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I have played through Portal and found several references that somewhat point to the fact that Chell may be an android.

  • GlaDOS says "Well done android..."

  • and "Android Hell is a real place where you will be sent..."

  • Chell does not say anything like Atlas and P-Body. (this may be excused by her brain damage due to suspension)

  • Chell is an "orphan" and there by has no record of parents or family.

  • Cave Johnson says that the repulsion gel does not interact well with the human skeleton, but Chell gets covered in it and appears to be fine.

  • The Moon Rock gel is supposed to be extremely toxic since it appears to be killing Cave Johnson. Again Chell is covered in it and is fine.

So, is Chell an android?

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I assumed she'll suffer ill effects later in life from the experiments ... and she can be knocked unconscious, which seems like a biological thing. – Matthew Read Nov 6 '11 at 4:01
Chell only has brain damage if Gordon Freeman has brain damage; they're silent for the same reason: they're the protagonists of valve games. – Raven Dreamer Nov 6 '11 at 5:00
One of the more interesting theories I've read (which I actually believe due to a lot of evidence) suggests that Chell is Cave and GLaDOS's (well Caroline's) child. Look it up if you find that kind of thing interesting. – Mr Smooth Nov 6 '11 at 12:58
For some reason, this morning I read the question (in the "Hot Questions" list) as "Is Chell on Android?"... – Izkata Nov 6 '11 at 18:26
@RavenDreamer - I prefer the idea that Chell is silent because it annoys GLaDOS. "Eric Wolpaw has stated that Chell probably can speak, but refuses to do so in order to avoid giving GLaDOS the satisfaction of a response." – Steve V. Nov 8 '11 at 17:46
up vote 17 down vote accepted

No, I doubt it. Regarding the first two, in the training chamber you go through, Glados states that the normal Chamber 16 is down for maintenance, so Chell instead is put through a training course for military androids (which is why there are so many turrets in there.) Those lines are simply her trying to manipulate the androids that normally navigate said chambers.

As far as the last couple go, the Moon Rock gel probably didn't kill Cave johnson in a single day. It's more likely prolonged exposure that gave him said poisoning. The repulsion gel is a bit less clear, but perhaps it was a prototype version that "does not like the human skeleton", or maybe Chell's somehow immune to it. For example, IIRC we know Chell's the only one out of however many humans put into stasis to actually survive, she's not exactly an ordinary test subject. It's not completely explained, but there's various possibilities.

Finally, there's plenty of things Glados says that point to Chell being human. For example, she was put into stasis like a human, and certain comments (like the ones about her being fat or Glados mocking her about being an orphan) just wouldn't make sense if she was an android. Not to mention, I believe that in the one room with the various potato batteries children made in Portal 2, one of them is marked as Chell's, which would undoubtably prove she's just a normal human. So, long story short, there's no real reason to believe Chell's an android, and plenty of evidence to the contrary.

And one more point that I almost forgot.

What kind of android can eat cake?

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Regarding repulsion gel: It's worth noting that the repulsion gel wasn't exactly rubbed all over Chell's skeleton, and that the game ended within hours of her being exposed to it. – doppelgreener Nov 6 '11 at 6:10
Chell surviving stasis is explained just fine in the Ratman comic. – doppelgreener Nov 6 '11 at 6:11
Being covered in the Repulsion Gel would make the person bounce violently all over the place if they touched anything with more impact. Chell could use the boots in order to control what she touched and when. It's no stranger than the way she always fall on her feet. – Wilerson Nov 6 '11 at 11:59
(To the "What kind of android eats cake?") Chell never eats cake so the argument is invalid. – m.n.wiser Nov 7 '11 at 0:28
Yes, but if Chell couldn't eat cake, then why was Glados promising it in the first place? The fact that the cake was promised means that theoretically Chell could eat it! – Nicholas1024 Nov 7 '11 at 1:35

Chell is probably not an android.

The first two mentions of androids ("Well done android" and the reference to Android Hell) are probably not there because she is an android, and more likely because that test chamber is the "live fire course for military androids" and GlaDOS is saying the lines she would say to actual androids that were made to run the course.

Chell probably says nothing because she is a silent protagonist, like Gordon Freeman, whose Half Life games take place in the same universe as the portal games. In addition, Atlas and P-Body are not silent; they make noises when you make gestures and possibly at other times.

Chell is most likely an orphan because GlaDOS killed her parents. In Portal 2, in the room in which you first see potatoes in that game, the project with the potato that has grown freakishly large is signed by Chell, as shown in the screenshot following this paragraph. This matches with the theory on the Half Life wiki that she was visiting Aperture Science for Bring Your Daughter to Work Day when GlaDOS took over, and that Chell was among those GlaDOS trapped there.

Chell's potato project

The fact that the gel does not harm Chell can then be best explained by gameplay-story segregation. This is evidence that she may not be a normal human, but all of the other evidence points to her being a human. Also, as Nicholas pointed out, Cave Johnson died due to prolonged exposure to the Moon Rock Gel, and even with the significant exposure Chell has, the game is not long enough to see what long term effect it actually has on her.

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The other answers haven't completely addressed these two points, which I'll do here:

Cave Johnson says that the repulsion gel does not interact well with the human skeleton, but Chell gets covered in it and appears to be fine.

Cave Johnson is a funny guy, he uses lots of euphemisms that show his callous disregard for human safety in his experiments. Here's a list of his quotes. The actual quotes about repulsion gel and skeleton are here:

"Oh, in case you got covered in that repulsion gel, here's some advice the lab boys gave me: DO NOT get covered in the repulsion gel."

"We haven't entirely nailed down what element it is yet, but I'll tell you this: It's a lively one, and it does NOT like the human skeleton."

If you interpret that literally, you might think there's some dangerous reaction when the gel comes in contact with the human skeleton, or something along those lines, but Cave Johnson is actually talking only about being covered in it. Also, knowing how he talks, the "not liking the human skeleton" part is a euphemism for you will bounce uncontrollably and break all your bones! This can be demonstrated in the game if you cover objects like cubes in the gel - even from a resting position, they start bouncing up uncontrollably. From the wiki:

Objects such as Storage Cubes and Turrets can be covered in Repulsion Gel, which causes them to bounce around erratically.

For Chell this is no problem most likely for gameplay reasons.

By the way, here is something Cave Johnson says before all this:

"You're not part of the control group, by the way. You get the gel. Last poor son of a gun got blue paint. Hahaha. All joking aside, that did happen - broke every bone in his legs. Tragic. But informative. Or so I'm told."

The reference to breaking leg bones does two things: it reassures the player that she is safe because she has that Advanced Knee Replacement, and also it tells you what Cave Johnson is getting at with the "skeleton" part.

The Moon Rock gel is supposed to be extremely toxic since it appears to be killing Cave Johnson. Again Chell is covered in it and is fine.

Apart from the short duration of the game which others have mentioned, one theory is that Cave Johnson is dying from silicosis via inhalation of moon rock dust:

"The bean counters told me we literally could not afford to buy seven dollars worth of moon rocks, much less seventy million. Bought 'em anyway. Ground 'em up, mixed em into a gel."

"And guess what? Ground up moon rocks are pure poison. I am deathly ill."

From here, two assumptions can be made:

  • Only moon dust is dangerous, and not moon gel. Chell only comes in contact with the gel form.
  • If we don't take Cave Johnson literally (an easy thing to do) when he says "pure poison", then silicosis is a likely explanation since in real life, moon rocks are just regular rocks. And again, silicosis requires inhalation of dust, which isn't present with the gel.
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