Clara’s outer characterisation reveals that she is “fifteen and a half” (p. 50, ll. 1-2), that she goes to a girls’ school in London, that her parents are separated, and that Clara lives with her mother.
Part of her outer characterisation in “Clara’s Day” by Penelope Lively focuses on her physical appearance. At school, she wears a skirt and a blouse (p. 50, ll. 9-10) and has the body of a typical teenager. Her body shape is presented from her mother’s perspective: “…not as though she’ not got a nice shape.” (p. 55, l. 17); “…spot of puppy fat still but that’s going, good hips…” (p. 55, ll. 18-19)
Clara’s inner characterisation is constructed by following her actions, attitude, and perspective, and by focusing on her interactions with the adults around her.
The school incident
In the beginning of the story, we find out that Clara took all her clothes off in the school assembly hall:
She walked naked through the lines of girls, past the headmistress at her lectern and the other staff ranged behind her, and out into the entrance lobby. She had left off her bra and pants already, so that all she had to do was unbutton her blouse… (p. 50, ll. 4-9)
The fact that she came to school not wearing any underwear suggests that Clara planned to undress in advance. As Clara is at a teenage age of change and transformation, we can interpret her actions as a symbolical liberation, trying to leave her childhood self behind (later we find out that Clara grew up feeling very shy about her body). This idea is also suggested by the fact that she feels very peaceful after she undresses: “…a peaceful feeling, as though no one had been here for a long time nor ever would come.” (p. 50, ll. 26-27)
The fact that Clara then puts on some science overalls suggests that Clara feels she has accomplished her intentions and there is no need...