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?
The book was written in a series of letters sent to an unidentified person. I think that the author, Chbosky, written it that way so the readers will feel closer to Charlie in a way because letters written this way are meant to be personal and intimate. It affected me greatly, in terms of my reading experience because it felt more private and delicate. 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. The other supporting characters, (Sam, Patrick etc…) would seem more relevant than they are in the way that their appearances would be described more (not that I think that’s important).
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 know that Charlie was writing to a girl he overheard about in a class, as mentioned in the late parts of the book. She wasn’t just some random person. Yes, it matters, but only on the case of anonymity. I think that it doesn’t matter much on who the person is as long as she doesn’t know the sender. He would feel more comfortable sharing details about him (aside from his personal specifics) to a strange compared to someone he knows in real life.
Who did you identify with the most? Did you see parts of yourself in any one specific character?
Despite having Patrick as my favorite character, I think that I relate to Mary Elizabeth’s character the most. She takes charge of the situation, only because she feels more confident when she is in control, very much like me. By the way Charlie describes her in his letters, she is very into social issues and she is excited to dare try homosexual relationships, things that I can see in my own self.
Discuss Charlie’s character. Is he sympathetic? Would you be friends with Charlie? Why or why not?
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 is also an introvert as well, clearly indicated in the first part of the book wherein he states that he has been longing for a friend. I would not want to be friends with Charlie. I think that in real life, he would be high maintenance and seeing as he has a lot of issues, like him being self-destructive, I don’t believe I would be able to handle that in a friendship.
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 his introvertness and his symptoms of what seemed to be depression prevented him from participating. Yes I have felt sad before. For me however, it just seems to stem out of nothing. One moment I’ll feel good, the next, I’ll feel the worse than I’ve ever been before, which I think is a different case from Charlie’s.
Who is Charlie’s greatest ally? Who is his worst influence?
I think that both his ally and worst influence were his newly found friends. They made him more confident and egged him on when he needed it but at the same time, I think that his exposure to them made him behave more destructively.
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 believe that he meant to say that Bill was being himself, not in his ‘teacher’ demeanor. He was more serious as well as more honest. I think that Charlie felt strange by his remarks on him being intelligent because he hardly doesn’t get these types of compliments aside from his aunt.
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?
Yes, I agree with Sam. 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?
Aunt Helen is described as Charlie’s favorite person in the world, most likely because she buys her two presents in a year, one for his birthday and for Christmas, perhaps as a method of keeping him quiet about the sexual acts he receives. In a way, I was not surprised because based on Helen’s experiences, it seemed that history was bound to repeat itself. She was abused as a child and she was bound to abuse a child as well. A pattern commonly seen on molested patients in their youths.
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?
Yes I agree with Charlie. I felt that social issues like sexual abuse can be easily missed at some point and that I should be more aware of these things.
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?
This book made me question the things I usually don’t pay attention much to, like Charlie’s sexual abuse and his aunt Helen’s. And due to Charlie’s realizations on what could have caused him to be that way, it made me question the things I could be repressing from myself. The part about Patrick and Brad’s story resonated deeply in me because it showed that some relationships, can’t work out when a partner isn’t honest to himself and when he hasn’t loved himself first.