There are two different methods authors use in order to define the character of a character (within a text).
First, an author can use direct characterization. In direct characterization, the author tells the reader exactly what the character is like (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Readers do not need to figure anything out about the character at all. The author provides everything the reader needs to know.
Second, an author can use indirect characterization. In indirect characterization, an author gives readers hints about the character through his or her private thoughts, actions, dialogue, or dialogue about the character provided by other characters. Here, readers must make inferences (educated guesses) about the character.
Direct Characterization of Cholly:
"That old Dog Breedlove had burned up his house, gone upside his wife's head." Here, Cholly is directly called a brute. He has burned down his house and beaten his wife. This is a very direct characterization, telling readers exactly what kind of man Cholly is. Another direct characterization quote is as follows: "Cholly, whose ugliness (the result of despair, dissipation, and violence directed toward petty things and weak people) was behaviour." Again, readers are told exactly what kind of person Cholly is.
Indirect Characterization of Cholly:
"Dangerously free." By using this phrase to describe Cholly, Morrison forces readers to analyze what this actually means. One can determine what kind of person he is based upon his choice of actions. Cholly, without regard of consequences, acts without true concern. His ability to be free (not watched over by anyone) is dangerous (because his actions are not challenged or questioned).