The most important characters in the short story “Suffer the Little Children” by Stephen King are Miss Sidley and Robert. The story includes several other secondary characters but they are mostly relevant for the social setting: Mr Hanning, Mrs Crossen, Buddy Jenkins, and the collective character of the children.

Emily Sidley

Emily Sidley is the main character in the short story. She is a developing character because she changes as a result of the action.

According to her outer characterization, she is an old, unmarried teacher, close to retirement age. The narrator offers us a detailed physical portrait which informs us that she has grey hair and wears glasses and that she is short and has back pain problems: “She was a small woman who had to stretch to write on the highest level of the blackboard...”; “She was graying, and the brace she wore to support her failing back was limned clearly against her print dress. Small, constantly suffering, gimleteyed woman.” 

Inner characterization

Miss Sidley’s inner characterization is constructed by conveying her perspective on herself, the perspective of other characters, as well as through her actions and thoughts.

Initially, she is presented as a strict teacher whom all the pupils fear because of her ability to know what they are doing behind her back and her harsh punishments: “But they feared her. Her tongue was a schoolyard legend. The eyes, when focused on a giggler or a whisperer, could turn the stoutest knees to water.” 

Furthermore, Miss Sidley takes pride in being strict and making the children fear her: “…the success of her long teaching career could be summed and checked and proven by this one everyday action: she could turn her back on her pupils with confidence.” 

Her attitude during the spelling lesson confirms her strictness and the control she has over the class, as she gives a girl detention for ...

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