The Unreliable Narrator In Shirly Jackson's Charles

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In the short story “Charles” by Shirly Jackson, Laurie invents a persona named Charles as a front to tell his parents about his days at school without getting in trouble for acting out. However, Laurie also exaggerates the stories about his acting out at school as he views that he has grown out of being his mother’s “… sweetvoiced nursery-school tot …” and is now a “… swaggering character …” (_____,____). This change in character is displayed in Laurie’s behavior while at home throughout the story as Laurie acts fresh (insolently or without respect) to his parents and surroundings displaying his “… swaggering character…” while at home. Upon being asked about his day at school multiple times, Laurie creates the persona of Charles who displays …show more content…

As discussed above the mother refuses to believe that her son is growing up and in turn, believes the stories of Charles which causes the narrator to be deemed unreliable. The first sign that the narrator is unreliable appears when the narrator compares Laurie to a well-behaved kid and then when the narrator describes Laurie’s behavior after school as disruptive and insolent. At this point, it is apparent that Laurie is not as well-behaved as his mother believes him to be. However, it is not apparent that Laurie has made up Charles even though he is displaying the same freshness as Charles was at school as it appears to be semi-normal behavior. For the rest of the first week, Laurie keeps displaying this insolent behavior at home and Charles keeps acting out at school. However, the mother’s viewpoint of Laurie’s behavior is being influenced by Charles as shown by “this Charles boy sounds like such a bad influence.” which reinforces the belief that Laurie is a well-behaved boy and causes the reader to keep dismissing Laurie’s behavior at home (____,____). As whenever Laurie acted out at home it is like the behavior displayed by Charles at school that day, however up until this point Laurie’s behavior at home has been less insolent than the stories of Charles’s behavior. This allows the reader to agree with the narrator’s belief that Laurie is a well-behaved boy being influenced by another child. The Impedance caused by the narrator’s belief that Charles is just a misbehaving kid that is impacting Laurie’s behavior remains until Laurie pulls a wagon full of mud through the house (_____,____). It is at this point Laurie’s behavior at home rivals that of Charles’s behavior at school and the readers can begin to see the parallels between Laurie’s and Charles’s behavior that leads to the determination that Charles is made

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