Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Big Read IV: Shirley Jackson's "Charles"

The Lottery: And Other Stories Gail G shared this article from Salon back in '97 about Shirley Jackson. I look forward to reading it.

Charles (read it here)

How does the act of going to school change a child even before he gets there? Where did this come from?

I knew immediately the darling Laurie was actually 'Charles.' He'd already been displaying the same behavior, which baffled his parents, but it never occurred to them he would create a persona who did all the actions he actually did. I could see that he might learn this behavior from someone else at school, but how did we get the "sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long-trousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave goodbye"? Perhaps there was a Mr. Harris character that came along and gave him ideas before story started.

I suppose, as a smart boy, he realized it was wrong to 'be fresh,' so when his mother questioned him, he quickly thought up Charles so it wouldn't be him, Laurie, who was the bad one.

"What did he do?" I asked. "Who was it?"
Laurie thought. "It was Charles," he said. "He was fresh. The teacher spanked him and made him stand in a corner. He was awfully fresh."
It's funny how he covers up his having to stay after school for being so bad.
"Charles yelled so in school they sent a boy in from first grade to tell the teacher she had to make Charles keep quiet, and so Charles had to stay after school. And so all the children stayed to watch him."
Of course mom misses the first Parent-Teacher meeting. The parents inadvertently encourage their son to act out as Charles, so they can have more stories.

I appreciate the ending. And I don't appreciate the ending. I want to read about mom's reaction as she realizes her son is Charles. I want something like the ending of The Renegade. Still, it's good for a gotcha, if you didn't get it early on about Laurie/Charles. I'm still mystified about where he got the acting out from. Perhaps that is on purpose...we the reader are supposed to be as clueless as the parents?

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