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The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle


by Avi

Character Clues

Character Analysis


Charlotte: The name "Charlotte" is the feminine form of Charles. The name is taken often to mean "womanly" or "feminine." Not surprising in a novel concerned with gender, eh?

Zachariah: The Old Testament of the Bible contains the book of Zechariah, a man who is a prophet. Zachariah, as a character, resonates in many Biblical ways: he is sacrificed by the captain, supposedly killed, and then seemingly resurrected. How is Zachariah also a prophet in The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle?

Captain Jaggery: Jaggery is a coarse brown sugar often found in India. The word appears in the English language as early as 1598. An extreme capitalist, it's no wonder that Captain Jaggery's name is taken from one of the commodities that was shipped around the oceans and for which many slaves were exploited. As with cotton, sugar was a product that was closely associated with slavery.

Physical Appearance

With an eye for detail, Charlotte employs very long physical descriptions of people to characterize them. While this makes for some good reading, judging people by their appearances, as we see with Charlotte, can lead to major trouble.


At the beginning of the novel, Charlotte is interested, nay obsessed, with what people are wearing and how in her mind clothes make the man. Clothes may tell us some things about character, we learn, but certainly not everything.

Social Status

Charlotte is at first afraid to associate with lowly crewmembers and often recoils when someone beneath her social standing offers her advice. Not for long!


Charlotte eventually learns to judge people based not on how they look, but on what they do. For example, take a look at this description:

Despite his decrepit appearance, Barlow was as dexterous as a monkey. He clambered across the foreyard upon which he had been perched, reached the mast, then the rigging, and on this narrow thread of rope he seemed to actually run until he dropped upon the deck with little or no sound. (6.36)