One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


Cast of Characters

Chief Bromden (also called Chief Broom): the narrator of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He is a physically huge, half Native-American man who, due to a decade of excessive electroshock treatments and the dehumanizing conditions of the hospital, perceives himself as much smaller and weaker than he actually is. He pretends to be deaf and mute in an effort to escape notice. Through his friendship with McMurphy, Chief gradually regains his self-respect and strength.

Randle Patrick McMurphy (also called Mack): the protagonist of the novel. McMurphy is a loud, bold man, a self-professed gambler and womanizer. Thinking that the psychiatric hospital will be an easier way to serve out his sentence than the Pendleton Work Farm, McMurphy feigns insanity. His brash, rebellious presence on the ward has a revitalizing effect on the previously docile patients as he stands up against Nurse Ratched in an ongoing battle of wills.

Nurse Ratched (also called The Big Nurse): the antagonist of the novel and symbol of the dehumanizing forces of an oppressive society. Ratched is a former Army nurse who rules the ward with an iron fist, deliberately intimidating and shaming her patients until they are too weak to rebel against her tyranny.

Billy Bibbit: a baby-faced, thirty-year-old patient with a severe stutter. He is shy and sweet and continually in fear of his domineering mother, who is a personal friend of Nurse Ratched. After Nurse Ratched threatens to tell Billy’s mother about his losing his virginity with a prostitute toward the end of the novel, Billy kills himself. His suicide marks the climax of the novel, as McMurphy can no longer bear the vicious and devastating cruelty embodied by Nurse Ratched and attempts to strangle her to death.

Dale Harding: a patient on the ward. Harding is a clever, witty man, respected by the other patients for his intelligence and college-level education. He often explains the inner workings of the...

Sign up to continue reading Cast of Characters >

Essays About One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest