Advances in Literary Study
2013. Vol.1, No.2, 16-18
Published Online April 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
“Choke” Chuck Palahniuk Book Review
Çağrı Tuğrul Mart
Ishik University, Erbil, Iraq
Received February 26th, 2013; revised March 25th, 2013; accepted April 17th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Çağrı Tuğrul Mart. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Victor Mancini, the protagonist, did not have a happy childhood as his mother was constantly committing
crimes; therefore, she was mostly in jail. Victor was mostly brought up by other families so he grew up
without family affection. Today Victor is in his twenties, but he has got problems. Victor feels lonely and
he cannot forget his past. He tries to forget his loneliness and has become sex addicted. He intentionally
chokes while eating in expensive restaurants, and there is always someone who saves him. A close rela-
tionship between him and his saver starts. His saver even sends him money. But Victor is not doing this
for money. Another problem he has: Victor thinks he is Jesus Christ and he likes this idea because this
will help him to realize he could be a nice guy. Victor never means to deceive other people. He does all
these things to get attention of people. He is searching for love, he is seeking for affection.
Keywords: Choke; Loneliness; Affection; Attention
“Victor, his name unironic, emerges winningly from his or-
deals and sets off on a quest for personal meaning. And there’s
your allegory. The world of Choke is like a jaded adolescent’s
version of our own; Victor, an Everyman struggling to find the
true path. He’s not a defined character but an angsty blank for
readers to “relate to” (Patterson, 2001).
This study tries to reveal that Victor is not someone who
manipulates people, but a nice guy who needs love and affec-
tion of people. His being sex addict, his choking on his food,
his thinking that he is Jesus Christ is not to deceive people.
Victor who has been looking for happiness, is in need of love.
He is looking for a warm embrace. He is looking for a tender
Choke: Deceive or Affection?
The protagonist, Victor Mancini, is between his 20s - 30s. He
is a dropout from medical school and works at a park (at a tour-
ist attraction where Victor teaches children about 18th century).
From the beginning of the novel Victor complains about his
mother and the way she has brought him up. Victor’s mother
had lots of troubles and her life was full of crimes. “After I was
born, my mum just stayed put in the States. Not in this house.
She didn’t live here until her last release, after the school bus
theft charge. Auto theft and kidnapping.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p.
37) and Victor knows about her personality. “It’s a safe bet they
don’t know about her obscenity conviction, her attempted mur-
der conviction, her reckless endargerment, her animal harass-
ment.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 37) Victor’s mother has never
showed him real affection. She has spent most of her time ei-
ther in jail or mental hospital so she has never been a caring
mother. Today Victor is a young man but he doesn’t have hap-
piness because he cannot forget the past. He cannot forget how
her mother treated him.
Victor Mancini is a sex addict who attends the meetings to
get over his problem. Victor does not make love with girls be-
cause he likes it. All he needs is attention of people. “For the
next I don’t know how long, I’ve got no problems in the world.
No mother. No medical bills. No museum job. No jerk-off best
friend. Nothing. I feel nothing. Just for these minutes, I don’t
feel lonely.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 10) Victor continues to look
for attention through sex, Victor feels alone so he is seeking for
something to be happy. Sex is a way for him to forget his lone-
Victor Mancini’s mother stays in a hospital because she suf-
fers from Alzheimer and she has become very forgetful. She
doesn’t even recognize Victor. Victor does not have a strong
relationship with his mother. Victor cannot forget how she
brought him up. He does not appear to like her but he feels he
has to look after her so he needs to pay her hospital bills. Victor
has found a way to pay for his mother’s hospital bills by pre-
tending to choke on his food in expensive restaurants. When he
chokes on his food someone rescues him from death. By saving
him, his saver feels sorry about him and he carries on looking
after Victor. His saver sends Victor cards, letters and even
Victor Mancini is in search of love. He has been always ne-
glected by his mother. As a child, he was saved by a man when
he choked on his food and Victor became very happy when
people showed him affection. Victor has never seen this kind of
fondness from his mother so he cannot forget the past. “You
know the old phrase ‘Those who don’t remember the past are
condemned to repeat it?’ Well, I think those who remember
their past are even worse off.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 99)
“The story exists mostly in the present but also flashes to
periods in Victor’s past when he remembers his mom doing
strange things. These flashbacks allow the reader to discover
that Victor’s mom was a sort of radical in her day, and the
reader slowly uncovers some of the mysteries in Victor’s re-
lationship to his mother, as well as her bizarre teachings.”
(Early, 2010)
Throughout the book Victor always remembers his past and
he blames his mother for every problem he has in his life. “The
story explores Victor Mancini’s journey through life from the
time he was a child, to present time. Piece by piece Palahniuk
reveals some of Victor’s past providing insight to Victor’s cur-
rent life. From his dysfunctional love for his mother to his rag-
ing sexual addictions, the past brings light to the present.” (Joe,
2008) Once his mother made him stand half-naked in the snow
when he was a little kid. “Don’t look. Don’t move a muscle or
you’ll ruin all my work, Control yourself, damn it. Hold still or
you’ll ruin all my work.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 3) His mother
was very harsh against him. Victor was freezing in snow and
his mother did not care about it at all. His mother even threat-
ened to hit him. “This will be worth a little suffering, so hold
still, and don’t make me spank you.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 4)
The way his mother treated him shows how much she loved
him. At present Victor is looking for love in different ways.
Because Victor did not have loving care and attention in his
childhood, he chokes intentionally in search of compassion.
“Somebody saves your life, and they’ll love you forever, it’s as
if now you’re their child.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 24) He misses a
nice family atmosphere because he never had his own family.
His mother was in jail and he was with different families so
they were most of the time far from each other. Victor is look-
ing for a warm embrace. When they were together his mother
never gave him real family happiness. Victor thinks he is a like
a family with those who save him. “But I can build my own
family.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 38)
Victor chokes on his food intentionally but when being saved
by somebody else he wants to save somebody else which shows
there is something nice inside him because he thinks of other
people. “And it’s funny when somebody saves you, the first
thing you want to do is save other people. All other people.
Everybody.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 19)
Victor Mancini, though the way she brought him up, likes his
mother. He dropped out of school to look after her. He thinks
he has to find a job to take care of his mother. “Despite the
misery she put him through in childhood (revealed in an in-
creasingly horrific series of flashbacks), he wants to be a good
boy and take care of her.” (Zaleski, 2001)
Victor has been working too much. He needs to pay for his
mother’s bill. He feels responsible for his mother. “Victor is so
busy because he’s out every night, literally killing himself to
pay her bills for constant care. That’s three grand each month
just to break even. Maybe that’s why Victor left school. I say,
just for the sake of argument, that maybe Victor’s doing his
frigging best.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 22)
Victor constantly visits his mother in the hospital although
mostly she does not recognize him. Victor always asks doctor
whether she is getting better. Victor really cares about her and
asks the doctor to do her best to recover her. “If there is any-
thing you can do to save her and you don’t, you’re killing her
with neglect.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 55) His taking care of his
mother shows that Victor is a nice guy.
Victor always remembers his past and accuses his mother
because she has never been an affectionate mother to him. He
has never received attention from his mother and blames his
mother’s bringing him up for his problems. “All my life, I’ve
been less my mother’s child than her hostage. The subject of
her social and political experiments. Her own private lab rat.”
(Palahniuk, 2008: p. 56)
But Victor cares about his mother and he does everything to
save her from her sickness. He really wants her to get better. “I
just want one person I can rescue. I want one person who needs
me. Who can’t live without me.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 56)
Victor loves his mother and he does not want to lose her. “I
am terrified of losing her.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 56) When his
mother died in the hospital Victor was very sad of losing her.
His relationship with his mother has never been close but he
feels downhearted when he has lost her. “Because now I’m an
orphan. I’m unemployed and unloved. Because my guts hurt,
and I’m dying anyway, from the inside out.” (Palahniuk, 2008:
p. 133)
Victor’s mother used to keep a diary and Victor thinks there
is some secret about him written in it, but the diary is written in
Italian. Dr. Marshall, his mother’s doctor, says she knows Ital-
ian and translates the diary of his mother to Victor. Dr. Mar-
shall says his mother thinks Victor is Jesus Christ. Victor likes
this idea and he thinks he might be a nice guy. “This becomes
challenging when Victor is seduced by a strange hospital worker
calling herself Dr. Marshall, who shows him his mother’s diary;
it describes her self-impregnation by a holy relic she believes to
be the foreskin of Jesus. This has a profound effect on Victor,
who is stunned by the possibility that there may be some good
in him after all.” (Zaleski, 2008: p. 2001) Victor looks for hap-
piness so he accepts the idea that he is Jesus Christ. Victor now
tries to be a nice guy.
After Dr. Marshall told him that he was Jesus Christ, Victor
Mancini has started to realize that he is a good-hearted person
and started to ask people around him what they really think
about his personality. “You don’t think I’m a good hearted
person, do you? You don’t think I’m really a secretly sensitive
and Christlike manifestation of perfect love?” (Palahniuk, 2008:
p. 77) Victor often asks his best friend Denny if he thinks Vic-
tor is a nice guy or not. “I’m not good and kind and caring, you
don’t really think I’m anything like Jesus Christ, do you?”
(Palahniuk, 2008: p. 80) The idea that Victor is a Jesus Christ,
is a manipulation of Dr. Marshall. In spite of the fact that Victor
has been manipulated by Dr. Marshall who tells him he is Jesus
Christ, he wants to believe her very much. Victor has already
started to reveal the nice guy inside him. He does not want to
repeat his previous mistakes. “From now on, I want to try and
be a better person. Choking in restaurants, fooling people, I’m
not going to do that kind of thing anymore. Sleeping around,
casual sex, that kind of thing.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 113)
Victor wants to change and always asks the same question to
himself before he does something wrong. “What would Jesus
not do?” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 85) Victor changes his mind
when he was about to make love with his mother’s doctor, he
did not rape the girl although she asked Victor to do it. For the
first time Victor actively changes his life. He refuses sex and
tells Nico (his sex partner) he needs to move to the fourth step
of the sex addict program which shows he is getting better.
Victor realizes the nice guy inside him and has the ability to
control his life and manners now. Victor has always suffered
from deprivation, he has been always deprived of love and af-
fection by his mother and now constantly looking for attention
of people. He uses his being sex addict, his choking on his food
in restaurants, his accepting the idea that he is Jesus Christ to
receive attention of people.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 17
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
“Victor himself is an interesting character, if not for the fact
that he is kind of predictable. He’s a man stuck between the
ideals of absolute perfection and absolute corruption. He’s in
the height of his ‘complete perfection’ beliefs and he’s actually
a pretty good guy.” (Early, 2010)
Victor loses his mother. He has found out that he is not Jesus
Christ and was manipulated by Dr. Marshall. He has given up
choking on his food in expensive restaurants. He is not sex
addict any more. In the end all these experiences he had, made
him realize the nice guy inside him. Victor has got rid of his
problems and for the first time in his life he is happy. “For the
first time in longer than I can remember, I feel peaceful. Not
happy. Not sad. Not anxious. Not horny. I am simplifying my-
self. Somewhere balanced in the perfect middle between hap-
piness and sadness.” (Palahniuk, 2008: p. 133)
As a child Victor suffered a lot because his mother did not
show much affection to him. She was not compassionate for
Victor. Victor was in need of a fond embrace. “At heart, Victor
is a compulsive liar-since he feels he can only be loved by ly-
ing.” (Gregg, 2010) He had to drop out of school to look after
his mother who is ill. He chokes on his food on purpose in ex-
pensive restaurants to look after his mother. But Victor does it
because people show him affection when they save him. They
really like him. The attention he receives from his savers makes
him very happy. Victor forgets his deprivation when his savers
rescue him. Victor is also a sex addict. Both his choking and
sex addiction are ways of looking for attention. Throughout the
novel Victor struggles to find happiness, he is in search of love
and affection. Victor who has been in search of love throughout
the novel realizes the nice guy inside him.
Early, C. (2010). Book reviews: Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk.
Gregg, C. (2010). Coke analysis.
Martin, J. (2010) Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, Choke.
Palahniuk, C. (2008). Choke. New York: Anchor.
Patterson, T. (2001). Choke (book review). Entertainment Weekly, 597,
Summary of books by Chuck Palahniuk (2010).
Zaleski, J. (2001). Choke (book review). Publishers Weekly, 248, 37