Previously, I have discussed what makes two of the three main characters from the musical Chess tick. I’ve talked about Anatoly Sergievsky and Florence Vassy, and now it’s time to focus on the American (or British, depending on the version) chess champion, Freddie Trumper.
Freddie is an easy character to talk about. In the musical, he has one song, “Pity the Child,” where he just lays out everything that has led him to being such a cocky, narcissistic person.
Freddie opens up by explaining to the audience that he started playing chess as an act of survival. He felt that asking for help in life was futile; his parents had their own problems and he didn’t want to deal with their imploding marriage.
Up in my room I planned my conquests/On my own—never asked for a helping hand/No one would understand/I never asked the pair who fought below/Just in case they said “No”
The conversation delves deeper into Trumper’s relationship with his folks. Freddie admits that he didn’t miss his father when he moved out.
I didn’t miss him—he made it perfectly clear/I was a fool and probably queer
Trumper thought that, with his dad gone, he’d get his mother back in his life, but she jumped into a vicious circle consisting of random men coming in and out of their lives.
She made her move the moment he crawled away/I was the last the woman told/She never let her bed get cold/Someone moved in—I shut my door/Someone to treat her just the same way as before.
Eventually, Freddie became a successful chess champion, but admits he never called his mother to tell her what he has done with his life.
Pity instead the careless mother/What she missed,/What she lost when she let me go/And I wonder does she know/I never call. A crazy thing to do/Just in case she said, “Who?”
So why did this childhood situation turn Freddie into a sad narcissist who eventually lost the woman he loved? Narcissistic Personality Disorder has many causes, mostly to do with excessive praise from parents and mentor figures. But there is a flip side to that.
If the parents or mentors over-evaluate the child’s negatives while ignoring the positives, the narcissism becomes a defense mechanism. The defense mechanism becomes worse if emotional or physical abuse is involved in the parental relationship.
And it’s that emotional abuse that pushes Freddie to blame Florence when things go south in his match with Anatoly. It has to be her fault, of course! How could the great Freddie Trumper, who has always won by himself, lose? It has to be her fault. She has to be the failing variable.
In his mind, no one helped Freddie get to where he is. He got there on his own, with no help from family or friends. All he has is himself, and if no one else is going to love him, then he’ll do it himself.
It’s why I feel bad for Freddie, instead of labeling him the “bad guy” of the musical. Trumper didn’t ask to be a narcissist; it was an unfortunate incident that stems from a broken family
Still, it is important that we not excuse Freddie for his actions. While he did have a bad childhood, many children have bad childhoods and come out clean on the other side. Freddie could have gotten help in his later years for his narcissism and attitude problems. He chose not to. Pity the child, but don’t excuse his actions.