Laurie's mother worries that kindergarten is unsettling for Laurie. Why does she worry about Charles's behavior?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Each day when Laurie comes home from school, he elaborates on Charles's misbehavior and tells his mother about Charles's audacious and violent exploits. Laurie reacts like any concerned mother would and begins to worry that Charles's bad behavior will rub off on her son. After the first week of school, Laurie's mother asks her husband if kindergarten is too unsettling for their son and mentions that she fears Charles is a bad influence on Laurie. Despite her concerns, Laurie's father tells her not to worry—there will always be bad people like Charles in the world, and Laurie might as well meet them now. Ironically, Laurie's parents fail to see that their son is the child causing all of the trouble, and Charles is his pseudonym. Interestingly, they never chastise their son's behavior when he speaks disrespectfully toward them at home or leaves the table without being excused. Laurie's parents also seem to show more interest in Charles than they do their own son; they are constantly questioning Laurie about Charles's most recent exploits. However, they do show concern that Charles may be a bad influence on their son and fear that Laurie will pick up Charles's bad habits.

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mizzwillie eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the short story Charles, Shirley Jackson creates a story anyone with children can understand. Like mothers everywhere, Laurie's mother worries about Charles's behavior because Charles may be a negative influence on her own son Laurie.  Children tend to learn from each other, and Laurie is very interested in what Charles does each day, taking delight in telling his parents about each exploit.  Mom worries that Laurie may start acting like Charles. The sad part of this story is that Laurie's parents never really question or pay close attention to Laurie and his day at school, but only question what Charles did.  Laurie is their child, and yet in reality he is ignored far more than Charles.  As parents, they leave much to be desired which is why I think Laurie makes Charles the exciting part of his day telling his parents about Charles' antics. At least they will pay attention to the stories if not to him, and making Charles take the blame for the behavior leaves Laurie as the "good child."

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