What is the role of Laurie's father in "Charles"?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Laurie’s father does not seem to notice that his son's behavior is inappropriate, which might explain Laurie’s behavior.

Laurie’s father is not much of a disciplinarian.  When his son is rude to him, he does not correct him.  You can draw a direct connection between this and his behavior at school toward his teacher.

At lunch he spoke insolently to his father, spilled his baby sister’s milk, and remarked that his teacher said we were not to take the name of the Lord in vain.

Laurie’s also calls his father dumb, playing a game with him and then stopping to “laugh insanely.”   It is typical kindergarten behavior, but it also shows disrespect and is somewhat manic.

Laurie’s mother is focused on Charles’s behavior, and Laurie’s comments about him.  She does not notice her own son and what he is doing in front of her own eyes.  In the meantime, her own husband is absent while being right there too.  He just doesn’t seem aware of his son or care what he is doing.  He finally asks Laurie about Charles.

“What are they going to do about Charles, do you suppose?”  Laurie’s father asked him.

Laurie shrugged elaborately. “Throw him out of school, I guess,” he said.

He may be displaying some presence of mind here, aware that Laurie actually is Charles.  Whether he is or is not, he is at least bringing the concept of consequences home to Laurie.  Nonetheless, he manages to get worse and worse, convincing a little girl to swear and telling his father what word she said.

“What word?” his father asked unwisely, and Laurie said, “I’ll have to whisper it to you, it’s so bad.” He got down off his chair and went around to his father.  His father bent his head down and Laurie whispered joyfully.

His father is definitely gullible.  Both of his parents are naïve and just a little too trusting.  This is why the Charles thing goes on way too long.  When Laurie’s mother goes to the PTA meeting and finds out about her son’s true character, they really should have known all along.  All of the warning signs were there.

The focus of this story is usually on the mother, but when you shift to look at the father, you notice that the mother is a little overwhelmed.  Both parents are gullible about Charles, but the father in particular seems to be manipulated by his son and his son's particular plaything.  The relationship between father and son actually goes a long way to explain Laurie's behavior.

Parents always want to believe what's best of their children.  You never imagine that your child is the one who is causing the trouble, or having the bad reputation.  One way or another, it is the parents who influence their child's behavior. 

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