Study Guide: Exposition
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi is the story of a young 13-year-old girl who is sailing the seas to America to go home from Barrington School for Better Girls in England. In summary, she changes from a proper young lady who does what her parents tell her to a pants-wearing sailor who is more comfortable on a boat than on dry ground at her home in Rhode Island.
A plot diagram will show how Charlotte makes this transformation and the conflicts that arise along the way. A basic plot diagram includes the following: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The diagram is usually shaped somewhat like a volcano; however, for this study guide, the plot elements will be listed with details.
Exposition: Setting and main characters.
The setting at the beginning of the book is England 1832. Charlotte boards the Seahawk, which is a two-masted ship known as a brig. Charlotte and the crew sail across the Atlantic Ocean bound for Providence, Rhode Island in America. Before arriving on the boat, she was a boarding student at the Barrington School for Better Girls in Liverpool, England.
The main characters are as follows:
- Charlotte Doyle-She is a thirteen-year-old young lady seeking passage to her home and family in America.
- Captain Jaggery-He is captain of the Seahawk and her father’s employee. At first he seems to be a real gentleman, but he is rather cruel.
- Zachariah-He is the cook and the only black sailor on the Seahawk who befriends Charlotte and looks after her best interests.
The minor characters are as follows:
- Mr. Grummage-He is the apathetic business associate of Charlotte’s father who takes Charlotte to the ship.
- Mr. Hollybrass-He is the first mate of the ship.
- Mr. Keetch-He is the second mate on the ship.
- Mr. Cranick-He is a stowaway on the ship and is missing an arm by the hands of Captain Jaggery on an earlier voyage.
- Other sailors aboard the Seahawk: Mr. Dillingham, Mr. Grimes, Mr. Morgan, Mr. Foley, Mr. Ewing, Mr. Fisk, and Mr. Johnson.
Study Guide: Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action & Resolution
Rising Action: Conflicts that lead to climax
- Charlotte tells the reader right away that she was accused of murder, brought to trial and found guilty. This is when the reader finds that she was brought up to be a proper young lady and that she recorded everything in a journal her father was making her write in for educational purposes.
- The families that were supposed to be Charlotte’s guardian’s on the voyage did not come, which means that Charlotte will be the only female or lady on the boat.
- Charlotte finds a friend in Zachariah. He gives her a dirk, a small knife to defend herself and tells her that they will be final friends. This is where when one sews the hammock shut for burial at sea. This, of course, puts Charlotte on edge as she is a proper young lady and ladies do not carry knives. However, even Captain Jaggery presses her to keep the dirk.
- At this point, Charlotte finds Captain Jaggery to be a gentleman like her father and a man she can trust. They have tea each day, and he asks her to be his spy. Because she is trying to do the correct thing, she does indeed spy for him. He tells her that he intends to “break” the crew and creates uneasiness with his strict and many times cruel behavior.
- Charlotte reports that she has found a round robin and a pistol on the ship. A round robin is a sign or symbol that the crew passes around when there is going to be a mutiny.
- Mr. Cranick, who Jaggery cut off his arm and is a stowaway, shows up on deck with the rest of the sailors and they declare Captain Jaggery unfit by producing the round robin. Captain Jaggery shoots Cranick in the chest with his musket and collects all of their weapons. Then for punishment for the mutiny, Jaggery selects Zachariah to be punished by whipping.
- Charlotte tries to stop the whipping. She ends up cutting Captain Jaggery’s face with the whip. He then refuses to take care of her or spend any time with her.
- Charlotte changes her clothes. She changes from wearing her pretty skirts to the seaman’s clothing that Zachariah had made her. Then, she tells the sailors that she will help because they are one man short. She beleives Zachariah to be dead.
- She has to climb to the highest mast to prove that she can be of help on the ship. She has a successful climb, and Captain Jaggery is not pleased. He moves her things to the forecastle with the rest of the crew. The crew gave her a privacy curtain and began calling her Charlotte instead of Miss Doyle.
- Captain Jaggery keeps trying to trip up Charlotte. He asks her to cut a rope and she almost drowns. They have to change course to save her, and he slaps her for her mistake. She calls him a coward and tells him that she will have him brought to justice when she gets back in Providence.
- Captain Jaggery takes the ship through a hurricane. During the storm, Captain Hollybrass is found to have Charlotte’s dirk in his chest. Captain Jaggery has a trial and finds Charlotte guilty of Hollybrass's murder.
Climax: Turning point in story
Captain Jaggery tries to kill Charlotte with a pistol after he learns of the plot of another rebellion she and Zachariah are planning from Keetch. Captain Jaggery stumbles while trying to get closer to Charlotte to shoot her and falls into the sea.
Falling Action: Events after the climax leading to resolution
Zachariah is freed from his ropes, sends Keetch to the brig, and elects Charlotte to be the captain. However, by name only, Charlotte becomes the captain and Zachariah runs the ship. The crew asked Charlotte to write a letter for the ships logs that Captain Jaggery had fallen into the sea during the hurricane, valiantly.
When the ship came to port, Charlotte goes home to her proper life where her father asks her to not speak of what was in her journal and burns it. He wants her to forget her life as a sailor and become a proper, obedient girl again.
Resolution: Loose ends are tied up and the story is ended
Charlotte decides to go back to the Seahawk because she is unhappy at home with her controlling father. She dons her seaman’s garments and boards the ship to find Zachariah and sets sail.
If students need additional help, you can quiz yourself over the first nine chapters for review.
This post is part of the series: True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
- Book Summary: "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle"
- Symbolism in Charlotte Doyle
- Creating a Plot Diagram for Charlotte Doyle
- A Practice Quiz on Charlotte Doyle