Swallow the Air


Tara June Winch

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Charlie Character Analysis

May’s coworker at Mr. Tzuilakis’s car wash, who is eventually deported. May becomes deeply attached to the gentle older man, even envisioning him as her father, showing her intense longing for a more stable and loving father figure than the one who abandoned her years ago. Charlie is an immigrant from an unspecified country in Africa, but his extreme reluctance to discuss his origins suggests that he fled bad circumstances in his homeland. Charlie’s brief appearance in the novel links Aboriginal Australians to other marginalized groups and shows that displacement is a global issue, rather than one specific to Australia.

Charlie Quotes in Swallow the Air

The Swallow the Air quotes below are all either spoken by Charlie or refer to Charlie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Queensland Press edition of Swallow the Air published in 2006.
10. Chocolate Quotes

He’d never tell you about Africa, and I never asked. It was his secret—his past, that someday, revisited, would become his home again. He never asked me where I was from either—it was an unspoken understanding.

Related Characters: May Gibson (speaker), Charlie
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
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Swallow the Air PDF

Charlie Character Timeline in Swallow the Air

The timeline below shows where the character Charlie appears in Swallow the Air. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
10. Chocolate
Family Theme Icon
Every day, May and Charlie share fruit for a snack at the carwash where they both work. After their “ritual”... (full context)
Aboriginal Identity Theme Icon
Displacement Theme Icon
However, May and Charlie are both wary of their boss, Mr. Tzuilakis, who “waddles” out from his office several... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
One day, May surprises Charlie with watermelon, a fruit they both love. Seeing his approving smile, she wishes that “Charlie... (full context)
The Power of Memory Theme Icon
Displacement Theme Icon
...Mr. Tzuilakis yells out, “Hey Chocolate,” and appears with several police officers, who quickly arrest Charlie and take him away in a car after shaking the boss’s hand. May stands in... (full context)
Aboriginal Identity Theme Icon
Displacement Theme Icon
May grabs Charlie’s thumb piano and runs to the Block. She sees a police car outside Joyce’s house... (full context)