Study Guide

Sling Blade Doyle Hargreaves (Dwight Yoakam)

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Doyle Hargreaves (Dwight Yoakam)

Suspicious Minds

Imagine if Sling Blade were told from Doyle's perspective. What would his backstory be? Why does he push Linda away only to return to her? Why does he say he loves her one moment but threaten her life the next? How can he verbally abuse Linda's child but want to be a family? What makes him invite his so-called friends over and then physically kick them out of the house?

How does a man become as self-destructive as Doyle is?

Doyle's violent contradictions are best summed up at the end of the scene that begins with his friends playing music:

DOYLE: I hate you, you little prick! No, I don't. No I don't. I love your mama. I just…I can't explain what goes on. You bunch of freaks. I hope you have fun. I'll call you tomorrow. I'm sorry, honey. I said I'm sorry, Linda. Okay. All right. You can kiss my ass.

Doyle is all over the place, like a pinball machine in a hurricane in the comments section of Taylor Swift's Instagram. He tells Linda that his erratic attitude is a result of the fact that he's hurting, but he spends so much time lashing out, we don't understand why he's in this pain. It's only in one rare instance of introspection Doyle that gives us a glimpse into his inner turmoil:

DOYLE: I don't like her life or how she lives it. I don't like homosexuals. And she goes out and buddies up with one, so now I gotta deal with that. I don't like little wimpy-ass kids or mental retards, and she got one of each living with her. I'm just kidding really about that. I mean, we all got to get along, I guess, no matter what our differences are.

Doyle is all about the internal conflict, and that conflict eventually becomes external. His inconsistency makes it difficult to tell if Doyle is legitimately dangerous. He threatens to kill Linda, but is he all talk? Or does it not matter, because a threat is bad enough?

A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

Sling Blade subtly asks us to sympathize with Doyle in a way, and it does this with black humor: many of film's best lines come from him. Here's one darkly funny rant:

DOYLE: Is this retard that drools and rubs s*** in his hair and all that? 'Cause I'm going to have a hard time eating around that kind of thing now. Just like I am about antique furniture and midgets. You know that. I can't so much as drink a glass of water around a midget or a piece of antique furniture.

By laughing at Doyle, you can't help but feel sorry for him.

But sympathy doesn't change the fact that Doyle is self-destructive—and just plain destructive. Linda appears to sympathize with Doyle at times, and it doesn't help his behavior at all. In fighting with himself, Doyle hurts others. He's a time-bomb waiting to explode, and when a bomb goes off, it's hard to feel sympathy for the bomb. Instead, our sympathies lie with those hurt in the blast.

That is why we asked you to imagine Sling Blade from Doyle's perspective. The questions we asked at the top of the page can't be answered, because Sling Blade is told from Karl's perspective. Doyle never tries to understand Karl, writing him off as a "humped-over retard," but on the flipside, Karl never tries to understand Doyle, either. Instead, he kills him.

We can't say we're shedding that many tears.

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