The most important characters in the short story “The Happiest Days of Your Life” by Penelope Lively are the boy, Charles, and his parents, Mr and Mrs Manders. The headmaster and his wife – James and Margaret Spokes – are secondary characters. The school’s maid and a group of schoolboys, who form a collective character, also appear briefly in the story. The Manders’ acquaintances, the Wilcox family, are mentioned in the story.

Charles is the main character in the short story, as the narrative often focuses on his perception of the surroundings and on the feelings he experiences. The story focuses on Charles’ psychological and emotional isolation from the adults around him and from his peers. He is a shy, hesitant boy, and the adults around him only take a very superficial interest in how he feels and thinks. The way in which Charles perceives his parents also suggests the emotional distance between him and them.

You can find Charles' and his parents' characterisations in the next pages.