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The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle – Novel Study Activity Guide
The year is 1832. American born Charlotte Doyle has spent seven years in England with her family. There, she attended the Barrington School for Better Girls and learned how to be a proper young lady. When her father’s work suddenly calls the family back to the United States, Charlotte remains behind to finish out the school year. In June, she arrives at the Liverpool docks to catch a ship to America –assured that her father has arranged for her proper supervision and safety. Imagine her surprise when she learns that the other families booked on the ship will not be coming. Instead, Charlotte will be the only girl on board a ship filled with decrepit sailors. Thankfully, the captain seems to be a perfect gentleman and Charlotte feels safe in his presence.
Her first few days aboard the Seahawk bring sea sickness, suspicious conversations, and warnings of danger from several of the crew members. When Zachariah, the ship’s only black man, gives her a dagger for protection, saying the captain is dangerous, Charlotte is horrified and does not believe him. The captain has entertained her in his cabin and he is a caring family man who has a daughter of his own. In fact, he has even asked her to use her pleasant manners to benefit the crew. He also asks her to keep an eye on the unruly bunch and to report any of their indiscretions to him. All of these events are recorded in the journal her father requires her to write every night to practice her grammar and spelling.
Other adventures bring “floating heads”, a hurricane, and a mutinous crew. When Charlotte reports to the captain that she has seen a round robin and that the crew is planning an attack, he is furious. She witnesses him kill two of the crew members and her feelings toward him begin to change. To assuage her guilt, she decides to make it up to the crew by joining them and taking up the slack of the two dead men. Although the crew is skeptical, Charlotte proves her seriousness by climbing up the tallest mast on the ship. The crew then takes her under their wing and teachers her all the tricks of sailing. Gone is the proper young lady who first boarded the ship. In fact, she is now defiant and stands up regularly to the captain whose feelings for her have turned to hatred.
When the captain frames her for the murder of another crew member and sentences her to death, Charlotte has to fight for her life. Fortunately, the captain is killed when he falls off the ship and Charlotte is saved. She returns home to find that her family disapproves of her new look and attitude. They force her to stay hidden in her room so she does not embarrass the family. After the freedom of the ship, Charlotte feels imprisoned in her home. On the evening the Seahawk sails out of Providence, Charlotte is on board with her “new family.”
This novel is about a young girl who shows tremendous growth when her strength of character is tested.
For more information on the novel, please visit the author's website.