Discuss the epistolary format of the book. Why do you think Chbosky chose to use letters as his narrative structure? How did this structure affect the book, both in terms of the story and in terms of your reading experience? How would the book have been different if Chbosky had written it in first-person or third-person narrative?
So that the reader feels as if The letters were written to HIM/HER. So that every episode mentioned in the book resonates a personal opinion and recollection. So that the realism of the fact that you are listening to Charlie’s stories second-hand through an adolescent point of view and voice is maintained. In the terms of the story however, I felt that by writing the novel in a epistolary manner, the story ran a bit slow. The book would’ve been different, but not in a major way if the author wrote it in any other way.
Who do you think Charlie was writing to? Does it ultimately matter whom, or even if he is, writing to someone? Why or why not?
I don’t think he we sending it to himself. On various occasions in the book he explains how he can’t mention certain information (e.g. the name of his brother) because it threatened his hidden identity. Obviously, it couldn’t have been himself. I think that we, the readers were the friend. Because he couldn’t have sent the letters to his future self, because he mentions at the end of the book how he heard a girl talk about the friend to another person. I also don’t necessarily think it could be Michael because he states that he actually sends the letters which Michael wouldn’t receive because he’s dead. Which also adds to my i dead that he didn’t send them to his future self.
Who did you identify with the most? Did you see parts of yourself in any one specific character?
I think that I relate to Mary Elizabeth’s character the most. Because Mary Elizabeth is very into social issues. Like me, she’s also that smart-talking vegetarian feminist. And same as me, she has an unconscious need to be in control of her situation. She takes charge of the situation, only because she feels more confident when she is in control, very much like me.
Discuss Charlie’s character. Is he sympathetic? Would you be friends with Charlie? Why or why not?
Our little wallflower Charlie spends a lot of time analyzing, well, everything. He’s always in his head, trying to think through some of life’s great mysteries. He has all sorts of ideas on what he wants to be when he gets older, but he never seems to actually do anything to work toward those goals. Charlie is analytical, always thinking about the meaning of everything but he doesn’t seem to dig deeper into the topics, only focusing on the shallow parts. He really does live in his own little world sometimes, watching people and analyzing them.
What do you think kept Charlie from “participating” when he entered high school? What held him back? Have you ever felt this way before?
I think that because of his symptoms of what seemed to be depression prevented him from participating. Charlie is constantly trying to gain a better understanding of the people around him and why they do what they do – particularly how they present themselves in public. He struggles with his obsession with observation, and is urged by many people. Charlie struggles with apparent mental illness throughout his letters.
Who is Charlie’s greatest ally? Who is his worst influence?
It could be argued that Charlie’s greatest friend and ally is Sam. Sam is the person who originally brings him into her friend group, makes him feel comfortable, and tries to help him have a better high school experience. However, when Charlie makes a mistake and is rejected from the group, it is only Patrick that continues to spend time with Charlie and make him feel worthwhile. This would imply that perhaps Patrick is actually Charlie’s greatest ally. Charlie’s worst influence is his Aunt Helen. Although she passed away before these situations occurred in Charlie’s life, Charlie is suppressing a traumatic experience that happened to him in his childhood, of which she was the cause. He will not accept what his Aunt Helen did to him, how she abused him. He does not make this realization until he has a sexual experience with Sam which brings back these buried, traumatic memories. Aunt Helen is his worst influence because she is the cause of his depression throughout the novel, even at the points where he does not realize it.
From Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs to Harold and Maude to The Beatles’ song “Dear Prudence,” Charlie references numerous pieces of literature, film, and music. How did these references shape your reading? Why are they so important to Charlie?
These references shaped my reading in a way that it made me think deeper of Charlie. I think that it’s important for Charlie because he appreciates these kinds of things.
When Bill invites Charlie over for lunch Charlie observes, “He was talking for real. It was strange.” (p. 181) What do you think Charlie means by “real”? How does he discern between what is real and what is not real?
I think because he just saying that Bill is a true friend or being himself.
Sam confronts Charlie before she leaves for college, pleading: “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.” (p. 200) Do you agree with Sam? How does this exchange relate to their relationship on a grander scale?
I agree, I think that it relates to their relationship in a way that Sam was dropping hints at Charlie to make a move on the things he wants, just like her.
Discuss Aunt Helen’s character and presence in the novel. Were you surprised when the truth about her relationship with Charlie was revealed? In what other ways did seemingly positive aspects of Charlie’s life turn out to be negative?
A troubled young woman who was abused by many men, loved Charlie but molested him when he was younger. In the book it is said that he was molested by her every weekend.
After watching an art film with Mary Elizabeth Charlie says: “The movie itself was very interesting, but I didn’t think it was very good because I didn’t really feel different when it was over.” (p. 124) Do you agree with Charlie that in order to be “good,” creative works must make you feel differently? How did you feel after reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower?
So, I recently read the novel ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ and well, I have never read a book which depicts loneliness and in that case, high school in such stark reality. So, I had to do something for the book. I thought to write a review of the movie initially, but I am finding it very difficult to express the feelings which I experienced while watching the movie. So, I revisited the novel and noticed the questions at the end of the book. I know that I have started this blog for sitcoms and movies, but I also have a very keen interest in reading books. I admit that I too couldn’t find the answers of most of the questions, so I am listing out 5 of them that I have a view of.
Discuss the following passage: “Maybe it’s good to put things in perspective. Sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there.” (p. 213) How has Charlie’s outlook shifted from the beginning of the story?
The passage says that perhaps it must be better to look at things in a more accurate way. His outlook changed for the better, I think. He became more positive towards the end of the book.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower grapples with a complex, universally difficult stage of life. What reflections did it inspire about your own life? What parts of the story resonated most deeply with you?
The book goes into more detail than the movie about Charlie’s home life and his relationships with his two siblings, his parents and other family members. It also clarifies some of the events that seemed a bit confusing in the movie, so I’m glad I read it.