Plot and Setting
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Plot is the sequence of events that make up a story. Without
a plot, there wouldn’t be a story, just a boring lecture. Plots
are made up of four parts: an exposition, complications,
climax, and resolution. In an exposition, we first meet the
characters and usually what the conflict is. Complications,
also known as rising action, are what happen when the
characters start to try to resolve the conflict. The climax is the
peak of the action, the moment where the conflict could
resolve either way. And the resolution, also known as the
denouement, wraps up the loose ends and hopefully brings
us a happy ending.
Setting is the time and place where the plot takes place. It’s
usually described early on in the story, in the exposition. It
often helps with a work’s emotional effect on the readers,
since someone being kidnapped and held hostage in a dark,
dank lair is much more moving than being held hostage in a
clean, well-kept candy factory. It may also play an important
role otherwise, especially with stories where the character has
a conflict with nature, such as My Side of the Mountain
An In-Depth look at Plot
A series of related events that make up a
An introduction tells us who the characters are
and usually what their conflict is.
Complications arise when the characters take
steps to resolve the conflict
Eventually the plot reaches a climax, the most
exciting moment in the story, when the outcome
is decided one way or another
The final part of the story is the resolution, in
which the conflict is resolved and the story is
brought to a close
An In-Depth Look at Setting
The time and place of a story, play, or
Most often the setting is described early
in the story
Setting often contributes to a work’s
It may also play an important role in the
plot, especially in stories involving a
conflict between a character and nature
Definitions From Our Lit. Book
Plot – The series of related events that make up a
story. Plot is what happens in a short story, novel, play,
or narrative poem. Most plots are built from these basic
elements: An introduction (exposition) tells us who the
characters are and usually what their conflict
is. Complications arise when the characters take steps
to resolve the conflict. Eventually the plot reaches a
climax, the most exciting moment in the story, when the
outcome is decided one way or another. The final part
of the story is the resolution, in which the conflict is
resolved and the story is brought to a close.
Setting – The time and place of a story, play, or
narrative poem. Most often the setting is described
early in the story. Setting often contributes to a work’s
emotional effect. It may also play an important role in
the plot, especially in stories involving a conflict
between a character and nature.
Passage #1-This passage sets the stage for
the story. It also introduces the plot and
explains how Charlotte Doyle came to be a
on the Seahawk
passengerthirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and
found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if
•Third, was to make my voyagewarned, however, my sixth and thirteenth
•ThoughI American-born,ago. Bethe yearsship owned and operated of amy Boy,
it did happen years I spent upon a between this is no Story by Bad
father’s in England. My strong ideas and action offend you, read no
birthdaysfirm. Katy Did. If father, who engaged in the manufacture of cotton
•Fourth, the captain an agent for an acquired abusiness there. my father I
more. Find another companion American reputation—so But in the
goods, functioned as of this ship had to share your idle hours. For my part early
intend to tell the truth as I lived it.
informed me—for quick and profitable Atlantic crossings.
spring of 1832, he received an advancement and was summoned home.
But before I begin relating what happened, you must know something about
•Then there was in thetwo families known to my parents had also At be time
•My father, an ardent believer in regularity these events transpired.bookedbetter
me as I was this: year 1832—when and order, decided it would the
I finished outwas school term ratherAnd though I off midyear. my
my name my Charlotte Doyle. promised it function as name, I am
ifpassage on the ship. The adults hadthan breaktohave kept theMy mother—
not—for knew been will only him—accepted my Charlotte Doyle.
guardians. Having to disagree withdiscover—the same father’s decision. I
whom I neverreasons you told soon that these families included children (three
lovely girls my a charming well I looked forward to meeting of thirteen was
How shall I parents, the person I once was? At the age them to our true
would followand describe as boy) as my younger brother and sister, moreI than
anything much a in Providence, yet begun to take the shape, much less the
home, which was girl, having not Rhode Island.
heart, of a woman. Still, my family dressed me as a young woman, bonnet
•So whenthink consider that I had skirts, rash in allowing me to travelmay be
you you my parents’ judgment dim memories shoes, and, you without
•Lestcovering my beautiful hair, fullbutwas high button of making the crossing to
England when was how certainly wanted to that their decision was. my
sure, show you six, reasonable, even logical saw It was not just
them, I willwhite Igloves. I you will understand be a Ilady. the forthcoming voyage
•First, they feltA large, beautiful boat! aJolly sailors! No gladly, with not an
ambition; that by my remaining boarder wholly, school to think
as all a lark. it was my destiny. I embraced it at the Barrington School for
about! Companions of eminent and In proper headmistress) I at the lose
untoward thought of anything else.
Better Girls (Miss Weed,my own age! mostother words, I think that would time of
these events, I was not anything more or less than what I appeared to be;
•One more point. I ordinary girl of parents in good standing. typical of my
an acceptable, was given a volume of blank pages—how
no school time.
•Second, I would be crossing theaAtlantic—a trip that could last anywhere from
father!—and instructed to keep daily journal of my voyage across the ocean
so to two writing of it should summer, when no formal to me. Indeed, my
one that themonths—during theprove of educational valueeducation took place.
father warned me that not only would he read the journal and comment upon it,
but he would also pay particular attention to spelling—not my strongest suit.
•Keeping that journal then is what enables me to relate now in perfect detail
everything that transpired during that fateful voyage across the Atlantic Ocean
in the summer of 1832.” (p. 1-3)
Passage #2- This passage introduces Zachariah, the
ship’s cook, as wanting to be a friend. It also
foreshadows what is going to happen later in the
plot. It is a narrative hook and makes you want to read
•‘No, miss. It is this.’ He held out a knife. With a scream I jumped back.
“As I drank Zachariah looked at me. ‘It may well be,’ he said softly, ‘that
•‘No, no! Miss Doyle. Don’t misunderstand! I only wish to give you the knife as protection—in
Miss Doyle it.’ He placed a for a friend.’
case you need will have use wooden sheath on the blade and held it out.
•The knife was, as I came to understand, what’s called a dirk, a small dagger like blade hardly
Finding the suggestion—from him—unpleasant, I chose to ignore it.
more than six inches in length from its white scrimshaw handle, where a star design was cut, to its
‘I can assure you,’ I returned, ‘that the captain will have
needle-sharp point. Horrified, I was capable only of shaking my head. made
arrangements know what might happen,’
•‘Miss Doyle doesn’tfor my social needs.’ he urged, as though suggesting it might rain on
‘Ah, and he was offering head covering.
a picnicbut you and I have much in common.’
know nothing so.’
•‘I‘I don’t thinkabout knives,’ I whispered.
•‘A ship sails with any wind she finds,’ he whispered. ‘Take it, miss. Place it where it may be
‘But we do. Miss Doyle is so young! I am so old! Surely there is something
similar in that. And you, the sole girl, and I, the one black, are special on
•So saying, he took my hand and closed my fingers over the dirk. Cringing, I kept it. ‘Yes,’ he
this ship. In short, we begin with two things in common, enough to begin
said with a smile, patting my fingers.
•‘Now Miss Doyle may return to her cabin. Do you know the way?’
I looked elsewhere. ‘I don’t need a friend,’ I said.
•‘I’m not certain…’
•‘I‘One always needs a final friend.’
will guide you.’
•He left me at my door. Once inside I hurriedly stowed the dirk under the thin mattress (resolving
never to look at it again) and somehow struggled into my bed. There, fully dress, I sought rest,
‘Someone to sew the hammock,’ he returned.
fitfully dozing only to be awakened by a banging sound: my cabin door swinging back and
‘I do not understand you,’
forth—rusty hinges rasping—with the gentle swaying of the ship.
‘When a sailor dies on a voyage, miss, sir, the Doyle girl. And with them looking
•Then I heard, ‘The only one I could get to come, heisgoes to his resting place in the on,
sea with his bit of show about wanting to keep her friend.’
I had to put on ahammock sewn about him by aoff.’
I swallowed my tea hastily, has to be the cup back, trump. With her move to
•‘Quite all right, Mr. Keetch, if there handedonly one, she’s the and made a as witness,
they’ll not dare move. I’m well satisfied.’
•‘Thank you, sir.’
‘Miss Doyle, please,’ he said softly, taking the cup but holding me with his
•The voices trailed away.
eyes, ‘I have something else to offer.’
• For a while I tried to grasp what I’d heard but I gave it up as incomprehensible. Then, for
‘No more tea, thank you.’
what seemed forever, I lay listening as the Seahawk tossed by the ceaseless swell, heaved and
groaned like a sleeper beset by evil dreams,
Passage #3—this passage shows what it was like to live on a ship for many weeks. It also shows how Charlotte Doyle likes to have
attention directed at her and shows how Captain Jaggery is trying to act like a gentleman. This also shows the setting of the ship and
the relationship between Charlotte Doyle and Captain Jaggery.
“Never mind that my dress—having been worn for four days—was creased
and misshapen, my white gloves a sodden gray. Never mind that my fine
hair must have been hanging like a horse’s tail, in almost complete
disarray. With all eyes upon us as we crossed the ship’s waist to the
bowsprit and figurehead, I felt like a princess being led to her throne.
Not even the same lowering mist I’d observed when I first came from
my cabin could dampen my soaring spirits. Captain Jaggery was a brilliant
sun and I, a Juno moon, basked in reflective glory.
‘Captain Jaggery, sir,’ I said, ‘this ship seems to be moving very
‘You observe correctly,’ he relied, ever the perfect gentleman. ‘But if
you look up there,’ he pointed beyond the mainmast, ‘you’ll notice some
movement. The cloud cover should be breaking soon and then we’ll
gain. There, you see,’ he exclaimed, ‘the sun is struggling to shine through.’
As if by command, a thin yellow disk began to appear where he
pointed, though it soon faded again behind clotted clouds.
From the forecastle deck we crossed to the quarter deck and then to
the helm. Foley, a lean, bearded man, was at the wheel. Mr. Keetch, as
unsmiling as ever, stood by his side. The wheel itself was massive, with
hand spikes for easier gripping.” (p. 52-53)
1. How does Charlotte feel about the dirk, and
why? Do you think it is right for her to feel this
way? Explain your answer.
2. Why doesn’t Charlotte trust Zachariah? Would
you trust him?
3. Zachariah gave her the dirk as protection, he
said. Protection from what?
4. Charlotte talks about feeling like a princess
even though she was wearing the same clothes
she had worn the last four days and was very
dirty. What made her feel like a princess, if it
wasn’t her appearance?
5. Why, do you think that the Seahawk was
known for its speedy crossings?
In the summer of 1832, Charlotte Doyle, age 13, is
looking forward to going to America to be with the
rest of her family. She was left in England
because he parents wanted her to finish schooling
before going back to the States like the rest of her
family. Charlotte is to sail on the Seahawk, a ship
owned by her father’s firm, along with some other
families. However, those families never show up,
and she is to go on the long voyage by
herself. There she meets Captain Jaggery, the
gentleman captain, and Zachariah, an old black,
who is the ships cook warns her of the perils of the
Charlotte overhears a conversation
between second mate Keetch and the
captain that doesn’t make any sense
to her, but foreshadows her fate.
As the only passenger among the crew, Charlotte finds
herself in a tricky predicament. The sailors, Zachariah
among them, tell of the captain’s cruelty, while the captain
warns Charlotte of an impending mutiny. Believing the
captain’s words, Charlotte becomes his eyes and ears
among the crew. Warning the captain just before the mutiny,
Charlotte watches in shock as the captain beats Zachariah to
death. As the crew mourns the death of their kind cook,
Charlotte comes to a decision. After facing a terrifying climb
to the top of the mast, she becomes part of the crew, much
to the fury of Captain Jaggery. Following a fierce hurricane,
the second mate is found dead, and Charlotte is
blamed. After being put through an unfair trial, she is found
guilty and sentenced to hang at sunrise. However, with the
help of someone long thought gone, she may pull through
and show Jaggery for the cruel despot that he is.
There are two exciting parts:
Charlotte’s trial, where she is found
guilty, and Charlotte and Captain
Jaggery’s face off on the bowsprit of
the Seahawk, just after her plan to
escape is revealed to him.
Charlotte, now the captain of the
Seahawk, returns to
America. However, her father doesn’t
believe her story of what happened
on the ship and confines her to her
room. She begins to act ladylike and
proper again, and her parents are
pleased, but then she recovers her
sailors’ clothes and returns to the
Seahawk, her true home.
Avi. The True Confessions of Charlotte
Doyle. New York: Avon Flare, 1990
Kathleen Daniel. Elements of Literature,
Second Course. Austin: Hold, Rinehart and
“Concentration II” Mrs. Schnidman’s Home
Page. Teacher web. 17 May 2003