Why does Laurie lie to his mother in "Charles?"
Laurie lies to his mother because he feels guilt about his actions and wants to talk about them, but does not want to take the consequences for them so he makes up a story about an imaginary boy named “Charles” and describes all the bad things Charles does—when it’s really Laurie.
Laurie’s parents are in complete denial, although there are signs that he is not an angel.
“The teacher spanked a boy, though,” Laurie said, addressing his bread and butter.
“For being fresh,” he added, with his mouth full. (p. 1)
The fact that he talks with his mouth full and is the center of attention, and no one corrects him, foreshadows the fact that he is actually the trouble maker.
Laurie seems aware of his actions. He describes the way he acted as “awfully fresh” in this instance, and seems to realize that he was bad. Yet he deflects blame from himself by making up an ordinary boy.
Until the PTA meeting, Laurie’s mother never tries to talk to his teacher about Charles, and the teacher never tells Laurie’s mother what a problem her son is. This way, Laurie gets away with the charade.
While Laurie may lie to his parents as a way to express his guilt without suffering the consequences, there are also other reasons as to why he might lie to his parents. Throughout the short story, Laurie's favorite topic of conversation is Charles. Each night at dinner, Laurie raves about Charles's transgressions and takes pleasure in speaking about him. Charles is continually the topic of conversation, and any mistake or infraction at home is immediately compared to Charles. Taking into account the fact that many of Charles's transgressions at school result in him receiving attention from teachers and students, albeit negative attention, leads the reader to believe that Laurie enjoys being the center of attention. Laurie may lie to his parents as a way to gain their attention at home. Laurie notices how his parents take an interest in the fictional Charles's behavior, which only encourages Laurie to continue lying. Ironically, Laurie's parents have no idea that they are only reinforcing their son's negative behavior as he continues to take pleasure in lying about Charles.