How would one write a character chart or theme chart for Michael Ondaatje's novel The Cat's Table?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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A character chart is a list of details about a character that help us see the author's characterization. A character chart can list details such as the character's age, name, nationality, residence, social status, and any relationships the character has with other characters. A character chart can also list physical attributes, attitudes, personality, and the role of the character in the story.

In Michael Ondaatje's novel The Cat's Table, the narrator and protagonist is named Michael. Just by looking at the first couple of chapters, we learn that Michael is 11 years old, and he boards a boat that takes him from Sri Lanka to England. Based on his references to places he has traveled, such as to Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains, we know that he was raised in Sri Lanka. We also know through references to a rich uncle and through the fact that he as been assigned to dine at the Cat's Table, a table for unimportant people far away from the Captain's Table, that he is from the lower middle class.

In addition, within these first couple of chapters, we learn a great deal about his relationships. To start with, we learn he is an only child who has grown up surrounded by adults. As he describes it, he has grown up being surrounded by "an assortment of unmarried uncles and slow-moving aunts." We also learn he is very partial of his older 17-year-old cousin Emily, who is also on the boat with him, though she is in different quarters and asks him to keep his distance, not wanting him to follow her around. Emily becomes a central character in the novel as she and Michael share secrets; plus, she becomes involved in a prison escape.

Michael is also at first depicted as a rather emotionless child, neither excited nor afraid of undertaking a voyage alone, nor does he appear to have much affection for those around him. Part of his lack of emotion is due to his strict upbringing in boarding schools--he is too afraid to think or move in anyway that would be considered out of line. As he begins his voyage, he becomes determined to recreate himself as a new person, and he accomplishes this through the friendships he forms at the Cat's Table. Two important friendships he forms are with Ramadhin and Cassius. With these friends, Michael undertakes mischievous activities, including trespassing on the first-class deck, burglary, and even attempting to ride out a storm at sea being tied to a deck.

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