Who do you think is the main character in the story?

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Laurie is the main character and protagonist of Shirley Jackson's short story "Charles ." Laurie's character drives the plot, and his actions in the classroom setting at school are the main focus of the story. Laurie is a kindergartener, who is quite the troublemaker at school and lies...

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Laurie is the main character and protagonist of Shirley Jackson's short story "Charles." Laurie's character drives the plot, and his actions in the classroom setting at school are the main focus of the story. Laurie is a kindergartener, who is quite the troublemaker at school and lies to his parents each day about the existence of a naughty boy named Charles. Laurie's mother, who is also the narrator of the story, is concerned that Charles may have a negative influence on Laurie and looks forward to speaking to her son's kindergarten teacher about his rowdy classmate. Some of Charles's bad behaviors include getting "fresh" with the teacher, hitting students, disrupting class, and saying naughty words. At the end of the story, Laurie's mother attends a PTA meeting alone, where she discovers that there is nobody named Charles in Laurie's class. The reader is left to assume that Laurie is Charles. Since the entire story focuses on Charles, who is actually Laurie's alter ego, Laurie is considered the story's protagonist.

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The main character of a story is the protagonist, the central character around whom the entire story revolves and with whom all the supporting characters have interactions.

Though the mother in the story “Charles” has a major role and narrates the story, it is the character of Charles/Laurie around whom the plot revolves. Though the title of the story is “Charles”, he is an imaginary character made up by Laurie and meant to take the blame for all of Laurie’s negative behaviors. Therefore, Laurie is the main character of the story.

Without Laurie, the plot of the story would not move forward. Laurie, even when through his imaginary counterpart Charles, drives each action that occurs throughout the plot of the story. The climbing action with the mounting examples of Charles’ misbehavior, the problem of finding out which of Laurie’s classmates Charles is and finally the resolution where the reader realizes that Charles does not exist, are all tied to Laurie’s actions.  

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I think that the mother is the main character in Jackson's "Charles."

Jackson opens and closes with the mother's frame of reference.  The narrative begins with her reflection about Laurie starting kindergarten.  It speaks to how she perceived a potential change in her son when he "renounced corduroy overalls with bibs" in place of "blue jeans with a belt."  This detail is striking because it shows how the mother sees her son drifting away from her.  When she furthers this with how Laurie's start of kindergarten reminds her that "an era of my life has ended," it is clear that we are seeing her son's experience through her own eyes.  She tells us how he came home, the way he responded to his father, and what he said.  Her narrative focus drives the story, and in doing so, helps to make her the main character.

When we experience the ending of the story, our attention turns to her. As it becomes clear her son is the classroom disruption, everything we once thought changes.  She moves from being a concerned parent who has good intentions, but is limited in what she can do to an oblivious parent who failed to see the changes in her son.  The problems that she saw as someone else's are now her own and this shift is significant to her characterization.  The story's conclusion has a jarring effect on the reader because of how we see the mother and helps to make her the main character.

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