In the short story "Charles" by Shirley Jackson, why were Laurie's parents looking forward to meeting the kindergarten teacher?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Laurie’s parents were looking forward to meeting his teacher so that they could find out more about Charles.

Laurie did not adjust well to kindergarten.  He was a spoiled child, and the rules and order of school did not suit him.  He came from school each day complaining about a classmate named Charles who got into a lot of trouble.  Laurie and his parents thought that Charles was a lot of fun.

“Well,” he said, “Charles was bad again today.” He grinned. “Today Charles hit the teacher,” he said.

“Good heavens,” I said. “I suppose he got spanked again?”

“He sure did,” Laurie said.

As Laurie continues to come home day after day and describe the horrible things Charles does, his parents are curious but not overly concerned.  After all, their son is no angel.  He talks back, harasses the baby, and generally wreaks havoc.

When the night of the Parent-Teachers meeting comes, Laurie’s mother stays home because the baby is sick.  As a result, she does not get to meet Laurie’s teacher.  She continues to listen to his reports about Charles, the scourge of the kindergarten.

When Laurie’s mother finally makes it to the PTA meeting, she looks for any woman who might be Charles’s mother and then seeks out the kindergarten teacher.  The teacher is polite and they discuss Laurie.

“He’s had some trouble getting used to school,” she said. “But I think he’ll be all right.”

Laurie’s mother asks about Charles, and learns that there is no Charles.  Then she realizes the truth.  Charles is not real.  Her son made him up.  Everything that he has described has been his own behavior.

Of course, it is truly ironic that Laurie’s mother is so judgmental when, overwhelmed with a baby, she has not really been paying attention.  Both of Laurie’s parents have let his behavior go, when they should have realized that it would have an effect on his school life.  Charles was his way of telling them that he needed help, and they missed it completely.

 

 

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Charles

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