Character Analysis – Billy Bibbit
Billy Bibbit derives his sense of self from other people in his life and allows society to determine how he views and treats himself.
Billy the mama’s boy. Billy the coward. Billy the misfit. All of these impressions of Billy Bibbit come from the world around him, but have over time greatly influenced his inner life. Billy is very sensitive to others’ opinions, so sensitive that he tends to internalize judgements made about him until they become his own thoughts and perceptions of himself. From the first word he speaks, Billy is afflicted with a severe stutter and dangerously low self-esteem. It is no coincidence that the first word Billy ever stutters is “mamma”. She is the definition of overbearing, and the relationship she has formed with her son damages him psychologically in many different respects. As the primary woman in his life, Billy’s mother has ruined his ability to sustain romantic relationships. Her parenting has driven him to slitting his wrists and burning himself with cigarettes, but Billy does have the ability to overcome his mother’s damage.
While at first glance he seems completely under his mother’s thumb, it is really Billy who is holding himself back. It all comes down to “guts! [He] could go outside right now if [he] had the guts” (195). Billy has been told his whole life by his mother, peers, and later Nurse Ratched that he does not and will never be able to fit in. The “deadly, pointing forefinger of society” has always pointed at him and he has always heard “the voice of millions shouting ‘shame, shame, shame’” (308). Billy has allowed others to convince him that he belongs in the margins — the mental hospital — instead of out in the real world. Though she keeps him there to protect him, Billy’s mother is actually reinforcing his perception of himself as weak and unable to function outside of Nurse Ratched’s ward. The influence Billy’s mother has over him is merely the catalyst for his problems. Billy has the capacity to change and become confident and self-sufficient. He is an adult who can make his own decisions, but is still “controlled by thoughts and perceptions of himself” (Kanye West).
Randle McMurphy comes from the outside and brings a new perspective to the ward. He is able to see what the patients can’t — that many of them are “not nuts” and wonders “why [they] stand for it” (195). His influence allows Billy to come out of himself; there is a period in which he speaks without a stutter and even loses his virginity. Billy is “pleased with his success” (314), and full of confidence, pride, and satisfaction — all new and exciting feelings to him. His conquest of Candy and the attitude that comes with it represent Billy’s growth in the presence of McMurphy. In this moment, he is able to leave behind his “thoughts and perceptions” of himself and slip out from under his mother’s grasp. Billy, still seen as a child by his mother who asks if she “look[s] like the mother of a middle aged man” (295), is able to become the adult he has always wanted to be. He does not quite make it, though. The damage done to him by his mother is permanent, and the second he is reminded of her presence, Billy turns back into a “poor little boy” (316). In the end, his perceptions of himself and the shame inflicted on him by society are too deeply ingrained to be vanquished.
Societal pressures have the ability to worm their way into a person and become extremely strong influences, overpowering any self- appreciation or love.