What is the background in the story "Charles"?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Charles" is a short story by Shirley Jackson. She is best known for the story "The Lottery." The setting for "Charles" is a typical American household in the late 1940's. The family is made up of a mother, father, kindergarten aged son and a baby daughter. 

It is obvious to the reader from the very beginning that the son, Laurie, is a terrible brat. He is obnoxious and talks back to his parents. He makes up a story about an equally bratty boy at school named Charles. It's really no surprise that at the end the mother finds out that Charles is really her own son. It is, of course, impossible for her to believe she could have raised such a child. 

Most of the action takes place at the family home. Everyday, Laurie brings home stories of the incorrigible Charles. The last scene is set at a "Parent-Teachers meeting" at the school where the mother is told by Laurie's teacher that there is no Charles in the kindergarten. 

The reader may surmise that Laurie has been allowed to get away with things because he is terribly spoiled and is the first son. He was born during World War II or just after and may be considered a "baby boomer." Maybe his parents were under the influence of Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose book Baby and Child Care encouraged parents to treat their children as individuals. Spock, widely popular at the time, was sometimes criticized for being too lenient in his ideas about raising children.

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Charles

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