“Charlotte” makes use of a complicated plan of organization; the story begins with an examination of present-day Charlotte, then leaps back to the time when the wrestlers still lived in Charlotte. Within the retrospection that makes up most of the story, the narrator moves back and forth from discussion of the wrestling scene in Charlotte in general to the specific events of the final battle, all the while discussing the nature of the city as well as his relationship with Starla.
One of the more interesting approaches taken by the story is that the narrator never questions the truthfulness or validity of the combat between professional wrestlers. Although most professional wrestlers call themselves “entertainers” as much as they do “athletes,” the artifice of the “sport” is never truly examined. At the same time, the narrator does point out that the referee never seems to notice when a combatant cheats in some way such as wielding a folding chair. He never follows this thread to its logical conclusion, however, and for the narrator’s purposes, Lord Poetry and Bob Noxious truly are arch-rivals in pitched combat over Darling Donnis.
“Charlotte” demonstrates the literary style common to many of the stories in Here We Are in Paradise (1994), Tony Earley’s debut collection of short fiction. The narrative introduces a fairly absurd or comic situation—in this case, a battle for true love being fought by professional wrestlers, including one who reads and recites poetry—and uses it as a metaphor to render a poignant, heartfelt discussion on some aspect of the human experience. He juxtaposes lyrical descriptions with observations of eccentricities. Earley’s style later gravitates to a sparser, simpler style of prose, as exhibited in his novel Jim the Boy (2000).