“Some of us have b-been here for fi-fi-five years, Randle,” Billy says. He’s got a magazine rolled up and is twisting at it with his hands, you can see the cigarette burns on the backs of his hands. “And some of us will b-be here maybe th-that muh-muh-much longer, long after you’re g-g-gone, long after this Wo-world Series is over. And . . . don’t you see . . . ” He throws down the magazine and walks away. “Oh, what’s the use of it anyway.”
McMurphy throws a wrench into the ward when he suggests they demand a change to the TV schedule, and Billy’s explanation of why he won’t back McMurphy expresses his own sense of vulnerability and helplessness. As a long-term ward resident, Billy worries about what will happen in the aftermath of openly rebelling against Nurse Ratched. His fear and acceptance of the status quo also convey his lack of hope that he will ever leave the ward.
If we had the g-guts! I could go outside to-today, if I had the guts! My m-m-mother is a good friend of M-Miss Ratched, and I could get an AMA signed this afternoon, if I had the guts!
In this scene, McMurphy learns that most of the men have voluntarily signed into the ward, including Billy, who feels like he lacks needed toughness to live life on the outside. This revelation explains why the men do not rebel against Nurse Ratched—they are already convinced they have no power. Billy’s words further suggest that the men feel drawn to McMurphy because he embodies all the masculine qualities they lack.
Billy Bibbit was the first one to say something out loud, not really a word, just a low, almost painful whistle that described how she looked better than anybody else could have.
When Candy comes to the ward, Billy, like the other men, feels attracted to her, and his whistle represents the only way he can communicate his feelings. Billy suffers from a stutter, so he expresses himself in a manner in which he can be successful. Interestingly, his wolf whistle represents a conventionally appropriate gesture coming from a man who has never managed to connect with women on any level.
“Good morning, Miss Ratched,” Billy said, not even making any move to get up and button his pajamas. He took the girl’s hand in his and grinned. “This is Candy.”
Upon being discovered on the mattress with Candy, Billy displays pride and ease with his newfound sexuality. He has no shame about his actions and even flaunts them with his askew pajamas and physical contact with a prostitute. Notably, Billy does not stutter even in what should be a stressful situation. Through his relations with Candy, he has grown into a man.
We watched Billy folding into the floor, head going back, knees coming forward. He rubbed his hand up and down the green pant leg. He was shaking his head in panic like a kid that’s been a promised a whipping just as soon as a willow is cut. The nurse touched his shoulder to comfort him. The touch shook him like a blow.
With just a few words threatening to tell Billy’s mother what he has done, Nurse Ratched reduces him from a self-assured, confident man to a cowering, frightened boy. Billy can’t stand up to the threat that his mother—who both infantilizes him and flirts with him—might find out that he became a man and had sex. His newfound strength is fleeting because Nurse Ratched knows how to hit him in his weak spots.