Lessons from Charlie the Wallflower…

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Plot)

The novel begins in August 1991 with a teenager going by the alias of Charlie, writing to an anonymous “friend” whom he heard someone at school talking about, and decided they sounded like a nice person to write to, on the basis that he or she reportedly did not sleep with someone at a party despite having the opportunity. Charlie states that he does not want the anonymous friend to try to figure out who he is or to find him. Charlie has just begun his freshman year of high school, his brother is at Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship, and his sister is a senior in high school. We learn that his best—and only—friend, Michael, committed suicide prior to the beginning of the book—leaving Charlie to face high school alone. Charlie often refers to his late Aunt Helen and how she was his “favorite person in the whole world” and states frequently that something bad happened with Aunt Helen, which causes Charlie to be unable to talk about her. Soon Charlie makes the acquaintance of Sam, a beautiful senior on whom Charlie develops a crush almost instantly, and her gay stepbrother Patrick, a charismatic student who is friendly to Charlie. Upon disclosing his feelings and sexual confusion to Patrick and Sam, they are not angry with him, but rather advise him how to handle his feelings privately. Sam and Patrick continue their advisory role while introducing Charlie to many people, music artists, and drugs. Meanwhile his English teacher Bill introduces him to books and encourages him to write essays about them that he will grade despite having no bearing on his English class.

This book was a hard one to crack, in terms of understanding everything. There was a lot to take in at a time, but you couldn’t really put it down. The question that constantly floated in my mind was “What will Charlie do next?”  I’m well aware that it is under the category of fiction, but I never failed to wonder if this account of different letters were actually real. It took me by surprise that a kid, even in fiction, would be able to try all those illicit acts like drinking and using drugs. I’m well aware they weren’t regular in using drugs, but it was still surprising nonetheless.

What did I learn from Charlie and his freshman year?

The first thing I learned, which was obvious, was to ‘participate’ as Bill would put it. We cannot just sit around and watch the world go by us. We are part of the living world, so we as might as well make sure our presence is known. No one succeeds with just hiding in the shadows or sitting on the sideline. Next, it was never be afraid to try anything new, you might like it in the end. You’ll never know you’re good at something until you try it the first time. Third, always be true to yourself and never hide what you really feel because you might hurt someone in the process of being untrue. It is like how Charlie accidentally hurt Mary Elizabeth’s feelings when he kissed Sam when he was dared to kiss the person he thought was the prettiest in the room. Last, no matter how awkward and distant your family may seem, they will always be there to love and support you.

Family is a usual and important factor in most books I’ve read. Without a proper depiction of a family, broken or whole, in a story, the protagonist seems a bit incomplete and empty. Like I’ve learned from my psychiatric nursing course (for my master’s degree), family is an important factor in shaping a person for the future. A person’s behavior and attitude can be linked with the home environment and family members present.

I am still reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which I discovered by reading a book review by Amy M. Newman from The Literary Mom. I find the book exciting and interesting, which will only increase as I go along reading the book. I’m excited to finish it, but I have to juggle it with school work, so I can’t have my reading marathons anytime soon.

Be inspired! Create beauty! Share a smile!


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