In the story "Charles" by Shirley Jackson, what are some similarities between Laurie and Charles?

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"Charles," like Shirley Jackson's most well-known short story, "The Lottery ," has a few surprises and, certainly, a surprising ending. Within the story, however, Jackson has left a fair number of clues that she has created a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde story or, more precisely, a Jekyll-and-Jekyll...

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"Charles," like Shirley Jackson's most well-known short story, "The Lottery," has a few surprises and, certainly, a surprising ending. Within the story, however, Jackson has left a fair number of clues that she has created a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde story or, more precisely, a Jekyll-and-Jekyll story. Laurie and Charles, who appear as distinct characters throughout the story, seem to mirror each other so precisely that we begin to suspect, as Laurie's parents do not, that Charles is Laurie's alter ego.

Our first encounter with Laurie is, by itself, no clue to the story's ending, but it does foreshadow the behavior later attributed to Charles. After announcing his arrival from school with a "raucous shout," Laurie

spoke insolently to his father, spilled his baby sister's milk, and remarked that his teacher said that we were not to take the name of the Lord in vain.

Implicit in this description is that Laurie has taken the Lord's name in vain, but Laurie's parents assume, as they do with all of Laurie's explanations, that he is not the culprit. Later during this exchange, Laurie describes the boy Charles being punished for "being fresh. . . . He was awfully fresh." In hindsight, we understand that Charles's punishment is most likely Laurie's for having cursed, but taking the description at face value, we can also see that Laurie and Charles seem to have many traits in common.

On the second day, Laurie reports that Charles has been spanked because he hit the teacher. Laurie then says to his father,

"Look up," he said to his father. "What?" his father said, looking up. "Look down," Laurie said. "Look at my thumb. Gee, you're dumb." He began to laugh insanely.

This joke, which has no real humor, is meant to belittle his father and is, in effect, a metaphorical attack on his father, much like Charles hitting the kindergarten teacher. We also need to attend to Jackson's choice of words to describe Laurie's laughing "insanely," an unusual choice for describing anything related to (presumably) a six-year-old child.

In a third instance, Laurie comes home and "yelled all the way up the hill" that Charles was bad again. Charles's infraction? He had yelled so loudly in school that a student from another class had "to tell the teacher she had to make Charles keep quiet." At this point, the behavior of Laurie and Charles is identical—they are both yelling—but the culprit, of course, is still nominally Charles. Laurie, however, as he sits down to lunch, greets his father with "Hi, Pop, y'old dust mop," another insolent verbal attack on his father, completely consistent the behavior attributed to Charles in his attacks on schoolmates and other teachers.

At this point in the story, Jackson has provided enough clues for a cautious reader to conclude that Laurie and Charles are actually just Laurie, who has managed to divide himself psychologically into two equally antisocial characters.

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Laurie shares many similar character traits with his pseudonym, Charles, in the short story and reveals his rude, offensive behavior at home while interacting with his parents. On the first day of school, Laurie arrives home and immediately throws his belongings on the floor. He speaks "insolently" to his father, leaves the table without being excused, and blatantly disobeys his father by taking a cookie. Laurie's insolent comments and rude remarks are similar to how he addresses his teacher at school. Charles is continually being spanked for getting "fresh" with his teacher, which is an idiom for having an attitude and speaking rudely. At home, Laurie continually torments his father by calling him "dumb" and an "old dust mop." Laurie also fills his wagon full of mud and proceeds to pull it through the house. Laurie's insolent behavior and disobedience at home are clues that indicate Charles is his pseudonym and he is the person misbehaving at school, which comes as a shock to his mother when she discovers that there is no Charles in Laurie's class.

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In Shirley Jackson's short story "Charles," there are several similarities between Laurie and Charles.

When Laurie starts school, he returns home and he speaks "insolently." Similarly, Laurie shares information about a boy at school, Charles, who got in trouble that day because he was "fresh," (meaning "talking in a rude or impolite way"). It seems that Laurie is acting exactly the way Charles was acting at school.

Laurie tells a joke at his father's expense that ends with "Gee, you're dumb," and later calls his father "Pop, y’old dust mop." This is certainly fresh behavior.

When Laurie comes home the first day:

...the voice suddenly [becoming] raucous shouting, "Isn't anybody here?"

Laurie again reports about Charles:

Charles yelled so in school they sent a boy from first grade to tell the teacher she had to make Charles keep quiet...

And by the second week...

Charles yelled during story hour...

Both Laurie and Charles are capable of yelling in inappropriate situations.

Charles shows no respect for others: he kicks his teacher and later kicks the friend of the teacher that comes in to teach the children. Charles chooses, it seems, to defy countless rules set up at school. He throws chalk, and hits a little girl in the head with the see-saw and makes her bleed.

Laurie also seems to have become comfortable ignoring rules at home:

Laurie did a Charles when he filled his wagon full of mud and pulled it through the kitchen...

It can be no surprise that Charles is, in truth, Laurie—for the two have so much in common.

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