Charles by Shirley Jackson; A Literary Analysis

Throughout her short story "Charles", Shirley Jackson uses point-of-view to reveal appearance versus reality.

            A person that everyone knows yet no one knows?  A point of view skewed by reality.  A belief led astray by fictitious information. In the short story “Charles”, Shirley Jackson uses point-of-view to reveal appearance versus reality.  These literary elements are easily proven by closely examining specific evidence and key hints throughout the story.

            In the beginning of the story, Laurie’s behavior at home is very suspicious.  He tells energetic stories about Charles’s disrespectful behavior at school but at the same time portrays some of the same characteristics while at home.  In Charles, the narrator gives examples of this behavior, “At lunch he spoke insolently to his father, spilled his little sisters milk…” and “Laurie regarded his father coldly…” (Jackson).  Charles and Laurie are strikingly similar when comparing their actions.   The false appearance of who Charles is shrouds the true reality of Laurie’s behavior.

            It is easy to tell that Laurie’s parents are getting concerned about this so called “Charles”.  Laurie suspiciously knows so much about him and at home talks about him a good deal.  When Laurie says “So Charles had to stay after school and so all the children stayed to watch him…” (Jackson) it is rather puzzling. Who would stay at school just to watch another student’s boring punishment?  From Laurie’s parent’s point-of-view Charles is both a bad influence and a hindrance to Laurie.  Laurie’s use of Charles to cover up his own actions isn’t totally unnoticed by his parents even if they don’t know the whole truth.

            Throughout the story it is perceptible that Laurie’s teacher at school probably feels some sort of unease toward Laurie’s parents.  After all, Laurie’s parents missed the first parent teacher meeting and didn’t show any involvement with Laurie’s bad behavior. At the PTA meeting Laurie’s mother and Laurie’s teacher “…maneuvered up to one another cautiously…” (Jackson) This is key hint in showing that Laurie’s teacher is concerned about meeting one of Laurie’s parents.  If Laurie was a good, well behaved boy in school his teacher shouldn’t have any uneasy about speaking to his parents.  The teachers troubled point-of-view shows how easy it can be to fudge an events appearance compared to its actuality.

            For a good while, Laurie succeeded in covering up his actions in school, but the truth was bound to come out.  Laurie probably knew that eventually his parents were going to find out that he wasn’t a very well behaved boy.  It was just a matter of time.  Both Laurie’s parents’ and teacher’s points-of-view are so easily tied to appearance that it is interesting to see how the truth comes out in the end.  Point-of-view can definitely rely heavily on a situations appearance versus its reality.

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