What is an important detail in the short story "Bad Characters?"

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One important detail in the story is the difference in mindset between upper- and lower-class people. Lottie, being lower-class, thinks that all her actions are justified because she is poor; she thinks that theft in her case is moral, and that no one has the right to criticize her because her station in life excuses her actions. Lottie shows no signs of shame or remorse, unlike Emily, who is constantly on-edge because of her guilty conscience. Lottie also only stops her criminal acts if she is caught or if there is no profit in them; she knows that she can lie to escape many situations.

She made a regular habit of going through the pockets of the coats in the cloakroom every day at recess, but she had never found anything there worth a red cent and was about to give that up.
(Stafford, "Bad Characters," Google Books)

The only reason she gives up stealing from coat pockets is because it is not profitable; she can find something better to do with her time.

In contrast, Emily only suffers from immaturity, not from deliberate malice or innate immorality. Emily is fascinated with Lottie because the poorer girl represents freedom from rules and societal expectations; Emily wants to be more free than she already is, but doesn't understand her desires and can only voice them through tantrums. She even thinks that some integral part of her is meant to be "bad," and that removing it would destroy her individual identity. However, it is more appropriate to say that Emily was unduly influence by Lottie before Emily had matured; her mindset is never about survival or victory, but instead about breaking rules without consequence.

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Bad Characters

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