Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1538
Chapter 8 (Seefatherheisbigandstrongfatherwillyouplaywithjanefatheris smilingsmilefathersmilesmile)
Aunt Jimmy: the aunt of Cholly’s mother, who had abandoned Cholly right after he was born; raised Cholly herself
Blue Jack: an old man who worked at the feed store with Cholly; he used to entertain Cholly with stories
M’Dear: a respected midwife who also prescribed home remedies for the ladies of the town
O. V.: Aunt Jimmy’s brother
Jake: an older cousin who tries to pick up girls with Cholly
Darlene: Cholly’s first girlfriend
Samson Fuller: Cholly’s father
Cholly was raised by Jimmy, his great aunt. His mother had left him by a railroad track, and when Aunt Jimmy found out about it, she beat Cholly’s mother (her own niece) and took the baby away from her. Aunt Jimmy named Cholly after her own brother, rather than his father, because “ain’t no Samson [Fuller] ever come to no good end.” Cholly had a pleasant childhood and fondly remembered Blue Jack, a man who used to tell him stories while he worked in a feed store. Blue Jack became a father figure to Cholly, which was something that Cholly would appreciate later in life.
Aunt Jimmy died while Cholly was a young adolescent. At the funeral, Cholly meets one of his distant cousins, a fifteen-year-old named Jake. Jake and Cholly decide to look for some girls while the reception is going on, and Cholly meets a young girl named Darlene. Darlene and Cholly go off into the woods and talk with each other. The talking soon turns into kissing, and the two young lovers begin to undress each other. However, two white hunters find them in the grass, and as Cholly begins to pull up his pants, one of the hunters points his gun at him, and orders Cholly to continue, adding that Cholly had better “make it good.” Cholly is unable to do anything because of fear, so he fakes having sex with Darlene, at the same time hating the girl for seeing him like this. The hunters get bored and leave, and Cholly and Darlene also walk home in the rain.
After the incident, Cholly is afraid that Darlene will become pregnant. He cannot even tell Blue Jack about his problems; he feels that the only person who might understand is his real father, since he had also made a girl pregnant and abandoned her. He decides to travel to Macon and find Samson Fuller. After walking from town to town, he finally is far enough away from home to travel without fear, and he takes the next bus to Macon. He finds his father playing craps in an alley, but when he goes up to introduce himself, he realizes that he does not know his mother’s name. Samson Fuller, mistaking him for a messenger sent by another girlfriend, tells him to go away. Cholly walks away and sits down on a sidewalk, trying not to cry. He manages not to cry, but in doing so, he soils his trousers. As he goes down to the river to wash himself, he realizes how much he misses Aunt Jimmy and cries into the night.
The next morning, however, he begins a new life in which he need only worry about himself, since his parents are no longer a concern. He leads a dangerous and happy life, full of drunken adventures. Until he meets Pauline Williams, Cholly lives totally for himself. However, once the children come, Cholly is bewildered. Since he had no actual parents, and even those who had loved him left him at an early age, he cannot know how to raise children himself. This makes him feel uncomfortable whenever the children are around because he is unable to “comprehend what such a relationship should be” between parents and their children.
One day, Cholly comes home drunk and finds his daughter washing dishes. He hates himself because he cannot give anything to his daughter, and he hates Pecola because she looks like a whipped girl, who is weak-willed. He is about to be sick when he notices that Pecola is scratching one leg with the bare foot of the other leg. It reminds him of when he first met Pauline. When Pauline did it, Cholly wanted to scratch away the itch himself. He does it once again with Pecola. Pecola is surprised by the way her father touches her and falls on the floor. Cholly catches his daughter and rapes her on the kitchen floor, which causes Pecola to faint.
Cholly’s biography serves the same sort of purpose that Pauline’s biography had served; the chapter provides the reader with motivation for Cholly’s actions. This is very necessary in light of Cholly’s rape of Pecola at the end of the chapter. It is very easy to condemn the rape as a horrible, meaningless act, but to do so would also render the novel meaningless. Understanding why he does it is important to understanding The Bluest Eye.
Cholly was also a victim of injustice; he is forced to have sex with a girl at gunpoint. The shame and humiliation that he feels is turned into hatred for the girl, Darlene. He never considers being angry at the white men who forced him to have sex; he seems to know subconsciously that “such an emotion would have destroyed him,” the frustration and inability to exact revenge. He hates Darlene because she is “the one who bore witness to his failure, … the one whom he had not been able to protect.” Because he cannot tell anyone about this, not even his friend Blue Jack, his suppressed rage will become his motivation for later actions. He tries to find his father because he thinks that Samson Fuller, a man who could not take care of a woman he impregnated, might be able to understand his feelings of impotence and rage. When Fuller rejects him, however, he is forced to take care of himself.
Cholly’s desire to protect and destroy affects his future relationships with women. He is enamored by Pauline because with her broken foot she seems like a person easy to protect. However, the relationship soon deteriorates because it becomes clear to Cholly that he has not been able to take care of his wife. Full of self-pity, Cholly tries to avoid his wife and drink so that he may forget that he has not provided for his wife. The situation becomes worse when he and Pauline have children. Since he has no idea how to raise children, he leaves them alone, which only adds to his feelings of shame and impotence. His impotence is exacerbated by Pecola’s nature as well. Seeing her wash the dishes with a hunched back causes Cholly to become upset. He wonders what has happened to Pecola to make her so miserable, and takes this personally. “The clear statement of her misery was an accusation” to Cholly, an accusation that he had not protected her as a father should have protected his daughter. He transfers the shame that he feels for not protecting his daughter into hatred for his daughter, just as he did with Darlene when he couldn’t protect her.
Yet when he sees Pecola hunched over washing the dishes, he is also touched by her. Even though her weakness and shame parallels his vision of Darlene being ashamed for him, he still has this desire to comfort and protect her with his love. The problem for Cholly is that he has no idea how to love his daughter. He wants to do something “tenderly” to his daughter. However, his two desires are to “break her neck—but tenderly” and to “fuck her—tenderly.” He is limited to these two choices because he doesn’t know how to protect a person any other way. His first experience with Darlene has warped his judgment and has caused him to associate sex with feelings of shame and inadequacy. The only time he has successfully conquered these feelings is when he caressed Pauline’s leg and tickled her foot. So when Pecola scratches her leg, Cholly is finally moved into attempting an act of protection, not even caring that this is a completely inappropriate response to his own shame. The rape is not an act of cruelty, in his eyes, but the only way he knows how to take care of a woman. The fact that Pecola is not just a woman but his own daughter does not enter his mind until the action is completed.
While the action itself is possible to explain, the fact that Cholly runs away from his responsibility ultimately proves that he is unable to take care of others. Just as he left Darlene to her fate, Cholly cannot accept the consequences of his own actions now. When he is plagued with shame, he performs acts that he feels will redeem his past behavior but actually only cause him to feel more shame. His rape of his own daughter was the ultimate act, the most misguided attempt to correct his past behavior. After doing this, Cholly escapes, proving that he has not been able to rid himself of his self-pity.
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