Although Billy Bibbit longs to be like the heroic McMurphy, he is not strong enough to stand up to Nurse Ratched on his own. Billy entwines his arms and legs when Nurse Ratched questions him, virtually tying himself into knots for her. A shine comes into Nurse Ratched’s eyes as she makes him suffer by reminding him of his weakness and his previous suicide attempts. Billy is so timid and fearful that he stutters his own name when he first meets McMurphy. However, McMurphy’s confidence and strength immediately charm and fascinate Billy, who becomes a devoted disciple. McMurphy tries to get Billy to realize that he should be out in the world, driving a convertible and having fun with girls. Even though Billy is a voluntary patient who can leave the misery of the ward at any time, he tells McMurphy that he is not ready, because he believes he is not strong enough to face the world. McMurphy encourages Billy’s natural longing for girls as a healthy appetite for life. By the time of McMurphy’s farewell party, Billy is sufficiently self-assured to embrace Candy in a romantic dance. When Billy confesses to McMurphy his attraction to Candy, he is confessing a desire to be the healthy, normal young man McMurphy has encouraged him to be.
The next morning, after Nurse Ratched finds him in bed with Candy, Billy speaks for the first time without stuttering. The men applaud not only for his confidence and manhood but also for his effrontery of Nurse Ratched’s control. Using her voice and the threat of his mother to shame Billy back to subservience, Nurse Ratched forces him to cower at her feet, begging for mercy. Rather than continue living under her repressive rule, Billy chooses suicide, relinquishing life, while simultaneously making an independent decision. Billy acts as the catalyst for the final battle between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched, the forces of good and evil in the film.