The Carny Cinderella

Position and Context

This story is in the section The President. It is set up somewhat earlier in the book. When Weer is president of the company and talking to Bill Batton, an advertising man who is working on a campaign for the company, Weer's secretary Miss Birkhead interrupts to tell Weer that a "little man all covered with hair" would like to see him, and he agrees to go to dinner with the hairy man. This story is told in a letter the hairy man (Charles Turner) writes to Weer some time after this dinner.

The Story

Charles Turner works in a carnival, in the "ten-in-one" with other carnival freaks. Mrs. Mason and her two daughters also work at the carnival; Mrs. Mason runs the "grab joint", which sells hamburgers and similar food. Doris Mason is a girl whose father has died, and who has gone to work with her stepmother. Her stepmother and her two stepsisters treat her horribly, making her do all the work and giving her barely enough food for her not to starve to death. Charles has been trying to find some way to help her, including trying to fix her up with another carnival freak. One day, a womanóan ex-girlfriend of Doris's fatherócomes by, sees that she is dressed in hardly more than rags, and takes her into town and buys her some new clothes from Sears. When she goes back to the grab-joint, she gets into a big fight with her mother and stepsister, who tear the new clothes off her, destroying them in the process. Doris kills herself a few days later.


Charles is the dog boy of Mr. Tilly's story, all grown up. From his letter, it appears that Charles was in love with Doris. What is the reason that Charles came to see Weer? He clearly was looking for Julian Smart, the former president of the company. But why? The issue on Charles's mind was: what can he do for Doris? The most likely possibility seems to be that he wanted to buy some of Mr. Tilly's "medicines" and turn Doris into a circus freakóthe freaks are stars of the carnival, and receive much better treatment than she did.

This story seems to show that Julian Smart was lying about at least one aspect of the story Mr. Tilly. He didn't make the money to buy Bledsoe's drugstore just from the high wages he was paid for working in Mr. Tilly's pharmacy (if indeed he was paid higher than normal wages); he got some of the money from selling Mr. Tilly's "freak medicines" to carnival freaks.

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