Charles Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

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What are some key quotes in the short story "Charles" by Shirley Jackson?

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Shirley Jackson's short story “Charles” examines the difficulties both children and parents can have in adapting to a new situation, such as, in this story, the first few weeks of kindergarten.

The narrator hints at her young son's change in attitude from the first paragraph.

The day my son Laurie started kindergarten he renounced corduroy overalls with bibs and began wearing blue jeans with a belt; I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long- trousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave good-bye to me.

When he arrives back from his first day at school, Laurie immediately mentions Charles's bad behavior. Notice, however, he has to think about the boy's name and refuses to answer his mother when she tries to probe him further.

“What did he do?” I asked. “Who was it?”

Laurie thought. “It was Charles,” he said. “He was...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 678 words.)

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kcox92 | Student

"Charles" is a short story by Shirley Jackson. A young boy, Laurie, is going to kindergarten for the first time, and reports his bad behavior to his parents in disguise as another student.

The beginning is especially important because Laurie's mother has noted a change in what Laurie wears to school."The day my son Laurie started kindergarten he renounced corduroy overalls with bibs and began wearing blue jeans with a belt; I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long-trousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave good-bye to me."

This suggests a sudden change in not only Laurie's appearance, but his attitude as well. He "forgot" to wave good-bye to his mother, but as we read the story, we can infer that it may have been an intentional disregard. This is even more obvious when he shows disrespect toward his father when he "regarded his father coldly" and when greets his father with, "Hi, Pop, y’old dust mop.”

Also, The Corduroy overalls in the introduction suggest and symbolize innocence, where blue jeans and a belt can symbolize how Laurie has matured and changed since nursery school.

Laurie's sudden disregard for good grammar appears to signify that he does not like school and refuses to sound educated. This is obvious when his father asks, '“Did you learn anything?” and Laurie responds, “I didn’t learn nothing,” and his mother corrects him stating, “Anything,” I said. “Didn’t learn anything”' This becomes even more apparent when his father asks, “What are they going to do about Charles, do you suppose?” and Laurie responded, “Throw him out of school, I guess” These small but important quotes tell the reader that Laurie is not enjoying school.

Later in the story, Laurie's teacher made him a helper which seemed to help with "Charles'" behavior. If by now the reader hasn't figured out that Charles is actually Laurie it becomes clear when Laurie's mother meets his teacher and she says, "“We had a little trouble adjusting, the first week or so,” she said primly, “but now he’s a fine little helper. With occasional lapses, of course.” We saw the lapses when "Charles" convinced a young girl to say a bad word and then later says the same word himself and gets his mouth washed out with soap.