Stephen Chbosky’s novel, The Perks of Being a Wallfloweris a story that narrates the life of a Charlie a young teenager and those around. The novel more so tells of the struggles Charlie goes through as well as his resolve to cope and move on from the experiences that affected him right from his childhood. The storyline is told in a series of letters that Charlie writes to an unknown character who is never revealed within the storyline.The letters are written right from the night before he begins his freshman year in high school in August 1991. Through the storyline, we come to see how Charlie slowly comes of age, and as to how he undergoes life, death, friends and sexual experiences in his life. Chbosky’s novel successfully narrates the novel through Charlie’s perspective giving the reader an inquisitive, nostalgic and exploratory experience of the crucial aspects of his letters. It is through his experiences and traumatic events from his past that the reader comes to realize that he has suppressed memories that hold him back socially and mentally.
As the novel begins, Charlie is portrayed as a socially awkward teenager who has just joined his freshman year.He is also a subjective character which often leaves him acting wrongly or saying the wrong thing. This many at times leaves him in a cyclic experience of anxious and negative emotions. Upon joining high school, the first person he befriends is his English teacher, Bill who helps him persevere through the general isolation he is in.Literature forms the basis of their friendship, with Bill who struggles through love taking the opportunity to help Charlie through isolation. He hands Charlie books that he predicts would help him find people to relate to as well as deal with the high school experience. The books given to Charlie included, For Isolation, For Growing Up, For Being a “Wallflower,” For Wanting to be Alone. It is through Charlie’s literary journey that the reader comes to see how reading the books helps foster a relationship with those around him, make new friends as well as how it strengthens his bond with Bill, even outside of school.
The novel is an exceptional work of literacy in which Chbosky’s further gives the reader a close insight into the meaning of relationships. Charlie has a close but at times distant relationship with his siblings and parents. Though there is some certain type of resentment towards his family he manages to keep the bond with his family more so with the parents who help him recover from the mental and physiological experiences he underwent at childhood. Charlie’s on and off relationship with most of his friends brings out most of what young teenagers undergo. His relationship with his friends plays a significant role in outlining the influence friends, and peer pressure has in exposure to sexuality, friendships, and drugs. As such, his friends most importantly with Patrick, Brad, and Sam helps the reader understand the meaning of the perks of being a wallflower.
Furthermore, it is through his letters that we come to see how Charlie struggle with the traumatic experiences that happened as he was growing up. The first traumatic experience was witnessing his middle school friend, Michael commits suicide to which he explains he could only react by screaming and crying even when he was helped by a guidance counselor (Chbosky). At the same age of seven, he lost his aunt, Helen who had gone out to buy him a birthday gift.What’s more is that we come to learn two traumatic events have affected Charlie through the years, evidenced by his experimentation and use of drugs. Through his friends and social encounters in different occasion, like in a party, he attended Charlie consumes LSD, a hallucinogenic drug which causes him to experience flashbacks on the traumatic experiences. As the school year closes in Charlie is faced with a possibility of losing some of his friends who are in the senior year, more particularly to Sam who he is attracted to. As he helps Sam pack for a summer preparatory program, they have sexual contact which only brings the repressed memories of his harassment from his Aunt. It is through these traumatic experiences and memories that the reader comes to understand and appreciate the meaning of love and relationships, and how it may affect young teenagers into risky behaviors.
Conclusively, Chbosky pushes the limit to teen fiction by delivering an exceptional novel that gives the reader a deeper understanding of how one’s life can be affected by personal feelings as well as mental health. It is through Charlie’s story that we come to see how teenagers explore the world of sexuality, drugs, and depression. The novel addresses these controversial issues while showing how balance and solution can be achieved to such and other issues affecting teenagers who have experienced traumatic events while growing up.Charlie’s letters give an intimate relation to what it is like growing up as a high school teenager in all its glare and glamour. Caught up between trying to live his life while running away from reality makes Charlie realize he has been a victim of traumatic and stressful occurrences that have hindered his social relationships and personal growth. Chbosky overall message is outlined in need to come to terms with one’s past which is key in shaping one’s present and future life, an aspect the narrator achieves by telling a heartfelt story delivered in a more realistic first-person narration.
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