What is the lesson of the story "Charles" by Shirley Jackson?  

Expert Answers info

Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write2,259 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Essentially, the message of the story is that the creation of a personal identity is a difficult and complicated process, regardless of age. This is shown clearly through the character of Laurie, a young child who begins kindergarten. Jackson argues that this is a very important time for Laurie because it affects his development as an individual. She makes this clear in the first paragraph when she describes the physical changes he undergoes: he starts to swagger, for example, and no longer waves goodbye to his mother.

Laurie's creation of an alter-ego called Charles comes as a great surprise to his mother and, in fact, provides the final plot twist. But it also shows that there are important mental and emotional changes in Laurie's development which mirror the physical changes that he has experienced. For the first time, he is testing boundaries, as shown by his various antics in class, and learning that his actions have consequences, as demonstrated by his various punishments.

That Jackson offers no explanation for Laurie's actions suggests that she believes them to be a natural part of growing up. For her, forming a sense of identity is a complicated process which parents and teachers just have to accept.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Elizabeth Stover, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12), Professional Writer

bookM.A. from Concordia University

bookM.S. from The University of Texas at Arlington

calendarEducator since 2015

write268 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

When referring to a lesson in a piece of literature, one usually means the moral or message an author attempts to get across to the reader. In the story "Charles" by Shirley Jackson, the lesson of the story would depend on the age of the reader. The story is written from the point of view of the mother in the story. The main character, Laurie, is her kindergarten-aged son who finds himself in some trouble at school.

If a student is asked about the lesson of the story, the likely lesson he would say the author creates in the story is to always tell the truth because lies will catch up with you. In the story, Laurie creates a fictional character to take the blame for his own misbehavior. It takes his parents a while to catch on to this.

If a parent is asked about the lesson of the story, she would probably reply that the lesson is to always listen carefully to your children and be attentive to the information and stories they tell you. The parents did not suspect that the character Charles who was misbehaving in their son's class was really Laurie until the teacher told them there was no Charles in the class.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Ask a Question