The Bluest Eye

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Cholly Breedlove Character Analysis

Pecola's father, Cholly is a violent and severely damaged man. From a young age Cholly has been free—his mother left him on a trash heap as an infant, and his caretaker dies when he is an adolescent—but his freedom is both isolating and dangerous, allowing him to commit heinous acts without remorse. Early sexual failures and racial violence have also contributed to Cholly's vicious nature, and although Cholly is capable of love, he takes out his anger and frustration on the women in his life. He ultimately rapes Pecola, his own daughter, and then runs away.

Cholly Breedlove Quotes in The Bluest Eye

The The Bluest Eye quotes below are all either spoken by Cholly Breedlove or refer to Cholly Breedlove. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Bluest Eye published in 2007.
Prologue Section 2 Quotes

Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow. A little examination and much less melancholy would have proved to us that our seeds were not the only ones that didn't sprout; nobody's did…It had never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds into his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker), Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove
Related Symbols: Marigolds
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:

The opening paragraph of the novel reveals much about the narrative to come. The first phrase, "quiet as it's kept," signals that the story is set and narrated from within a certain community, and suggests that the coming events are not openly discussed within that community for the sake of maintaining respectability. This hints at the pervasive desire among the characters in the novel to disassociate themselves with behaviors they deem degraded and sinful, behaviors that are often linked (in the novel's American setting) to blackness.

Throughout this passage, there is a tense juxtaposition between the childish naïveté of Claudia, the narrator, and the disturbing mention of rape, incest, and child pregnancy. Claudia at first presents her belief that Pecola's baby caused the marigolds not to grow as unfounded, a matter of childlike "innocence and faith." However, she then suggests that there is a parallel between the marigolds and the baby when she compares Pecola's body to the "unyielding" black dirt where the seeds were planted. This comparison foreshadows Morrison's exploration of the association of blackness, and particularly Pecola's blackness, with undesirability and ugliness.

The phrases "our own little plot of black dirt" and "his own plot of black dirt" introduce the importance of the home and ownership. While on one level they evoke a pleasant suburban scene reminiscent of the Dick and Jane references threaded throughout the narrative, they also highlight the fact that ownership can have a negative side, particularly in the case of men feeling ownership of women.

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Chapter 1 Quotes

Cholly Breedlove, then, a renting black, having put his family outdoors, had catapulted himself beyond the reaches of human consideration. He had joined the animals; was indeed, an old dog, a snake, a ratty nigger.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker), Cholly Breedlove
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Having explained the belief that being "outdoors" is the worst thing that could happen to a person, Claudia describes the community's denunciation of Cholly for putting his family in this position. In the eyes of the community, Cholly is reduced to the status of an animal, and, significantly, is called "a ratty nigger." The use of this racial slur shows that the community in the novel associates shameful behavior with blackness, or at least a particular version of blackness from which it strives to distinguish itself. Indeed, one of the main themes of The Bluest Eyeis the way internalized racism leads people to judge others extra harshly, rather than empathizing with them due to their shared identity and experiences.

Chapter 2 Quotes

The Breedloves lived there, nestled together in the storefront. Festering together in the debris of a realtor's whim. They slipped in and out of the box of peeling grey, making no stir in the neighborhood, no sound in the labor force, and no wave in the mayor's office. Each member of the family in his own cell of consciousness, each making his own patchwork quilt of reality—collecting fragments of experience here, pieces of information there.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove, Samuel Breedlove
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Having introduced the abandoned storefront where the Breedloves live, the unnamed narrator goes on to describe the family themselves. The image the narrator builds is of people who are trapped, dirty, broken, invisible, and in some ways barely human. The word "festering" in particular points to a sense of ugliness and hopelessness, and the phrase "each member of the family in his own cell of consciousness" suggests that the Breedlove's dilapidated residence is closer to a prison than a family home. By invoking animality and imprisonment, the narrator connects the Breedloves' misfortune with many negative stereotypes about African American life. Indeed, although the identity of the narrator remains unknown, the observations here seem to reflect the wider community's impression of the Breedloves and their ghost-like presence in the neighborhood.

Chapter 3 Quotes

[The Breedloves] lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed because they believed they were ugly.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove, Samuel Breedlove
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator explains that the Breedloves do not live in the storefront as a temporary measure while they transition to more appropriate housing—they seem to be there permanently. Although the Breedloves are forced to live there because they are poor and black, the reason they do not try to leave is because they "believed they were ugly." Here the narrator draws a clear contrast between social forces outside of the control of any one individual and the psychic condition produced by these forces that in turn exacerbates their effects. While it would be incorrect to say that the narrator blamesthe Breedloves for their situation, it is clear that in accepting society's negative view of themselves, the Breedloves have forsaken all hope for a better future.

This passage is important because it introduces the notion that ideas about beauty and ugliness have a major impact on the way the world works. Note that the narrator does not say that the Breedloves believed they were wicked or inferior; rather, they simply believe that they are ugly. This is crucial, as throughout the novel Morrison shows that the concept of beauty––and specifically the association of whiteness with beauty and blackness with ugliness––is a highly insidious and effective way of making black people hate themselves and accept their own oppression at the hands of whites.

You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their own conviction.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove, Samuel Breedlove
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has described the Breedloves' facial features, which do not sound particularly strange or grotesque but actually fairly ordinary ("they had high cheekbones, and their eyes turned forward"). The narrator explains that it is not the Breedloves' features themselves that are particularly ugly, but that the "source" of their ugliness is their beliefthat they are ugly. This emphasizes the earlier point that the Breedloves remain stuck in dire circumstances because they are convinced that this is what they deserve. Note that Morrison does not imply that believing in your own beauty is a simple or easy choice; rather, over the course of the novel she implies that it is might be easier for a black girl like Pecola to go mad (as Pecola does) than to contradict the stereotypes of a racist society and convince herself that she is beautiful.

Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove fought each other with a darkly brutal formalism that was paralleled only by their lovemaking. Tacitly they had agreed not to kill each other. He fought her the way a coward fights a man—with feet, the palms of his hands, and teeth. She, in turn, fought back in a purely feminine way—with frying pans and pokers, and occasionally a flatiron would sail toward his head.

Related Characters: Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator describes Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove, Pecola's parents, as deeply unhappy people who fight each other constantly. By describing the "formalism" of both their fights and their lovemaking, the narrator shows that there is a predictable choreography to their life together. This reinforces the idea that there is a sense of inevitability to the Breedloves' miserable existence, with no hope of change. The narrator's description of Cholly's cowardly way of fighting also links to Cholly's emasculation as a child, when his first sexual experience was interrupted by white men.

Meanwhile, the narrator's use of the word "feminine" to describe Mrs. Breedlove's fighting style is somewhat humorous, as whacking someone with a frying pan or poker is not necessarily behavior typically associated with femininity. On the other hand, the reference to femininity reflects the fact that Mrs. Breedlove roots her identity firmly in the domestic sphere; later in the novel, the narrator reveals that Mrs. Breedlove finds solace in the housework she performed early in her and Cholly's marriage and later for the white family who employs her.

What did love feel like? she wondered. How do grownups act when they love each other? Eat fish together? Into her eyes came the picture of Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove in bed. He making sounds as through he were in pain, as though something had him by the throat and wouldn't let go. Terrible as his noises were, they were not nearly as bad as the no noise at all from her mother. It was as though she was not even there. Maybe that was love. Choking sounds and silence.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Pecola is visiting the prostitutes who live above her family, and has asked them questions about being in love and having children. Pecola appears fixated with the concept of love, seemingly because she has no real experience of it and doesn't understand what it is like. She thinks of her parents having sex, during which Cholly makes sounds as if he is in pain, and Mrs. Breedlove stays silent, and Pecola wonders if love consists of "choking sounds and silence." Although a rather horrifying definition of love, tragically this actually foreshadows Pecola's first experience of sex, when her father rapes her. In a broader sense, it connects to the fact that all the women in The Bluest Eyehave relationships with men that are at best dissatisfying and at worst violent and harmful.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Sullen, irritable, he cultivated his hatred of Darlene. Never once did he consider directing his hatred toward the hunters. Such an emotion would have destroyed him. They were big, white, armed men. He was small, black, and helpless. 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…For now, he hated the one who had created the situation, the one who bore witness to his failure, his impotence.

Related Characters: Cholly Breedlove
Page Number: 148-149
Explanation and Analysis:

This section of the novel is devoted to describing Cholly's history, including his first sexual experience. What began as an innocent and positive interaction between Cholly and a young black girl called Darlene turns sour and violent when the couple are discovered by a pair of white men, who force them to keep having sex while the men watch and taunt them. This episode comes to define Cholly as a person, instilling in him a deep sense of shame and self-contempt, along with a lifelong violent hatred of women.

This passage explains Cholly's seemingly illogical reaction of blaming himself and especially Darlene for the incident instead of resenting the white men for their sadistic actions. The narrator explains that it would have been impossible for Cholly to direct his anger at the white men precisely because they are so much more powerful than him, and his inevitable powerlessness in the face of their domination would thus have "burned him up." Morrison uses this passage to show how white people's oppression of black men can evolve into a cycle of cruelty and violence in which black men misdirect their pain, inflicting it on the black women around them.

His soul seemed to slip down into his guts and fly into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made—a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat. Like the rapid loss of air from a circus balloon.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

Cholly has arrived home so drunk that he is barely able to recognize his surroundings. He approaches Pecola, who is washing dishes, and rapes her. Pecola is so shocked that she remains rigidly still and silent, only making a sound when Cholly ejaculates. This sound connects to Pecola's earlier observation that, when her parents have sex, the only thing she can hear is silence and choking noises––leading her to associate these sounds with sex and love.

In this passage, the sound Pecola makes is compared to a rapidly deflating balloon, implying that her whole self has been instantly crushed and hollowed by the rape. This is juxtaposed with the description of Cholly's soul "fly[ing] into her," suggesting that all the misery and trauma of Cholly's life––trauma that itself originated in an act of sexual violence––has been transferred to his daughter.

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Cholly Breedlove Character Timeline in The Bluest Eye

The timeline below shows where the character Cholly Breedlove appears in The Bluest Eye. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue Section 2
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...believe that the flowers did not bloom because Pecola had been raped by her father, Cholly, and was pregnant with his baby. Although the community believes the baby would be better... (full context)
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...was unyielding, and that their hopes of saving the baby were just as futile as Cholly's lust for his own child. In the end of the passage, the narrator states that... (full context)
Chapter 1
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...to stay with the MacTeers. The county places Pecola with the MacTeers because her father, Cholly, burned their house down. Claudia explains that Cholly put the family "outdoors", which is different... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The Breedloves move into the storefront after Cholly gets out of jail for setting their previous residence on fire. They live anonymously inside... (full context)
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...reaction in the Breedloves. The couch in particular is a source of pain and anger. Cholly believed the couch was new when he bought it, but it arrives with a giant... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...statement as true. For the Breedloves, every billboard, movie, and glance supports this statement. While Cholly is the only family member whose ugliness is derived from his own actions, the other... (full context)
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...hears pots and pans clanging together, and perceives her mother's ruckus as a threat to Cholly, who came home drunk the night before. Every time Cholly comes home drunk, a fight... (full context)
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Eventually, Mrs. Breedlove comes back into the bedroom and attempts to wake Cholly. She tells him the stove needs coal. Cholly opens his eyes, which are red and... (full context)
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The narrator explains that even though Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove constantly fight, they depend on each other to maintain their individual identities.... (full context)
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...don't." Eventually, Mrs. Breedlove inevitably sneezes, and as she promised, she starts the fight with Cholly by throwing a glass of cold water in his face. Cholly rises from bed naked... (full context)
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...feels like, and thinks of her parents when they have sex. During the sexual act, Cholly makes awful noises like he is in pain, and Mrs. Breedlove remains completely quiet as... (full context)
Chapter 7
...in her life, she is grateful, but not surprised. The man, later revealed to be Cholly, approaches Pauline on the hottest day of the year, with yellow eyes and flaring nostrils.... (full context)
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At first, Pauline and Cholly love each other. Cholly finds Pauline's simple country ways and naivety toward life in the... (full context)
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In her loneliness, Pauline becomes more dependent on Cholly. He begins to resent her for clinging to him, and spending more and more time... (full context)
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...by how dirty the family is as she cleans their house and clothing. One day Cholly goes to the house and demands money. Both Pauline and Cholly leave after the woman... (full context)
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One winter, Pauline discovers she is pregnant. Cholly is delighted by the news and begins drinking less and coming home more often. After... (full context)
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...her tooth. She no longer does her hair, and just accepts that she is ugly. Cholly pokes fun at Pauline's missing tooth, and they begin fighting the way they did before... (full context)
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...to church. Pauline takes on the role of a martyr during this time. She enables Cholly's immoral activities, which allows her to feel morally superior, "[bearing] him like a crown of... (full context)
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Pauline and Cholly's marriage grows increasingly worse. She continues using her Christian virtue to feel superior to him,... (full context)
Chapter 8
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An unnamed narrator details Cholly's childhood. At four days old, Cholly's mother abandons him on a junk heap. His Great... (full context)
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After four years of school, Cholly gets the courage to ask Aunt Jimmy what his father's name was. She tells him... (full context)
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Two years later, Cholly quits school and takes a job at Tyson's Feed and Grain Store. At work he... (full context)
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One July 4th, Cholly and Blue Jack are at a church picnic. The father of one of the families... (full context)
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...she still doesn't recover. Eventually, they decide to fetch a local medicine woman named M'Dear. Cholly is surprised when he sees M'Dear. He expected a decrepit old woman, but M'Dear stands... (full context)
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...Aunt Jimmy drinks only pot liquor and improves. Her friends spend time with her, and Cholly listens to them as they talk nostalgically about the pain they have endured during their... (full context)
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...diet M'Dear prescribed to her. That night she dies. During the days after her death, Cholly does not immediately grieve her death. He receives a great deal of attention, food, a... (full context)
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After the funeral, Aunt Jimmy's family and friends gather at her house. Cholly finds his cousin, Jake, outside of the house. Jake offer's Cholly a rolled cigarette, but... (full context)
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Jake eventually persuades a girl named, Suky, to walk around with him. After Suky agrees, Cholly turns to another girl, Darlene, and tells her to come along. They walk to a... (full context)
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Cholly feels sorry for Darlene and tries to help her tie the bow on her dress.... (full context)
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Over the next few days, Cholly doesn't go far from the house, for fear of seeing Darlene. He continues to cultivate... (full context)
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Cholly works odd jobs as he makes his way toward Macon until he's saved enough money... (full context)
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In shock after the incident with his father, Cholly exits the alleyway and his legs give way. He takes a seat on a crate... (full context)
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After this experience, Cholly finds himself dangerously free. He is free to sleep in doorways, sleep with women, beat... (full context)
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On a Saturday afternoon, Cholly staggers home drunk. He finds Pecola at the sink washing dishes. As he watches her... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...with her father's baby. Pecola's mother beat her when she found out what happened, and Cholly run's away. Some community members believe Pecola is to blame for the horrible situation. Some... (full context)
Chapter 11
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The topic of their conversation then turns to Cholly. Pecola's imaginary friend suggests that Mrs. Breedlove ignores Pecola because she misses Cholly. When Pecola... (full context)
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...correctly. Pecola moves with her mother to the edge of town, Sammy runs away, and Cholly dies in a workhouse. Claudia believes the community, including herself, has dumped their garbage on... (full context)
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Claudia believes that the Maginot Line and Cholly loved Pecola, but love is only as good as the person giving it. Cholly's love... (full context)