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Characters / One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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    "Chief" Bromden 
Played By: Will Sampson
The Gentle Giant half-Indian narrator of the book with a smaller role in the film.
  • The Big Guy: Tall, very strong and handy in a fight.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: See Unreliable Narrator below. McMurphy puts it best after Bromden explains his history. Chief asks if he sounds insane due to all of his blatant metaphors and borderline rambling. Mac says yes. Then he adds:
    "I said you were talking crazy, Chief. I didn't say you weren't making sense."
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: He's telling the story, but McMurphy is the main character.
  • Gentle Giant: Here, it's played for drama. Bromden was rowdier in his youth, but an oppressive modern society wore him down over the years. He sees himself as a small man, despite being 6'7" (2 meters). He notes that his father, once a big, proud Native American, was similarly rendered weak by his domineering Caucasian wife.
  • Mind-Control Conspiracy: Chief Bromden believes that Nurse Ratched, the hospital PR man, and others are part of "The Combine", an oppressive all-knowing evil organization reminiscent of The Party from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • Took a Level in Badass: McMurphy, hating to see Bromden's size go to waste, puts him in a "training program" to get him in shape. His newfound strength allows him to help Mac in a fight against Ratched's aides, and later break out of the ward after euthanizing McMurphy.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Due to his schizophrenia, much of his narration is not only hard to believe, but outright bizarre. With that said, he's aware of his own fondness for metaphors. Also, his dreams are prophetic; he finds that a fellow patient has died in his sleep after seeing a gruesome vision of his murder.
  • The Voiceless: Ostensibly deaf-mute, though eventually reveals to McMurphy that he's faking it. He recalls that after being treated like an idiot for so long, he decided his opinion didn't matter anymore and became ridiculously withdrawn.
  • You Just Told Me: How does McMurphy find out Chief wasn't deaf? One night, he runs through the ward warning patients that the asshole orderlies are coming. Chief pretends to sleep in response, meaning he heard everything McMurphy said. Mac noticed.

    Randle Patrick "Mac" McMurphy 
Played By: Jack Nicholson
The Only Sane Man who gets himself sent to the asylum to avoid prison for statutory rape charges. He's the one who starts shaking up the place and trolls Nurse Ratched.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Red-haired in the book, black-haired in the movie.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Loudly sings in the middle of a mental ward? Check. Beats up the orderlies in the middle of a mental ward? Check.
  • Fiery Redhead: Although he's played by the brunette Jack Nicholson in the film adaptation.
  • Last-Name Basis: Mac is friendly with all the patients but addresses them by their last names, and vice versa. Compare this to Nurse Ratched, who calls them by their given names but only pretends to be friendly.
  • Messianic Archetype: Surprisingly. He's the savior of the ward who sacrifices himself to combat an oppressive establishment. The symbolism is hammered in when Mac is subjected to electroshock therapy. Characters point out that the shock treatment machine, which has the patient lie down on a cross-shaped platform, evokes Jesus' crucifixion.
  • Only Sane Man: A downplayed example. Most of the other characters aren't exactly crazy, but McMurphy is the first person on the ward to openly acknowledge the brutality of Nurse Ratched's treatment program. The rest of them knew this...they just didn't talk about it.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero / Unscrupulous Hero: Loud, obnoxious, casually racist and sexist, has no qualms about conning his fellow patients out of their money...did we mention the statutory charges? But he's the only one even trying to put an end to Ratched's tyranny.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: In contrast to Harding, who is ashamed of his effeminacy, the hypermasculine McMurphy has no problem doing "frilly" things like painting pictures.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: At one point, Mac learns that since he's committed, Ratched can keep him in the ward indefinitely, so he decides to behave, to his friends' chagrin. This sticks until he learns that most of the other patients aren't committed; they could leave any time, but have been so cowed by Ratched that they don't want to. To show them that life is worth living, McMurphy resolves to redouble his efforts in messing with the Big Nurse.
  • Vorpal Pillow: After he's lobotomized into a vegetative state, Chief does this to end his misery.

    Nurse Ratched 
Played By: Louise Fletcher
The head nurse of the mental ward, and the main antagonist of the book and movie. Ratched, a sadistic control freak, runs the hospital with an iron fist. She uses everything from psychological torment to lobotomy to keep the patients under her thumb.

  • Battleaxe Nurse: One of the most famous examples in all of fiction; her name is almost synonymous with the concept of a scumbag nurse.
  • The Dreaded: Nearly everyone on the ward is afraid of her.
  • D-Cup Distress: The novel repeatedly notes that Ratched has an ample bosom. It's said that she resents her breasts because they reprsent her femininity, and thus her human, vulnerable side.
  • Humiliation Conga: McMurphy, driven to the edge, nearly strangles Ratched to death. He also rips her shirt off, exposing her huge breasts to everyone. When she returns to work, her voice is screwed up and the patients no longer take her seriously.
  • Iron Lady: In the hospital, her power is absolute; there's nobody willing or able to challenge her authority. Then a certain red-headed Irishman shows up.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Ratched is described as a "handsome" woman. Early in the story, Harding and McMurphy concede that she was likely very beautiful in her prime.
  • Manipulative Bastard: McMurphy is the first to point out how good she is at subtle emasculation, though the others are fully aware of it. She knows her patients' (and a doctor's) weaknesses so well that even hinting at them is enough to keep the men in line.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: She needn't lift a finger when threats, humiliation, and her goon squad of aides work just fine. In the book, at least, she's fairly old. When McMurphy finally snaps and strangles her, she can't do a thing about it.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: This is how Ratched's superiors view her special brand of treatment. As long as the patients are kept in line, who cares about her methods, right?
  • The Sociopath: More so in the book.
  • Tranquil Fury: She's very easy to anger, but she rarely acts overtly hostile. Harding notes that this helps her in dealing with the patients: Ratched's uncanny grace under fire makes her targets lose their resolve. Even after McMurphy shows up, she generally reacts to his antics with subtle, silly tics that only Bromden notices.

    Billy Bibbit
Played By: Brad Dourif

One of the younger and more innocent men in the asylum. He looks up to McMurphy like a big brother.

  • The Cutie: He's a sweet, cute young man in his 20s and one of the more pleasant characters. It makes his suicide all the more sad.
  • Driven to Suicide: After the Nurse threatens to tell his mother of his sexual escapades.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Has pretty, wide blue eyes and is the most innocent and naive of the guys.
  • My Beloved Smother: Ms. Bibbit treats her adult son like a fragile child and has no qualms about it. Ratched, who is friends with her, manipulates and torments the poor guy by threatening to tell his mother what he's done.
  • Older Than They Look: Billy is by no means old, but his boyish looks and timid personality make him seem a lot younger than he actually is.
  • Speech Impediment: He's got a pretty bad stutter. He grimly jokes that he's been stuttering since he could talk. When he loses his virginity, it goes away until Ratched threatens to tell his mother what happened.

    Charles Cheswick
Played By: Sydney Cassock

A loudmouthed asylum patient who also looks up to McMurphy. Probably a bit too much, as he ends up codependent.

  • Boisterous Weakling: In a sense. Cheswick is loud and demanding but does not have the guts or know-how to make things happen. Indeed, the reason he clings to McMurphy is because Mac has what it takes to see things through.
  • Driven to Suicide: Let's just say he takes Mac's decision to quit trolling Ratched rather hard. During an exercise session at the ward's pool, he drowns himself.
  • Took A Levelin Badass: Cheswick seemingly becomes more confident due to McMurphy's influence. Unfortunately, he falls into despair the minute it's made clear McMurphy won't be standing up for him anymore.

    Dale Harding
Played By: William Redfeild
A middle-aged man (in the movies; in the books he's something of a pretty boy) who struggles with being unable to please his promiscuous wife, likely due to being a closeted homosexual.

  • Ambiguously Gay / Transparent Closet: These are played with throughout the book; Harding committed himself because he couldn't deal with being gay. In the stage version, where his wife is an unseen character, he tilts more to the ambiguous side. In the book, more to the transparent.
  • Bishounen: Bromden continually calls Harding a "pretty man" with movie-star looks and delicate-looking hands. This is downplayed considerably in the film, where he is portrayed as average looking.
  • Mr. Exposition: Harding is well-informed about procedures and patients alike, and spends a lot of his time teaching McMurphy and the reader about how things go down in Nurse Ratched's ward.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness / Spock Speak: Harding is the most educated patient in the ward. He'll let you know that with every other statement out of his mouth.
  • The Smart Guy: Given the above? Naturally.

Played By: Danny DeVito

A docile, mentally disabled man.

  • Funny Schizophrenia: In the book it's much more explicit that he sees and hears things, but this is mostly played for laughs, mostly because of how Martini and the others are unbothered by it.
  • Perpetual Smiler: He likes to smile a lot.

     Max Taber
Played By: Christopher Lloyd

A surly, committed patient who causes the most disruption after McMurphy.

  • Ascended Extra: In the book, Taber was a past patient mentioned a few times by Chief. In the film adaptation, he is a main character on the ward while McMurphy is there.
  • The Bully: Can be abrasive, but seems quiet and reserved when not in those moods.
  • Composite Character: In the film, Taber get's much of his dialogue, personality, and being one of the only patients committed, from Scanlon's character from the book.
  • Large Ham
  • Jerkass: Mostly to Harding.

     Jim Sefelt and Bruce Fredrickson
Played By: William Duell and Vincent Schiavelli

  • Ambiguous Disorder: In the book, they are both epileptic, with Sefelt-who refuses his medication- often having seizures on the ward. In the film, their problem is not stated even with the medication refusal remaining.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: In the book, Fredrickson was talkative and argumentative towards McMurphy and the staff. He also had blond hair.
  • Body Horror: Sefelt refuses to take his medication because it make his hair and teeth fall out. In the book-after a seizure-a couple of his teeth come out with the stick the orderly put in his mouth.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Are very close in spite of the age difference. At the time, Vincent Schiavelli was 27 and William Duell was 52.
  • No Senseof Personal Space: Fredrickson touches and is close to Sefelt a lot of the time, which the older man doesn’t seem to mind.
  • One Head Taller: Fredrickson being played by 6’5 Vincent Schiavelli didn’t help.
  • The Quiet One: Though he is shown whispering to Sefelt at times, Fredrickson talks the least out of all the men there. In the book, Sefelt actually spoke the least.
  • Those Two Guys: contrasting and inseparable.


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