Charles Questions and Answers
by Shirley Jackson

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Why didn't Laurie's mom realize that Laurie was really Charles in Shirley Jackson's short story "Charles"? 

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Shirley Jackson is most widely known for her chilling short story "The Lottery" but she also wrote the very charming, and in some ways disturbing, short story "Charles."

From the beginning of the story Laurie is portrayed as quite a rude and obnoxious little boy:

"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."

When asked about his first year in school Laurie can only talk about "Charles," who is always getting in trouble and bringing the wrath of the kindergarten teacher. Laurie has really invented Charles because he does not want to admit he has been acting out in school. Unfortunately, Laurie's mom never dreams that Laurie could actually be the class bully. She is obviously in a state of denial over the behavior of her son. She can only see "my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot" and not the boy that could "hit the teacher."

Throughout the story Jackson uses foreshadowing to show us that Laurie is not a well behaved child and the situational irony at the end of the story probably comes as no surprise to the reader. Of course, Laurie's mother may be shocked to learn that there is no Charles. She has not been able to recognize the evidence that her son is a brat because she loves him dearly and sometimes people fail to recognize the negative in those that are closest to them. 

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