“Charles”. Shirley Jackson. English 9AMr. ShimizuNov. 2013. Born in 1916 in San Francisco, but moved as a teenager to Rochester, NY. Went to Syracuse University and met her future husband (book critic Stanley Edgar Hyman) while on the school’s lit. magazine.
English 9AMr. ShimizuNov. 2013
Born in 1916 in San Francisco, but moved as a teenager to Rochester, NY.
Went to Syracuse University and met her future husband (book critic Stanley Edgar Hyman) while on the school’s lit. magazine.
Moved to Vermont, where Stanley was a professor and had 4 children, one son named Laurence (Laurie).
Died of heart failure at age 48 in her sleep; was overweight and a smoker; suffered nervous breakdowns according to Darryl Hattenhauer (Shirley Jackson’s American Gothic)
Stephen King considers her a major influence and calls her The Haunting of Hill House one of the best horror stories ever written in his Danse Macabre.
“Charles” came out in 1948 and WWII (1939-45) was still fresh in readers’ minds
During wartime, nations use propaganda to create a clear dichotomy between the good guys and bad guys … dichotomy is a division between two things thought to be opposed or entirely different from each other
The question is, does such a dichotomy between good and evil really exist? We called ourselves the liberators of Europe during the war (the good guys), but we imprisoned and relocated Japanese-American citizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor just like the Nazis did with Europe’s Jewish population.
Mob mentality can overtake society during wartime: Nazism swept over Germany and bloodthirsty patriotism swept the USA after Pearl Harbor … Evil lurked even in the small-town America of “Charles” …
Preview of Conflict and Theme
Character vs. Society
Character vs. Self
Discuss answers to these questions with your elbow partner(s) …
Characters + Point of View
NARRATOR = a young mother whose son Laurie has just started kindergarten; first-person protagonist
LAURIE = the narrator’s son; goes from a sweet little boy to a rude, mouthy kindergartner under the supposed influence of a bad kid in his class named Charles
LAURIE’S FATHER = narrator’s husband; the target of Laurie’s teasing
CHARLES = a “bad seed” student who fascinates Laurie’s whole family
LAURIE AND CHARLE’S TEACHER = a character with a surprise for Laurie’s parents
STORY NOTE #1: What a character does says volumes about who he or she is as a person
READING STRATEGY for “CHARLES”:
Use context clues to uncover the meaning of unfamiliar words.
“I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long-trousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave goodbye to me.”
What does “swaggering” mean?
“He came home the same way, the front door slamming open, his cap on the floor, and the voice suddenly become raucous shouting, “Isn’t anybody here?”
What does “raucous” mean?
STORY NOTE #2: THE IMPORTANCE OF USING PRECISE WORD CHOICE
Not only is Laurie shown to be rude (slamming the door, throwing his cap on the floor, and shouting unnecessarily) but swaggering adds another level to his rudeness—not only is he rude, he’s rude in an in-your-face, obnoxious way intended to get himself noticed.
Consider: he slams the door loudly, talks loudly, and wants to know if anyone’s home to witness his bad behavior
STORY NOTE #3: USE DIALOGUE TO MOVE THE PLOT FORWARD … DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY/SHOW
Jackson unfolds the story by having Laurie tell his parents stories about Charles’ behavior when he comes home everyday for lunch. By not showing Laurie and Charles at school, she keeps suspense.
–lysuffix: indicates/forms an adjective out of the word
Insolently(p.73)scornfully (p.75) matronly (p.77)
elaborately(p.73)heartily (p.75)cautiously (p.77)
QUESTIONS TO PONDER AS YOU READ