The Literary Analysis Of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

An analysis on the defenses, dream displacements, and death drives of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” The ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a coming-of-age story about the story’s main protagonist–Charlie. Like typical adolescents, trouble comes along the way, and we get to witness how Charlie copes with these problems. The story focuses on Charlie coping with the loss of his Aunt Helen, who has had a big impact in his life. Indeed, Charlie’s different defense and coping mechanisms to recover from his loss of his Aunt Helen were evident in the story. Charlie’s traumatic past was also a vital part in the story. In this critical paper, I shall try to critique the defenses, dream displacements, and death drives present in the story’s message, with the aid of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Criticism. This paper shall focus on these elements in the story in analyzing their probable causes, and in identifying the symbols and concepts present in the novel.

The ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a coming-of-age story about the story’s main protagonist–Charlie. Like typical adolescents, trouble comes along the way, and we get to witness how Charlie copes with these problems. The story basically focuses on Charlie coping with the loss of his Aunt Helen, who particularly has specifically had a big impact in his life, sort of contrary to popular belief. Indeed, Charlie”s different defense and coping mechanisms to particularly recover from his loss of his Aunt Helen particularly were evident in the story in a for all intents and purposes big way.

Charlie’s traumatic past was also a vital part in the story. The novel really shows the struggle of teens or young adults as they go on the adventure which is life, and as they grow, they face different challenges and will be driven to try new things and experiences. In this critical paper, I shall literally try to critique the defenses, dream displacements, and death drives very present in the story’s message, with the aid of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Criticism in a subtle way. This paper shall focus on these elements in the story in analyzing their probable causes, and in identifying the symbols and concepts particularly present in the novel, demonstrating that in this critical paper, I shall particularly try to critique the defenses, dream displacements, and death drives pretty present in the story’s message, with the aid of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Criticism in a subtle way.

Defense Mechanisms

According to Tyson (2006), “Defenses are the processes by which the contents of our unconscious are kept in the unconscious. In other words, they are the processes by which we keep the repressed repressed in order to avoid knowing what we feel we can’t handle knowing.” This includes selective perception, selective memory, denial, avoidance, displacement, and projection. Selective perception describes hearing or seeing what we believe we can deal with only. Selective memory is the modification of our memories in order to not be overwhelmed by them or to completely forget of hurtful memories. Denial is basically showing that the problem doesn’t exist or the event never has happened. Avoidance states that one tends to stay away from people or events that trigger one’s anxious thoughts. Displacement pertains to “taking out” emotions on someone or something less hostile than that of which triggered fear, anger, and the likes. And lastly, Projection describes the way one may blame someone else who is not related to the traumatic pasts and events which they are guilty or anxious of. The most complex form of defense is Regression, or the involvement of the return of one’s painful experience and attempts carry one’s thoughts away from the difficulty of bearing it. This experience is repeated in order to alter the wounds and cure them from the said experiences by switching up one’s response to the memory. This indicates the benefits of regression as a tool for therapy purposes.

In the book, the defense mechanisms that the main character Charlie used are evident. He has developed these defense mechanisms as a result of losing his Aunt Helen. These defense mechanisms are also developed due to several insecurities. The lines where Charlie says “I feel ashamed, though, because that night, I had a weird dream. I was with Sam. And we were both naked. And her legs were spread over the sides of the couch. And I woke up. And I had never felt that good in my life. But I also felt bad because I saw her naked without her permission” shows some form of selective perception. As the story progresses, this statement can also be classified as a form of regression. More lines such as “Then, I turned around and walked to my room and closed my door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be. By the way, I figure you are probably curious about my dad. Did he hit us when we were kids or now even? I just thought you might be curious because Bill was, after I told him about that boy and my sister. Well, if you are wondering, he didn’t. He never touched my brother or sister. And the only time he ever slapped me was when I made my Aunt Helen cry. And once we all calmed down, he got on his knees in front of me and said that his stepdad hit him a lot, and he decided in college when my mom got pregnant with my older brother that he would never hit his kids. And he felt terrible for doing it. And he was so sorry. And he would never hit me again. And he hasn’t” show Charlie trying to hide in his room as he deals with his distress as his sister calls him out for being a freak, saying that everyone thinks of him as such.

Charlie’s traumatic experience where he states that “On December 24, 1983, a policeman came to the door. My aunt Helen was in a terrible car accident. It was very snowy. The policeman told my mom that my aunt Helen had passed away. He was a very nice man because when my mom started crying, he said that it was a very bad accident, and my Aunt Helen was definitely killed instantly. In other words, there was no pain. There was no pain anymore” suggest the way he found out Aunt Helen has died. This experience has led him to be in an initial denial of losing Aunt Helen. Eventually, he accepted this cold and hurtful truth, which ultimately caused him to lose a part of himself.

Dream Displacement

Another concept to be discussed is Dream displacement. It is said that “The “message” our unconscious expresses in our dreams, which is the dream’s underlying meaning, or latent content, is altered so that we don’t readily recognize it through processes called displacement and condensation. Dream displacement occurs whenever we use a “safe” person, event, or object as a “stand-in” to represent a more threatening person, event, or object” (Tyson, 2006). It is also stated that this occurs while we are dreaming, these are also called as primary revisions. This can help in thinking of the dream’s content, which can be a symbol and furthermore be interpreted. However, there is generally no “one-to-one” definition when attempting to interpret dreams.

In the book, Charlie is said to have two different dreams. One is of which he thinks of Sam sexually, saying “I feel ashamed, though, because that night, I had a weird dream. I was with Sam. And we were both naked. And her legs were spread over the sides of the couch. And I woke up. And I had never felt that good in my life. But I also felt bad because I saw her naked without her permission”. He decides to inform Sam of this odd and sexual dream where the book states “I told Sam that I dreamt that she and I were naked on the sofa, and I started crying because I felt bad, and do you know what she did? She laughed. Not a mean laugh, either. A really nice, warm laugh. She said that she thought I was being cute. And she said it was okay that I had a dream about her. And I stopped crying. Sam then asked me if I thought she was pretty, and I told her I thought she was “lovely.” Sam then looked me right in the eye.”

The other dream however, Charlie says “When I fell asleep, I had this dream. My brother and my sister and I were watching television with my Aunt Helen. Everything was in slow motion. The sound was thick. And she was doing what Sam was doing. That’s when I woke up. And I didn’t know what the hell was going on.” What does this mean though? It may suggest Aunt Helen was also acting sexual towards Charlie, as per his last dream. Charlie’s behavior when he woke up suggested that he didn’t like this dream. This dream also suggests a possible experience that Charlie may have experienced with his Aunt Helen that he forgot of. This statement is supported by what Charlie says in the latter part, saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s like all I can do is keep writing this gibberish to keep from breaking apart. Sam’s gone. And Patrick won’t be home for a few days. And I just couldn’t talk with Mary Elizabeth or anybody or my brother or anybody in my family. Except maybe my aunt Helen. But she’s gone. And even if she were here, I don’t think I could talk to her either. Because I’m starting to feel like what I dreamt about her last night was true” and “I don’t really want to talk about the questions and the answers. But I kind of figured out that everything I dreamt about my aunt Helen was true. And after a while, I realized that it happened every Saturday when we would watch television.” This shows Charlie’s dream displacement, where he relieved a painful event in the form of his dreams. Charlie says that “I’m not the way I am because of what I dreamt and remembered about my aunt Helen. That’s what I figured out when things got quiet. And I think that’s very important to know. It made things feel clear and together. Don’t get me wrong. I know what happened was important. And I needed to remember it.”

The last concept to be discussed in this critical paper is death drives, which essentially is quite significant. A death drive or Thanatos can specifically be described as a form of self-destructive behavior in a sort of major way. It literally is dubbed as an abstraction or an idea that operates only on a level of concept, kind of contrary to popular belief. This essentially has no definitely ideal connection to the actually real world, actually further showing how it kind of is dubbed as an abstraction or an idea that operates only on a level of concept in a subtle way. Our relationship with the idea of death organizes our experiences on a psychological level, actually further showing how our relationship with the idea of death organizes our experiences on a psychological level in a fairly major way. The subject of death generally has given definitely many theorists trouble really due to their particularly own definitions based on how they for all intents and purposes deem its importance in their pretty own lives, showing how the pretty last concept to kind of be discussed in this critical paper for the most part is death drives in a subtle way.

A death drive or self-destructive behavior of Charlie was smoking. He says that “I cannot imagine that I will ever come home for a homecoming game after I leave here, but it was fun to pretend that I was. I found Patrick and Sam sitting in their normal spot in the bleachers, and I started acting like I hadn’t seen them in a year even though I had seen them that afternoon in lunch when I ate my orange, and they smoked cigarettes.” This behavior was also seen in the lines “Bill didn’t ask me to write a paper about it because, like I said, it was “a reward.” He did ask me to visit him in his office after school to discuss it, which I did. He made tea, and I felt like a grown-up. He even let me smoke a cigarette in his office, but he urged me to quit smoking because of the health risks.”

This was continued by “him saying “And I was happy because they were happy. My sister even let me hug her in the hallway. Congratulations was the word of the day. So, Sam and Patrick and I went to the Big Boy and smoked cigarettes.” This behavior is the result of the many challenges and struggles that Charlie is unable to cope with and deal with alone.

This death drive of his shows his uneasiness and anxiousness which led to his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Aunt Helen also demonstrated some form of extreme self-destructive behaviors, as evident in the lines where Charlie describes her vices as “My aunt Helen drank a lot. My aunt Helen took drugs a lot. My aunt Helen had many problems with men and boys. She was a very unhappy person most of her life. She went to hospitals all the time. All kinds of hospitals.” This behavior of Aunt Helen may be a drive or factor which influenced Charlie to a life of unwanted and self-destructive behaviors, which is him smoking, which was also influenced by his friends.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the psychoanalytic concepts generally found in the story for all intents and purposes are vital in Charlie’s growth and character development in a fairly big way. It generally was evident in the story how Charlie essentially possessed and utilized these actually said concepts of defenses, dream displacements, and death drives, generally further showing how it generally was evident in the story how Charlie essentially possessed and utilized these definitely said concepts of defenses, dream displacements, and death drives in a subtle way.

Freud’s concepts on these, in his Psychoanalytic Criticism mostly are truly right and just in observing and analyzing the behavior of basically human beings, showing how it mostly was evident in the story how Charlie mostly possessed and utilized these really said concepts of defenses, dream displacements, and death drives, particularly further showing how it for the most part was evident in the story how Charlie kind of possessed and utilized these for all intents and purposes said concepts of defenses, dream displacements, and death drives.

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