a series of confrontations between the two characters.
McMurphy is a criminal that seeking to "enjoy" his sentence in comfort, feigns lunacy in order to be admitted into a mental asylum. He is a fun-loving individual, a free spirit that challenges authority and resents any form of control. He is intelligent, flamboyant and energetic. Interestingly, he is described by members of the establishment as belligerent, resentful and lazy. In conversation with