To Cholly, being a parent means to abuse and to desert. His parents did both to him. Raised for a short time by a caring great aunt and sustained for a while by the kindness of Blue Jack, a fatherly stand-in, Cholly grows to adulthood never knowing the sustained protective, unconditional love of family members.
Cholly defines himself as a "free man" because not only does he function on the periphery of society as other blacks are expected to, but he also lives outside the society of the black community and is the constant source of their gossip. He is responsible for the destruction of his family's home through a fire that he carelessly starts, yet he doesn't care that the community looks down on him for this act.
Cholly fights with his wife in front of his children, neglects his family for his social life, and doesn't provide even the barest of necessities for them. He is the despicable absentee father, an outcast in his own home. As a father, he is the antithesis of Dick and Jane's flawless white father. He abuses his wife, Pauline, then deserts her as he retreats into a world of alcoholic chaos. In a confused state of love and lust, fueled by drunkenness, he rapes his daughter, Pecola, and leaves her on the kitchen floor.
Eventually he dies in a workhouse.