The novel’s protagonist chafes at being locked up in a mental institution, but most of the patients are there voluntarily because they find freedom and safety in being confined. The world is divided into the world inside the asylum (confined) and the world Outside (freedom). But even the world inside the mental ward is divided into freedom and confinement. Though many of the men want to be in the mental institution, they still want to enjoy certain freedoms and they struggle with the way they’re treated – how they can be sent to the Disturbed ward or for electroshock therapy or to Seclusion simply for asking that they be allowed to keep their own cigarettes.
Although we typically think of murder as a crime worthy of punishment, Chief was actually freeing McMurphy from the prison of his body when he killed him.
Although McMurphy sees confinement as a curtailing of his freedom, most of the patients find safety and freedom in being locked up in the asylum ward.