Charles is an early indication of the difficulty Tara will have once she enters the wider world. As a friend and romantic interest, Charles offers for Tara a glimpse of what lies beyond Buck’s Peak and the insular environment in which she lives, which emphasizes just how ill-equipped she would have been if she had remained indoctrinated under Gene’s authority for her entire life. His presence highlights gaps in her knowledge and awareness, as exemplified by the medicine he insists she take for her earache while she is at college; she is thoroughly shocked when it actually helps. 

Though Tara has long harbored feelings for Charles, her inability to be physically affectionate with him clarifies the extent to which she has been affected by her family’s ideas about women, purity, and shame. This shame is exacerbated by Shawn’s increasing awareness of their closeness, signifying to him Tara’s development into a woman and the fact that she is slipping out of his control. Though Charles and Tara’s relationship ultimately ends as a direct result of this shame—Tara doesn’t wish for Charles to realize the extent of the abuse she experiences with her family, and Charles realizes he can’t help her—he clearly continues to care for her. After Tara arrives at Harvard, the two reconnect online, and Charles maintains resolutely that she must sever ties with her family, preempting her eventual refusal of Gene’s blessing.