(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Charlotte” is told in the first person by an unnamed narrator who interweaves the story of a contest of strength and wills between two professional wrestlers for the affection of a woman with his own attempts to win an acknowledgment of the power and even existence of love from his girlfriend, Starla. At the same time, he ponders the nature of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, itself. He begins by describing how Charlotte has changed. Once a city ruled by its allegiance to professional wrestling, the city is now obsessed with its new professional basketball team, the Hornets. Instead of seeing men in tight pants with giant biceps, strange haircuts, snakeskin boots, and thick gold chains, the city’s residents see tall graceful men who seem alien to them. Frannie Belk, owner of the Southeastern Wrestling Alliance, has sold the franchise to cable television magnate Ted Turner, and the wrestlers have relocated to Atlanta, Georgia.

At various times throughout his story, the narrator digresses to focus on the character of the city of Charlotte; everyone who now lives in Charlotte, he says, was originally from somewhere else. They have all flocked to the big city to remake their lives over into something wonderful, something sublime, but they all inevitably meet with disappointment. Rather than the city of dreams, as the narrator points out, Charlotte is a city that once housed a crooked television evangelist who fleeced his flock out of millions of dollars. Somehow, the people of Charlotte have lost sight of the things in life that truly matter and make the mistake of buying into the false glitter of the skyline of Charlotte and the decorations of bars like P. J. O’Mulligan’s.

Against this canvas, the narrator, a manager at P. J. O’Mulligan’s, tells the story of his love for Starla. He has tried constantly to...

(The entire section is 756 words.)