Is there personification in "Charles," and if there is, what is it?

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Though personification in literature usually refers to animals or inanimate objects taking on human traits, personification can also mean "an imaginary person that represents a thing or idea." If we use this definition, we can see that there is personification in Shirley Jackson's short story, "Charles ." In...

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Though personification in literature usually refers to animals or inanimate objects taking on human traits, personification can also mean "an imaginary person that represents a thing or idea." If we use this definition, we can see that there is personification in Shirley Jackson's short story, "Charles." In the story, Charles is the personification or embodiment of anything perceived to be mischievous or naughty.

 "With the third week of kindergarten Charles was an institution in our family; the baby was being a Charles when she cried all afternoon; Laurie did a Charles when he filled his wagon full of mud and pulled it through the kitchen; even my husband, when he caught his elbow in the telephone cord and pulled telephone, ashtray, and a bowl of flowers off the table, said, after the first minute, “Looks like Charles.” 

In the quote above, we can see how Charles has come to embody bad behavior. When the baby cries all afternoon, they compare her to Charles. The fictional Charles is mentioned when Laurie pulls his wagon full of mud through the house. And finally, when Laurie's father makes a mistake that causes the telephone, ashtray, and flowers to fall, he compares this to something Charles would do.

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