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Literature / Choke

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"Just keep asking yourself: What would Jesus NOT do?"
Victor Mancini

Choke is a 2001 novel by Chuck Palahniuk. Victor Mancini spends his days working at a colonial theme park with his best friend, Denny. The duo, who suffer from sexual and masturbation addiction respectively, attend recovery meetings to tolerate the boredom. As Victor's mother suffers from Alzheimer's Disease and lives in a care home, Victor pays her hospital fees by intentionally choking on food in restaurants; as his "rescuers" both pity him and see him as evidence of their bravery, he manipulates them to milk from them for cash.

Choke was adapted into a film in 2008 directed and written by Clark Gregg starring Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston and Kelly Macdonald.

Contains examples of:

  • Caught with Your Pants Down: The film has one scene wherein Lord High Charlie, played by Clark Gregg, catches Victor (Sam Rockwell), with his pants down with "Ursula the Milkmaid's" hand on his penis. Ursula is Charlie's dream girl and so he is reasonably upset by this sight saying he can never look at her the same way again.
  • Clone Jesus: A major subplot involves the main character discovering that he may have been created as a clone from Jesus' foreskin.
  • Code Emergency:
    • Different codes are used by a renegade mother to covertly contact her son.
    • Also by the hospital looking after her... when Nurse Remington is summoned to the front desk, it probably means you have outstayed your welcome.
  • Come to Gawk: The colonial theme park where Victor works punishes loafing employees by making them sit in the stocks all day.
  • Creator Cameo: Chuck Palahniuk has a cameo in the film sitting next to Victor on a plane.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A nurse condescendingly refers to Paige as Miss instead of Dr., and receives a lecture as a result. The reason the nurse was talking down to someone of high authority is because Dr. Paige is a patient allowed to live in her doctor delusion. Additionally, Victor attempts to figure out which car is hers, but cannot; it's because she doesn't leave.
    • Victor notes that Alzheimers gets to the point where sufferers can sometimes inhale food and choke to death or contract pneumonia. Come the conclusion, when his mother needs moving to the terminal wards, he feeds her pudding and she chokes to death.
  • Helpless Kicking: The poster for the film shows the silhuoette of a woman's legs and high heels sticking out of a man's mouth and kicking like she's being Eaten Alive. Televised ads even showed the poor woman's weak little kicks in motion.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Cherry Daiquiri, who ends up becoming friends with Victor and Denny.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Discussed. The protagonist frequently runs a con where he deliberately chokes on food to get strangers to perform the Heimlich on him; he is terrified that one day he'll encounter an idiot thinking of this trope coming after him with a steak knife and a ballpoint pen tube.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Denny. Finally curbing his sex addiction, which had him masturbating uncontrollably, Denny starts collecting a rock to mark every day of being cold-turkey. This soon turns into a hoarding addiction he can't control.
  • One-Word Title: Named after how choking on food is a significant point of the novel.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Victor, by means of Stay in the Kitchen. Not only does he refer to emotions, love, optimism and relationships as "chick stuff", his lack of a relationship due to sex addiction means occasionally develops the mentality that committed women treat you like life support for a penis or wallet.
  • Romance and Sexuality Separation: Victor, a sex addict can't sleep with his mother's doctor Paige because he actually has an emotional connection to her.
  • Silent Scapegoat: Victor allows other dementia patients at his mother's hospital to blame him for various past traumas.
  • Straw Nihilist: Specifically that love/optimism/happiness is for chicks, and being stuck in a work cubical without danger or excitement means sex, masturbation and drugs are the only way to feel alive anymore.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: Victor's mother, suffering from Alzheimer's, begins mistaking him for people such as her old lawyer, Fred.
  • Tomato Surprise:
    • Victor is Jesus, and was created artificially through cells from a holy relic that was Jesus' apparent foreskin.
    • Paige lied about the diary's contents as she unable to read Italian. Additionally, she doesn't realize she is a patient on the mental illness ward, and wears a uniform and "works" because living out her delusion that she is a doctor from the future makes her more manageable for the staff.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: The protagonist is a sex addict who routinely picks up women at his Sexaholics Anonymous meetings.
  • The Un-Twist: Contrary to Tomato Surprise, Victor isn't Jesus. Paige lied to him, and his mother was a stranger that simply took him from his pushchair. invoked
  • "What Now?" Ending:
    • Victor accidentally kills his mother, is arrested, and is run out of town by the people who fell for his scam. Doctor Marshall turns out to be an insane patient at the nursing home, but realizes it at the book's end. Denny's building/sculpture/masterpiece is destroyed by a freak earthquake. The four main characters are left standing in the ruins.
    • The movie has a slightly happier ending, with Victor's mom still dying and Victor realizing that Paige is a mental patient, but Victor's arrest is for the "rape" one of the mental patients is constantly accusing him of performing, which he is cleared for. He finds Paige and they have loving sex in an airport bathroom