|Brighton Rock (1947) character|
In the novel, Brown is portrayed as the 17-year-old leader and enforcer of a small-time gang in the Brighton underworld that runs numbers and protection rackets. A violent sociopath, he brutalizes and murders people, even his own henchmen, without remorse, and is incapable of feeling love or taking pleasure in life. In the beginning of the novel, he kills Fred Hale, a chronic gambler who assisted a rival gang in dispatching Brown's predecessor; that crime sets the rest of the story in motion.
Brown is depicted as severely neurotic. He regards everyone he meets with hatred and contempt, and yet envies them for feeling emotions he cannot experience. He abhors sex; as a child, he spied on his parents making love, and was both aroused and disgusted by it. He is obsessed with the concept of sin, his idea of which is shaped by his Roman Catholic upbringing, and believes himself to be pure evil. He has no friends, and has nothing but contempt for women, thinking of them as the embodiment of weakness. He is not without normal desires, however — he wonders what it would feel like to love someone, and his phobia of sex does not prevent him from being as preoccupied with losing his virginity as any other teenage boy.
Although clearly named by the other characters, within the narrative Pinkie is never referred to as such; he is only ever called "the Boy".
Role in the story
In the beginning of the novel, Brown kills Fred Hale, a chronic gambler who owes money to local kingpin Colleoni. Soon afterward, he kills one of his henchmen, Spicer, when his alcoholism becomes a liability. He dodges the police, but makes an enemy in Ida Arnold, the owner of Snow's Cafe and a friend of Hale's.
At about the same time, he meets Rose, a 16-year-old waitress at Snow's Cafe, and develops a love-hate relationship with her; he is infatuated with her even as he despises her for arousing in him feelings that he can't handle. To impress her, he brags about murdering Hale, and takes her out on a few dates. He eventually conducts a civil marriage with her to make sure she doesn't go to the police. It is a dysfunctional union from the start: he degrades and abuses her, and is sexually inadequate. The only common ground they have is their religion; they are both Roman Catholics, and therefore feel superior to the irreligious Arnold. While Arnold talks of "right" and "wrong", Pinkie and Rose discuss "good" and "evil", which they both feel is much more significant. Arnold appeals to Rose to end the marriage, but Rose refuses, even though she knows deep down that her husband is a monster. A devout Catholic, she believes the abuse she suffers at his hands is divine retribution for "living in sin", and fantasizes about going to Hell with him.
By the novel's conclusion, Arnold has unraveled Brown's gang and brought the police down upon him. Cornered, Brown tries to commit suicide with Rose in the nearby moors, but Arnold arrives just in time to save Rose. Brown attacks Arnold with a vial of vitriol, which he accidentally splashes in his own face. As he reels from the pain, he loses his footing and falls to his death from a cliff side.