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The Charmer- By: Budge Wilson

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Ruqaya Jawad

on 21 September 2016

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Transcript of The Charmer- By: Budge Wilson

The Charmer
By: Ruqaya, Taya, Eamon, Josh and Adnan

Do you think that Zachary's selfish demeanor after the death of his sister was a result of careless parenting, or possible insight into the mind of a sociopath?
What were the advantages and disadvantages of Zachary's actions? Do you think they were for the better, or for the worse?
What would be one or two words to describe Zachary's relationship with his family?

Do you believe that Zachary's wicked charm was a result of his nature or nurture? Explain your answer.
If you were the author of this story, what might be an option for an alternate ending?
We have come to the conclusion that although diagnosing Zachary with a mental disorder could be viewed as an extreme measure, it is important to recognize that his lack of remorse towards his sister is an insightful clue to his abnormal behavior. The narrator describes Zachary as being the most ideal child that anyone could ask for. However, as the story progresses, we start to learn that Zachary has many cruel intentions hidden behind an innocent face. The narrator states, "He was surrounded by a bevy of admirers; everywhere he went, he trailed friends. He was athletic, amassed trophies. He got lead parts in school plays. He won class elections. And he was beautiful" (Wilson 103). Winnifred's description of who Zachary seems to be makes him appear as some sort of saint, but we soon grow suspicious that he has internal problems, and that is the most important clue into entering the mind of a sociopath. Not only that, but he deliberately manipulates his parents and gets away with many things that he should not have. He also controls and enslaves his younger sisters with his undeniable charm. He starts off being very thoughtful and considerate towards his family. He places them on a pedestal and they start to think that they hold a high degree of respect in his mind. After his prepping process is complete, he starts to twist up the truth in order to hypnotize the people around him into giving him the attention he wants. As unfortunate as it is, some people, like his mother, fall for his trap and they start to defend him even when his actions become uncontrollably narcissistic. As a result, the reader might come to the conclusion that Zachary may have some sort of mental disorder.
Zachary's actions are the root of his family's dysfunction. The events that we have learned depict the severity and impact of his behavior. As a child, Zachary enslaves his sisters by alluring them with his usage of some witty nicknames and a sweet smile. His choice of words creates such a distasteful impact, that his sisters obey his every command without any second thought. As he gets older, he starts to showcase his repulsive behavior that is sugar coated with some dazzling quotes from the parable of the prodigal son. The narrator states, "Zack lied over trifles, and periodically stole money out of wallets that were left lying around. He started smoking at thirteen, and was into the liquor cabinet by fourteen" (Wilson 103). Zachary seems to be doing many things that are frowned upon for his age, and yet his clever words seem to be saving him all the time.

As strange as it may seem, the shrewd behavior that is presented by Zachary ends up creating a positive impact on Winnifred. When Winnifred recalls her thoughts in the beginning of the story, she states that she was angry for a certain period of time, but her anger has been defused ever since she became a mother herself. She also states, "It seems I've come full circle" (Wilson 101). The meaning of that statement is described at the end of the story when her daughter, Stephanie, throws a jug of milk across the kitchen and uses manipulative behavior to try to get herself out of trouble. However, Winnifred remembers Zach's scheming ways, and she orders her daughter to take responsibility for her actions and clean up after her mess. In a way, Zachary has indirectly impacted his sister by providing an example of how not to parent. By noticing and studying her parent's naive reactions to Zachary's continuous lies, she learns to outsmart her own manipulative child, and gives thanks to Zachary for showing her how children need proper guidance.
After carefully analyzing the events of the story, we have concluded that Zachary's actions are a mixture of both nature and nurture. At the end of the story, it is evident that the controlling behavior that Zach exhibited his entire life has been passed down to his niece, Stephanie. Throughout the entire story, Winnifred was remembering the actions of Zach so she can relate them to the actions of her own daughter. The genetic similarities become increasingly clear as the narrator recites the following: "She rose from the chair with a familiar grace and passed her hand across her forehead, sighing" (Wilson 107). Those same actions happened earlier on in the story when Zachary was trying to justify his actions with a charming manner. As a result, one might conclude that nurture is undoubtedly present within the family's DNA.
On the other hand, the nurture of Zachary's behavior is also apparent throughout the story. It is difficult to overlook the fact that Zachary's weapon of choice is his gifted talent of manipulative words, and unfortunately, his target is his naive family. From a very young age, he discovers that his parents are overtly simple, and he decides to embed his malicious lies in a way that guarantees his victory for over fourteen years. Although it is very difficult to understand why his parents are delusional towards his actions, it is fair to assume that his charming and soft spoken voice could trick anyone into believing his distorted lies.
There are many words to describe Zachary's relationship with his parents, however, in our opinion, the most dominant words are "manipulation and domination." The reason why we chose to describe it as such, is to highlight the most important traits that have been exhibited by Zachary. Although we are biased to the opinion of Winnifred throughout the story, we can conclude ourselves that Zachary has definitely gained an advantage over his other siblings. It takes special skills to perfect the art of manipulation, and such behavior has immediately elevated Zachary's character to a prestigious level of superiority over his family. Even though his actions have created a negative impact on everyone around him, his advantageous characteristics are hard to deny, and he has gained control by brainwashing his siblings into idolizing him as an older and more trustworthy person.
We found it very frustrating that Zachary never ended up learning his lesson, and instead, he ruined his mother's mental state and left his entire family in agony. Winnifred stated, "I grieved a lot after Zach left. I grieved for Lizzie, of course, and I grieved for Mom and Dad, and I grieved for my own broken dream. Zach rode the rails out west, and we heard from Alberta friends that he drifted around the small towns out there, trying this job and that, playing poker, drinking cheap wine, always moving on" (Wilson 107). The fact that Zach did not learn to appreciate the importance of his family is very aggravating. As a result, we decided to create an alternate ending that served justice for the entire family:
After the family returns back home from visiting Lizzie one last time, the father confronts Zachary about his lack of sorrow for his deceased sister. Zachary attempts to use his charming personality and a collection of meaningless quotes to try to gain his parents' sympathy, but his father does not fall for his tricks. He asks Zachary to leave and to come back only when he learns to respect and care for others. Zach decides to leave, planning never to apologize for his decades of lies, and he ends up stranded in Alberta, with no home or family that he can turn to in times of need. As a result, he decides to return to his home and to release all of the guilt that is trapped inside. He returns home, apologizes to his family, and decides to offer the rest of his life to his family as a slave. He later becomes a motivational speaker who's main goal is to teach young children about the importance of family values.
Introduction:

Characters:
Winnifred, nicknamed "posie", is the narrator of the story. She recalls her childhood and explains how her older brother manipulated her and enslaved her for the majority of her life.
Zachary is the oldest brother and he is the root cause of the disconnection between the members of the family. He exhibits very untrustworthy behavior, yet he is surrounded by a group of admirers.
The "Mom" is a flat character in the story that contributes to the overall message that the author tries to convey, which is how easily brainwashed people can become when they are pampered with the right words.
The "Dad" is also a flat character that is manipulated by Zachary.
Lizzie is the youngest child in the family and she is described as being the "kind" and "quiet" sibling. She idolizes Zachary and she obeys his every command.
Stephanie is thirteen years old and is the daughter of Winnifred. She is later described in the story as a very mischievous character.
Halifax, Nova Scotia.
1950's
Setting:
Mood/ Atmosphere:
In the beginning of the story, the mood is very light and simple. As the story progresses and we see a transition in Zachary's character, we start to see a shift of atmosphere into a sense of darkness.
Inciting Incident:
Winnifred describes how when her mother baked a cake for church bazaar, Zachary ate apart of it without feeling any guilt. However, when her mother found out, Zachary started to recite verses from popular literature and perform quirky dance moves to try to ease the tension that he has created.
Conflict:
The conflict is person vs. Person and Person vs. Self. The first type of conflict that is evident in the story is the conflict between Zachary and his family. The disconnection between the two parties becomes increasingly clear when Zachary grows older and starts to lose his 'heroic' traits by drinking and playing poker for most of his time. This becomes an issue within his family especially when his younger sister is diagnosed with leukemia. He starts to lack any sense of remorse and he only visits her once without a care in the world of whether she survives the illness. After he is confronted by his mother and asked to visit Lizzie more frequently, he becomes enraged and says that he is too old and that he should be able to make his own decisions without anyone interfering.
The second type of conflict is between Winnifred and herself. After she analysis the actions of Zachary, she decides to not repeat the same mistakes that her parents did by letting Zachary fill their heads with lies. instead, she decides to discipline her daughter by letting her take responsibility for her actions.
Complications:
By the time Winnifred was 13 years old, Zachary was 24 years old and he was still living at home. He was not as dazzling as he used to be and he started to waste his life by playing poker and drinking liquor. Nevertheless, he was still considered a "hero" to Lizzie, and when she got sick, she always wondered if he will ever visit her. He visited her once before she passed away, but he disregarded his sister's illness by stating that he was old enough to make his own decisions of visiting her in the hospital.
Climax
After four days of Lizzie's unfortunate death, Zachary returned home and started to act out a fabricated performance by using his usual charm to mesmerize his mother. He started to recite the parable of the prodigal son, just like he always did, except this time, his father interrupted his performance. His father told him that he can either own up to his promises by spreading his "charm" on a daily basis, instead of saving it for special occasions, or by leaving the household and finding somewhere else to live. This news was very shocking to Zachary, but he decided to leave the household and to not apologize for the mistreatment that his family had to undergo. As a result, Zachary left his family and was never seen again.
Solution
After Lizzie's death and Zachary's betrayal of the family, the condition of Winnifred's household spiraled out of control. Her mother finally understood that justice was served, but she was still angry at the fact that she lost two children in the same week. As described by the narrator, the mother became senile in her late sixties and she sat in the nursing room with her head drooped onto her shoulder while repeating the phrase "All my fault. All my fault" (107). She was in terrible condition and she lived with the guilt of knowing that she was manipulated by her own son throughout their entire relationship.
Conclusion:
Winnifred explained her experience as a mother and her approach into parenting. She stated that she was married and had three young daughters. She described that two of her daughters were very sweet and quiet while the third daughter, Stephanie, was quick-tempered and mischievous. One day, Stephanie became angry at her friend and decided to express her anger by throwing a jug of milk across the kitchen. There was chaos where the incident happened and she decided to use the same charm that her uncle used to try to get herself out of trouble. Although Winnifred wanted to comfort her, she remembered the phrase,"Too Late! Too Late!" and decided to punish her daughter by making her clean up the wreck. She also forced her to pay for the repercussions to teach her that her manipulation and her temper tantrums were unacceptable in their family. She left the scene while muttering the words, "Thank you, Zachary."
Theme:
family disconnection, manipulation, secrecy
Full transcript