Charles (short story)

Charles (short story)

"Charles" is a short story by Shirley Jackson, first published in Mademoiselle in July 1948. It was later included in her 1949 collection, The Lottery and Other Stories, and her 1953 novel, Life Among the Savages. This story is a prime example of situational irony where many times the reader can figure out that Charles and Laurie are one and the same but Laurie's father and mother in this story don't realize this until the ending.

Plot summary

Young Laurie has recently started kindergarten, and his mother (who also narrates the story) laments that her "sweet-voiced nursery-school tot" is growing up. She also notes changes in his behavior: he no longer waves goodbye to her, slams the door when he comes home and speaks insolently to his father.

Laurie begins telling his parents stories about an ill-behaved boy in his class named Charles. Charles throws things, yells and hits his teacher and classmates. Though in a way fascinated by the strange boy, Laurie's mother wonders if Charles' bad influence is responsible for Laurie misbehaving and using bad grammar. Her interest in Charles increases as the stories continue, and she looks forward to meeting his mother at the upcoming PTA meeting.

Over the ensuing weeks Charles seems to be going from bad to worse until one day Laurie tells his parents that Charles behaved himself and that the teacher made him her helper. By the end of the week, however, Charles reverts back to his old self when he makes a girl in his class repeat a bad word. The next school day, Charles says the word several times and throws chalk.

When the next PTA meeting rolls around, Laurie's mother is determined to meet Charles' mother. She closely examines the other parents and sees nothing but pleasant faces and is surprised when Charles is not mentioned at all. After the meeting, she approaches the teacher and introduces herself as Laurie's mother. The teacher says that once Laurie adjusted he became "a fine little helper. With occasional lapses, of course." Laurie's mother then mentions Charles and the teacher tells her that there is no one named Charles in the class. (The story thus implies that all the trouble has been caused by Laurie.)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • short story — short story, adj. a piece of prose fiction, usually under 10,000 words. [1885 90] * * * Brief fictional prose narrative. It usually presents a single significant episode or scene involving a limited number of characters. The form encourages… …   Universalium

  • Short story — The short story is a literary genre of fictional prose narrative that tends to be more concise and to the point than longer works of fiction such as novellas (in the modern sense of the term) and novels.OverviewShort stories have their origins in …   Wikipedia

  • South of No North (short story collection) — South of No North is a collection of short stories by Charles Bukowski, the so called Poet Laureate of Skid Row , originally published in 1973 as South of No North: Stories of the Buried Life by John Martin s Black Sparrow Press. South of No… …   Wikipedia

  • Men Without Women (short story collection) — Men Without Women   …   Wikipedia

  • Nebula Award for Best Short Story — Winners of the “Nebula Award for Best Short Story” . The stated year is that of publication; awards are given in the following year. Winning titles are listed first, with other nominees listed below. Contents 1 Winners and nominees 2 See also 3… …   Wikipedia

  • The Merry Men (short story) — The Merry Men is a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson first published in 1882 in Cornhill Magazine 45 6 (June July 1882). The story was later published in Stevenson s collection The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables (1887).Plot summaryThe… …   Wikipedia

  • Half-Breed (short story) — Infobox Short story name = Half Breed title orig = translator = author = Isaac Asimov country = United States language = English series = Tweenie genre = science fiction short story published in = Astonishing Stories publisher = Popular… …   Wikipedia

  • Partners in Crime (short story collection) — infobox Book | name = Partners in Crime title orig = translator = image caption = Dust jacket illustration of the US (true first) edition. See Publication history (below) for UK first edition jacket image. author = Agatha Christie cover artist =… …   Wikipedia

  • Brokeback Mountain (short story) — Infobox short story | name = Brokeback Mountain title orig = translator = author = Annie Proulx country = United States language = English series = genre = Short story published in = The New Yorker publication type = Magazine publisher = The New… …   Wikipedia

  • The Namesake (short story) — The Namesake is a short story by Willa Cather. It was first published in McClure s in March 1907 [Willa Cather s Collected Short Fiction, University of Nebraska Press; Rev Ed edition, 1 Nov 1970, page 146] .Plot summaryCharles Bentley, one of… …   Wikipedia