In "Charles," who is Laurie's mother looking for at the P.T.A meeting?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the P.T.A. meeting Laurie's mother is looking for the mother of Charles, the horrid little brat who's supposed to have been causing all kinds of trouble at the kindergarten. She'd like to have a word with her, to find out just why her son is so badly-behaved and obnoxious, and why he's always getting up to no good and disrupting the other children's education.

But she's in for a long, fruitless search, because Charles doesn't exist; he's a figment of Laurie's overactive imagination. If any child has been causing trouble at the kindergarten, it's Laurie. So if Laurie's mother wants to meet Charles's mom, she doesn't have to go to the time and the trouble of rocking up at the P.T.A. meeting; she just needs to look in the mirror.

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Shirley Jackson's short story "Charles," like many of her short stories, offers readers a surprising and unexpected ending. In the opening of the story, Laurie's mother details how her son (Laurie) changes rapidly, even as he walks out the door on his way to kindergarten. Over the course of the story, Laurie states how one child's (Charles) behavior has sparked the interest of the other children in his class.

Charles is rambunctious, inappropriate, and disrespectful. Everyday, Laurie comes home to tell his mother about the newest "Charles" news. Charles, to Laurie's mother, seems to be quite a spectacle.

Laurie's mother, given everything she has heard about Charles, is excited to go to the PTA meeting at the school. She wants to see what the mother of Charles looks like. As she begins to question Laurie's teacher about Charles, the teacher tells her that she does not have any students named Charles in her class. 

Readers, and Laurie's mother, immediately come to realize what has happened--Laurie is Charles. Ironically, Laurie's mother already knows Charles"'mother very well. She is Charles' mother.

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