Absolutely Nothing: The Problem with Cholly Breedlove
Humans sometimes become infatuated with certain emotions, to the point of letting these emotions control them: a single force such as anger drives their motives and controls who they become. Anger, in particular, is a belligerent and dangerous emotion because it paves the way for so many hostile acts. In the novel The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, we are introduced to the epitome of a dangerously angry man. Cholly Breedlove was a character created through pain and hardships, from a young boy abandoned by his mother to a grown man who never learned to love or be loved. Morrison sculpts the perfect statue of a man, cold as stone and with one emotion: Anger. Through Cholly’s anger; flowed disdain, resentment and hatred; a lethal combination of feelings. Through the pages of the story, Cholly morphs from a young and innocent boy, to a teen scorned by embarrassment and rejection, to a grown man who eventually feels nothing. He is numb. Morrison brilliantly exploits Cholly’s character to inflict the themes of anger and numbness; emotions that ultimately changes Cholly from a sad boy to an angry teen to a numb man.
Childhood experiences may fade with time but the effects can last a lifetime. Subconsciously a person’s childhood experiences act as a foundation for who they will be. In the case of Cholly Breedlove his first life changing childhood experience came as early as four days old when his mother wrapped him in a blanket and threw him away. Although far too young to recollect or even comprehend what happened to him, the act of abandonment would somehow be etched into his being. It would become a part of who he is. The boy whose mother threw him away. Saved and raised by his great aunt Jimmy, Cholly had a constant reminder of the horrendous and selfish act of the woman that was supposed to care for him. A child should never have to endure the sadness and rejection of a parent, it is soul crushing and degrading. Consequentially beliefs that there is something wrong with them and sudden feelings of worthlessness and abandonment burden the heart and mind of someone so innocent. Cholly was saved by his aunt but she did not save him from the pain of rejection, only death. He was raised but he was never healed and sometimes the burden was too heavy to bare which can be proven through the quote, “then he wondered if it would have been just as well to have died there. Down in the rim of a tire under a soft black Georgia sky.” (133.) Young Cholly’s grief is abundant in this quote. The quote expresses his sadness through his consideration of death. Innocent or not, Cholly suffered the pains of a broken heart at a very young age.
Purity, innocence and cleanliness are all the factors associated with virginity. It is a quality that every person will eventually lose. It is purely natural but when such a beautiful act is obstructed by mortification and shame the outcome is never good. In the Spring chapters of The Bluest Eye, Cholly loses his virtue to a young girl name Darlene. This experience washed away the innocence of Cholly’s younger years and replaced it with hatred and anger. Devils in disguise: two white men would force the two young children to fornicate as they watched, forcing Cholly and Darlene to finish in front of them. With every stroke anger rose within the young and innocent boy that was once Cholly. His emotions are portrayed perfectly in the quote, “Cholly, moving faster, looked at Darlene. He hated her. He almost wished he could do it- hard, long and painfully, he hated her so much.” (Morrison, 148.) The tone of the quote alone allowed a certain sense of anger. It described Cholly’s desire to punish someone, to hurt them the way he hurt. This quote portrayed the anger and rage he felt for the white men that had so willingly mortified him but subconsciously Cholly projected his hate for the men onto Darlene. He could not hate those men, they were strong and scary and the fact that this story was set in the time of racism only made it even more impossible. His subconscious knowledge is demonstrated in the quote, “His subconscious knew what his conscious mind did not guess- that hating them would have consumed him, burned him up like a piece of soft coal, leaving only flakes of ash and a question mark of smoke.” (151.) This quote explained the hopelessness of Cholly allowing himself to take on enemies he could never defeat. Baring a hatred for white men, untouchable men would only have destroyed Cholly and no one else. He could never avenge his self against white men so instead he hated the one person he could. Darlene not only black just like him but also a woman, was easier to hate. She was weaker, less threatening and the only other person to bore witness of his indignity.
Insecurities are created through bad experiences, embarrassing moments, and painful memories; it is just this process that forms (or rather de-forms) Cholly. As Cholly grew the abandonment of his mother and the mortification of losing his virginity never seemed to subside. With nothing left to lose Cholly set out to find his father. Young and alone he went searching for the only person he may have left. He did not know his father but his aunt had told him a bit about him in his younger years. The young man left home in search for a man he may never find in an act of desperation. He was alone and afraid but little did he know his father would not help his current situation. Cholly found his father but his search ended with the horrid image of him crawled into fetal position beside a river bank with soiled pants, like a baby waiting for his mother to come and change him. But no one would come and no one would change him he was on his own. He was free.
Yet there is a dark side to such apparent freedom. Cholly is a free man now, able to do whatever he wants, to be whoever he wants but when Morrison refers to him as “free” it is not as literal as one might think. Cholly’s freedom did not come from being reckless or adventurous it came from relief. The word freedom symbolized Cholly’s emotional state. After so many hardships and so much anger Cholly had finally went numb. He could no longer feel the hurt that he felt as a young boy or the anger he felt as a teen. He was liberated, he was free, he was numb. The reckless behavior, the drinking and even the rape of his own child was a result of a man who no longer cared. Not because he had no reason to stop but because he couldn’t feel the burden of his action or the pain they dealt. Cholly was free to burn down his own house to start a family and destroy each member, one by one and yet he felt nothing. His screwed up way of loving was perfectly depicted in the quote, “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe.” (206.) This quote from the last chapter of the novel explained that love can only be as good as the person giving it. In Cholly’s case his love was as painful as the love he’d received and as sad and angry as he had felt. His love was free, a reflection of him it inflicted all his pain and sadness until it became a heart-rending and numbing love.
Toni Morrison chiseled away at the statue of a man that was Cholly Breedlove until there was nothing left of him. She gave life to his character, through pain, anger and grief until there was nothing left but a drunk who could feel nothing. Numb and unsusceptible to pain, Cholly deviated from human decency to become a broken man. His mind was broken, his heart was broken, and even his love was broken. Overall, Morrison brilliantly exploited Cholly’s character while inflicting the themes of anger and numbness and these emotions changed him drastically. From sad, to angry, to absolutely nothing.
Symbolism in literary works is used when one thing is meant to represent something else, in order to create meaning and emotion. In the first part of Dante Alighieri’s three-part […]
Sam Mendes’ American Beauty (1999) is a good example of melodrama’s presence within the modern American film industry. Its moments of comedy and tragedy are a result of its essential […]
In order to truly love, one must be open and vulnerable with another person. James Baldwin’s prolific novel, Giovanni’s Room, depicts a young American man whose inability to be intimate […]
Societal expectations motivate the characters of Jane Austen’s Emma. Because societal perception plays such a large role in the lives of these characters, many concern themselves with how they should […]
To read Proust carefully is like looking closely at your own pupil. Curiosity pushes you up to the mirror so close that eventually the tool of perception itself is ineffective. […]
In the poem ‘The Map Woman’, Carol Ann Duffy uses the extended metaphor of a map being printed on a woman’s body to explore ideas surrounding hometowns, childhood and nostalgia. […]
Scientists often call the first few weeks of life for a duckling the “sensitive period” due to the uniqueness of this time. During these weeks, the duckling’s mind is the […]
While Moses Herzog sits in the Chicago police station after he has crashed his rental car, the narrator of Saul Bellow’s work exclaims angrily, “See Moses? We don’t know one […]
Through history, civilizations and cities have typically put men in positions of authority, showing their dominance in society and giving them all the power. Ancient Sumeria was a refreshing sight […]
Humans sometimes become infatuated with certain emotions, to the point of letting these emotions control them: a single force such as anger drives their motives and controls who they become. […]