McMurphy’s effect on the ward upon his arrival and departure affected the men in more ways than can be imagined. The actions he produced eventually led to a revolution of the people. As McMurphy revitalized their emotions and brought back their manhood, the patients recognized their innate rebellious nature, which had deteriorated under the tyranny of the Head Nurse Ratched.
Upon his arrival on the war, he immediately took charge and assumed the role of the “head honcho”. His jocund nature and drive to succeed led him down a path where he challenged Nurse Ratched and all of her rules. From the strict no gambling policy, to the right time to brush your teeth, nothing stopped McMurphy from enjoying his time at the ward. To him, it was merely a game, a time to enjoy himself and have fun with life. However, at the ward, the patients seemed like hollow shells, going from the day-to-day procedures to adhere to the strict rule of Ratched.
With McMurphy’s arrival, the men find something new, something they had long forgotten. McMurphy reintroduced the joy of life into their lives. He gave rebirth to their sex drive, their ability to laugh, and their manliness by simple acts such as showing them cards with naked women on them, or standing up for his right to watch the World Series on television.
While Ratched looked upon his actions are destructive to the recovery of the men, it was in fact much more therapeutic than her own person method. Her actions had robbed the men of the characteristics that made them who they were. She turned them into mindless zombies, perfect pieces of the combine. The actions of McMurphy revitalized and stimulated the minds of the men, and allowed them to realize the life that they were missing out on.
Once McMurphy realized that many of the men were self-committed, he is astounded to see them throwing their lives away in a place where they lose complete control of themselves. Finally, near the climax of the novel, when McMurphy throws his party, the men fully realize the extent of their imprisonment.
Furthermore, upon the martyring of McMurphy, the patients recognize the audacity of Ratched and her absolute authority over the ward. To them, McMurphy appears as a Christ figure, a man who died because he tried to spread his beliefs. His grand finale, his party, is somewhat like his last supper. It was McMurphy’s final attempt to free the men from the shackles of the Ward, and find the pleasures of life that they had been denied for so long.
The patients are finally inspired, and break free of the Ward. While some simply sign themselves out and return to the outside world, Bromden takes the initiative to free himself and go back into the world, exploring it like the dog he at one point observed. The men realize that life on the outside, in the unpredictable and confusing world is a better choice when compared to the dull emotionless life of the ward where their spirits are sucked away.
Although the men may not survive for long in the outside world, the fact that McMurphy was able to remind them of how great life really is showed that his approach was much more successful than that of Ratched. The growth of the emotions that the men had lost led them down the path to change, and they took it once they realized how great it really was. McMurphy truly affected the men in a way that Ratched never realized possible. He sparked their innate emotions that had been locked away, and gave them the chance to live again.