Discussion: The Perks of Being a Wallflower


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Lately, though I have watched the movie, I picked up the book ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ which, literary critics categorize by a fancy name bildungsroman; meaning books that concentrate on the vulnerability and transformation during teenage years of a person.

I am sitting to write this post entirely out of urge to discuss a book like this which specifically tries to decipher all the perks of becoming an adult from a teenager. So, this is not a review to be clear (and hence it contains spoilers).

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So, we have an introvert, sensitive (very) boy who tries to adapt himself for high-school mindset. I didn’t like ‘Catcher In The Rye’ (don’t know why) but I seem to like this one very much. The major reason for that might be huge similarity between Charlie (that’s the boy) and I. Though I am more emotionally attached to Stephen in ‘A Portrait of the Artist As a Young man‘ by Joyce (I’ll come to that later sometime). Charlie really sucks at building relationship with opposite sex and he falls in love pretty soon after meeting Sam. Sam is a very realistic girl, much older and already in a relationship. She understands Charlie’s attraction to her, and she tries to make sense to him like this:

And I felt good that those were the first two words that I ever typed on my new old typewriter that Sam gave me. We just sat there quiet for a moment, and she smiled. And I moved to the typewriter again, and I wrote something.

“I love you, too.”

And Sam looked at the paper, and she looked at me.

“Charlie… have you ever kissed a girl?”

I shook my head no. It was so quiet.

“Not even when you were little?”

I shook my head no again. And she looked very sad.

She told me about the first time she was kissed. She told me that it was with one of her dad’s friends. She was seven. And she told nobody about it except for Mary Elizabeth and then Patrick a year ago. And she started to cry. And she said something that I won’t forget. Ever.

“I know that you know that I like Craig. And I know that I told you not to think of me that way. And I know that we can’t be together like that. But I want to forget all those things for a minute. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I want to make sure that the first person you kiss loves you. Okay?”

“Okay.” She was crying harder now. And I was, too, because when I hear something like that I just can’t help it.

“I just want to make sure of that. Okay?”

“Okay.”

And she kissed me. It was the kind of kiss that I could never tell my friends about out loud. It was the kind of kiss that made me know that I was never so happy in my whole life.

These is a very tender way of handling such situation and I love the way it’s executed.

It’s tender because from the beginning I’m telling Charlie is vulnerable, too vulnerable to grasp a situation like following:

After a few minutes, the boy pushed the girl’s head down, and she started to kiss his (). She was still crying. […] I had to stop watching at that point because I started to feel sick, but it kept going on, and they kept doing other things, and she kept saying “no.” Even when I covered my ears, I could still hear her say that.My sister came in eventually to bring me a bowl of potato chips, and when she found the boy and the girl, they stopped.

My sister was very embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as the girl. The boy looked kind of smug. He didn’t say much. After they left, my sister turned to me.

“Did they know you were in here?”

“Yes. They asked if they could use the room.”

“Why didn’t you stop them?”

“I didn’t know what they were doing.”

“You pervert,” was the last thing my sister said before she left the room, still carrying the bowl of potato chips.

[…]

“He raped her, didn’t he?”

She just nodded. I couldn’t tell if she was sad or just knew more things than me.

“We should tell someone, shouldn’t we?”

And I was disturbed to read this part, and was quite in doubt if the author did justice to a situation like this. But the way author let him grasp those things is admirable.

There are other situations, which I think, is impossible to come up out of imagination.

When I was done reading the poem, everyone was quiet. A very sad quiet. But the amazing thing was that it wasn’t a bad sad at all. It was just something that made everyone look around at each other and know that they were there. Sam and Patrick looked at me. And I looked at them. And I think they knew. Not anything specific really. They just knew. And I think that’s all you can ever ask from a friend.

Such things couldn’t be written unless the author himself went through them, and though I have not done the required research, I strongly believe Stephen Chbosky in some way, in some time, was involved with similar situations in his early life(it is further reassured by the fact that he has not written anything else since).

The foundation of the path of transformation of being prepared for the hard future of Charlie mostly laid by books and a teacher like Bill. Reading classics and cultivating ideas by writing essays on them is an effective way of developing character and moral basis of any teenager/person.

In later part of the novel, Charlie is forced to be involved in an one-sided relationship with Sam’s best friend and he, in an inappropriate moment chooses to kiss Sam instead of his existing girlfriend, and jeopardizes every relation between him and everyone. He finds himself dangling in between an un-achievable love and unwanted love; thus alienating himself from every friend of his, he goes through a nervous breakdown.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Ph: John Bramley © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

At the end he became friends with everyone again via few fortunate and/or critical moments.

But this teaches us an important lesson: everything heals with time. Also, there are few golden moments like when Patrick is being mocked and insulted by his homosexual partner for saving himself from public shame, Charlie interfere and saves Patrick from a disgraceful scene.

The above scene turns Charlie into Patrick’s closest friend at near end and Patrick tries to kiss him in an intimate situation to which, Charlie doesn’t protest. I like to quote what to be learned here:

“Charlie, you’re missing the point. The point is that I don’t think you would have acted different even if you did like Mary Elizabeth. It’s like you can come to Patrick’s rescue and hurt two guys that are trying to hurt him, but what about when Patrick’s hurting himself? Like when you guys went to that park? Or when he was kissing you? Did you want him to kiss you?”I shook my head no.“So, why did you let him?”

“I was just trying to be a friend,” I said.

“But you weren’t, Charlie. At those times, you weren’t being his friend at all. Because you weren’t honest with him.”

But at the same time, we can’t be just shoulders to cry on when we want something more. If we love someone, we should go and try to get it. It’s important to note that I said ‘try’; not persuade. Sometimes, we can’t get things because we never attempt to have them, out of generosity or assumption.

I said, “Well, I thought a lot of things. But mostly, I thought that your being sad was much more important to me than Craig not being your boyfriend anymore. And if it meant that I would never get to think of you that way, as long as you were happy, it was okay. That’s when I realized that I really loved you.”

She sat down on the floor with me. She spoke quiet.“Charlie, don’t you get it? I can’t feel that. It’s sweet and everything, but it’s like you’re not even there sometimes. It’s great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn’t need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.”

“Like what?” I asked. My mouth was dry.

“I don’t know. Like take their hands when the slow song comes up for a change. Or be the one who asks someone for a date. Or tell people what you need. Or what you want. Like on the dance floor, did you want to kiss me?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Then, why didn’t you?” she asked real serious.

“Because I didn’t think you wanted me to.”

“Why did you think that?”

“Because of what you said.”

“What I said nine months ago? When I told you not to think of me that way?”

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Nearing the end, I can only say that, Charlie has already achieved maturity when he thinks:

The party at Craig’s was great. Craig and Peter bought champagne to congratulate all the people who were graduating. And we danced. And we talked. And I saw Mary Elizabeth kissing Peter and looking happy. And I saw Sam kissing Craig and looking happy. And I saw Patrick and Alice not even care that they weren’t kissing anybody because they were too excited talking about their futures.

By the way, it has left me dubious about existence of persons like Sam and Patrick.

Now, about the ‘A Portrait’ by Joyce:

You’ll get another article like this soon enough.

Thanks for reading. ❤

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