Briefly explain the narrator's situation at the start of "Charles" by telling how she feels about Laurie's going off to school.

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The narrator refers to the changes in their own life by detailing some of the physical and emotional changes that their young son, Laurie, experienced when he started school. Initially, the reader does not know the speaker's gender. Within a few paragraphs, when the speaker refers to the boy’s attitude...

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The narrator refers to the changes in their own life by detailing some of the physical and emotional changes that their young son, Laurie, experienced when he started school. Initially, the reader does not know the speaker's gender. Within a few paragraphs, when the speaker refers to the boy’s attitude toward his father, the implication is that the speaker is the boy’s mother.

The mother states that an “era” of her own life ended when Laurie went off to school. She describes the different clothing that he wore, going from bib overalls to blue jeans with full-length legs. She also allowed him to walk to school without her, but in the company of an older girl from next door. The mother also emphasizes the boy’s temperament, calling him “sweet-voiced"; in contrast, that day, he did not even stop at the end of the block to wave. By the time he comes back from school, his voice has become “raucous,” and he speaks “insolently." The changes are notable.

Overall, the first few paragraphs make it clear that the woman is missing her son’s youth; the reader could infer that his growing up is making her feel older. She also mentions a baby sister, so her situation has changed recently, with the addition of a second child.

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