Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Charles” is a short sketch, originally published in Mademoiselle and eventually incorporated into Jackson’s fictionalized memoirs of family life in Bennington, Vermont, Life Among the Savages (1953).

In Shirley Jackson (1975), Lenemaja Friedman points out that when the real Laurie Hyman went to kindergarten, there actually was a boy there who performed several of the exploits that the fictional Laurie attributes to the fictional Charles. Altering this fact enhances the dramatic and thematic effects of “Charles.” The surprise discovery that Charles is Laurie’s fiction produces irony, the realization that all along the story has been meaning something other than what it has been saying. What it has been meaning becomes more interesting as well, for depths of complexity become visible in the child’s character. One result is a kind of wonder at the fiction-making powers that all people possess.