MacDougal is on a sabbatical from Yale, writing a book on Native Americans and the last days of the Old West, and he is very much an East Coast turn-of-the-century man; although learned academically, he is demonstrably naïve and smallminded, and his behavior towards the local Natives demonstrates his significant ignorance of their culture that allows for multiple displays of prejudice and bigotry; he is unwilling to accept the "savages" as normal human beings despite taking blood samples that showed that the Natives were the same as other humans. He is also largely incompetent in practical matters, most notably in quelling the Native tensions that turned many to violence and banditry in Dutch's Gang, a trait which draws disdain among his acquaintances including John Marston and Nastas.
While in Yale, Harold was introduced to cocaine, a drug that he abuses throughout the story, which exacerbates his nervous personality and causes him to have insomnia. It has been speculated that his 'sabbatical' from Yale might have been forced as a result of cocaine addiction. He is an optimist who loves the American way of life and speaks in large metaphors at times. MacDougal serves as an archetypically ignorant and impotent academic whose 'book' intelligence is rendered useless in the environment of the Old West.
A newspaper talks about how he savagely attacked another man at Yale. It mentions a rumor that he apparently tried to get the groundskeeper to cut the top of his scalp off so he could see a living human brain. At some point, he was discredited because he didn't understand evolution.
Events of Red Dead Redemption
When John Marston and Archer Fordham retrieve Nastas from Dutch's trap at the Wreck of the Serendipity, they drop him off at Professor MacDougal's hotel room to recover. Edgar Ross then instructs Marston to pay him a visit later.
When John Marston visits MacDougal again, he finds him comparing blood samples of, in his opinion, the 'savage' Native Americans and the 'civilized' white man. After observing them, he is absolutely shocked to see that they are exactly the same. Nastas then enters, and MacDougal tries to communicate with sign language and metaphors, but Nastas responds to him by speaking in a perfectly normal manner. Nastas claims to know the location of Dutch Van Der Linde, and both Marston and MacDougal follow Nastas into Tall Trees, where MacDougal rides back to Blackwater, obviously frightened. After Marston gets knocked out, Nastas runs up the mountain and carries him back to MacDougal, where he revives him with smelling salts. MacDougal claims that he and Nastas carried Marston back, but after an angry glare from Nastas, he reveals Nastas carried Marston down, and he planned the escape.
When John Marston encounters MacDougal again, Nastas arranges a meeting with Dutch's men at Bearclaw Camp. On the way, they encounter a bear, and MacDougal, horrified, shoots the bear, which, in turn, makes the bear angry. When it attacks, Marston kills the bear before it could do any damage. Nastas then says that the bear meant no harm and would not have attacked if MacDougal had not shot first. The meeting with Dutch does not go very well as Nastas is shot after being called a traitor. The professor cowers in fear as Marston fights Dutch's men, and the two of them escape back to Blackwater. During the escape trip, MacDougal is saddened that Nastas was killed, thinking he was "a brilliant savage companion".
Marston next finds him packing in a hurried state, repeatedly calling the natives "Fucking savages!", and aiming to take the next train back to Yale. Dutch van der Linde approaches his house from the street, telling John to send MacDougal outside so that they may show him their own method of 'Anthropology'. Marston and MacDougal escape via the rooftops, but Dutch has snipers all over the town. After a battle, Marston and MacDougal get on their horses and run full speed to the train station at Manzanita Post. Marston, along the way, kills any of Dutch's men trying to pursue them.
When they reach the station, MacDougal thanks Marston for his help. He shakes his hand but gives up and gives him a hug before boarding the train. He is not seen again for the rest of the game.
MacDougal succeeds in returning to Yale University. In 1914, MacDougal is caught beating Professor Lionel Fortisque, a fellow scholar, on the head with a croquet mallet before climbing a building completely naked and demanding fine food and drink. He is in a drunken state and is then kicked out from the university. The newspaper article detailing this event emphasizes the "savagery" of the attack; an ironic choice of words, since MacDougal accuses Native Americans of being savages. In a newspaper article, it is believed that Harold requested to have the top of his head opened to photograph a living brain.
Events of Undead Nightmare
Note: The events of Undead Nightmare are not considered part of the same canon as Red Dead Redemption. The following description is therefore not contiguous with the preceding section on Red Dead Redemption.
MacDougal appears in the mission "Curious Tales from Blackwater". John Marston happens to encounter the professor while looking for survivors in the overrun town of Blackwater, to which MacDougal claims to have returned for "more research". Marston attempts to ascertain the nature of the plague through the professor, to which he replies he doesn't have "a fucking clue." Seeing as MacDougal is unarmed, John implores the frightened professor to stay with him, to which he agrees on the condition that Marston allows him to wander down a lonely, deserted road to get his bags, which he left with Nastas. MacDougal is able to manage a few paces before being assaulted and devoured by the undead Nastas. Marston has the choice to kill both of them afterwards. However, due to the presence of more Undead in the streets, it may be wiser to simply outrun them, get a vantage point, and plan your next move.
- Red Dead Redemption
- "Bear One Another's Burdens"
- "At Home With Dutch"
- "For Purely Scientific Purposes"
- "The Prodigal Son Returns (To Yale)"
- Undead Nightmare
Red Dead Redemption
|“||You know, I dreamt of documenting the last days of the Old West. The romance, the honor, the nobility! But it turns out it's just people killing each other.||„|
|“||I don't want a bullet in my flippin' neck!||„|
|“||Species don't die, they evolve. Hunting, in time, will make the buffalo stronger.||„|
|—Harold MacDougal arguing with Nastas about buffalos|
|“||I'm from Connecticut. I'm a professor at Yale! I write books! I do not deserve to die out here!||„|
|“||Ah, but they'll give me a prize in New Haven for this. Well, they bloody better. Well...goodbye, Mr. Marston.||„|
|“||Look Mr. Marston! Buffalo! What a noble beast!||„|
|—Harold after seeing a buffalo|
|“||Best of luck, dear friend.||„|
|—Harold MacDougal to John Marston|
|“||Well, sir, I'm a man of science, a man of great learning, a thinker, a wise man and I'll be honest with you, sir... I haven't got a fucking clue.||„|
|—Harold MacDougal in Undead Nightmare|
|“||Affirmative, a couple of minutes.||„|
|—Harold MacDougal's last words in Undead Nightmare|
- One of his books appears in Red Dead Redemption 2 during the mission Help a Brother Out.
- MacDougal has a terribly inaccurate understanding of natural selection. MacDougal demonstrates his misunderstanding after noticing a Buffalo hunt. Nastas comments correctly that the Buffalo will be hunted to extinction if the westerners do not stop hunting at the rate they are. MacDougal responds "Species don't die, they evolve. Hunting, in time, will make the buffalo stronger."
- MacDougal is a fairly realistic depiction of early pseudoscientific "arm chair" anthropology, as practiced by individuals such as Paolo Mantegazza. During the time period, the discipline saw an overhaul of the anthropological method by academics such as Franz Boas, E.B. Tylor, and Bronislaw Malinowski.
- While MacDougal is extremely bigoted and prejudiced against Native Americans in general, he does show some redeeming qualities in that he greatly respects Nastas, going so far as to publish a touching obituary for his faithful Indian friend after Nastas' death in the Blackwater Ledger in 1914.
- If the player doesn't kill MacDougal when he initially turns into a zombie, at some point they will find him among a horde of undead, oftentimes while clearing out Blackwater.