The reason the eNotes summary for Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock provides little information on the character of Colleoni is because the mob boss’s presence is felt well-beyond the sporadic instances of his actual appearance. Colleoni’s presence looms over much of the proceedings, as Pinkie, “the boy,” is both revolted by and hopes to emulate the more successful, refined gangster. Unlike the still-in-the-gutter Pinkie, Colleoni has carved out a role for himself in Britain’s violent underworld, and now resides in the post Cosmopolitan Hotel, where Pinkie is summoned to meet with him. Discussing with Dallow the summons from the more powerful gangster, Pinkie responds to his associate’s query regarding his intention of going to the Cosmopolitan:
“The Cosmopolitan,” Dallow repeated with disgust. “You won’t go, will you?”
“Of course I’ll go.”
“It’s not the sort of place you’d feel at home.”
“Elegant,” the Boy said, “like his notepaper. Costs a lot of money. He thinks he can scare me.”
Pinkie goes to the hotel, and is immediately assaulted by the constant images of ostentatiousness on display, and Greene’s narrative continues to reflect Pinkie’s uneducated, coarse demeanor, referencing women as “bitches” and then describing Colleoni’s entrance:
“Mr. Colleoni came across an acre of deep carpet from the Louis Seize writing room, walking on tiptoe in glazed shoes. He was small with neat round belly; he wore a grey double-breasted waistcoat, and his eyes gleamed like raisons. . .The little bitches on the settee stopped talking as he passed and concentrated. He clinked very softly as he moved; it was the only sound.”
Greene’s depiction of Colleoni is intended to portray this gangster with utter contempt. He is something to be reviled and ridiculed despite his profession. For a street hood like Pinkie, Colleoni is barely a man. Just as apparent, however, is that Colleoni’s success serves as a model for the mob boss wannabe. That Pinkie perceives Colleoni as condescending towards him only fuels the flames of hatred he holds for this mob boss, and the visible trappings of success he views during his meeting at the Cosmopolitan give something for which to aim as he continues his efforts at increasing his strength in the London underworld.
Colleoni, as noted, does not have a large role in Brighton Rock in terms of physical appearances. His role is huge, however, in that he represents a challenge, a role model, and a foil from whom Pinkie can learn a few things.