Setting

Read here our discussion as concerns the time, physical, and social setting of “Charles” by Shirley Jackson.

Time setting

The time setting of the short story is not mentioned in the text. However, as the story was published in 1948, we can assume that the events are supposed to take place around the time of publishing.

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Physical setting

When it comes to the physical setting, there are two important places which should be analyzed. Part of the action takes places at home, where Laurie tells his parents about what Charles does and where the parents think about Charles’ bad influence on their son. The other part of the story takes place in school, where Laurie’s kindergarten is located. There, Laurie/Charles acts rudely...

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Social setting

The social setting touches upon the important issue of multiple personality disorders. This is a mental disorder that involves the existence of two different personalities that alternate in a person’s behavior. It is possible that Laurie is suffering from multiple personality disorder, and therefore cannot control when he acts like “Laurie” and when he acts like “Charles”. However, it is notable that the behavior of “Laurie” and “Charles” become increasingly similar throughout the story, so it may be that Laurie is simply using the character of Charles as an excuse for his bad behavior.

The social setting also hints at faulty family relationships. As you have seen, neither the mother nor the father communicates properly with Laurie. As days pass by, they are not interested in what Laurie did in kindergarten, but in what Charles did.

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