The Perks Of Being a Wallflower By Stephen Chbosky: The Similarities Between Me And Charlie
Being decades old, The Perks of Being a Wallflower still — quite accurately — demonstrates the struggles of adapting to life as a freshman in high school; many of Charlie’s feelings and actions mirrored my personal experiences throughout all four years of high school. The book’s brazen description of reality forces the readers to adopt a pensive mood as they picture themselves in the unfortunate place of a character to which they could easily relate. It is simple to compare and contrast the aspects of my life with Charlie’s familial history, school involvement, and friendships, from which our identities are molded.
For generations within Charlie’s family, there is evidence of drug and alcohol abuse — of which, the most gripping and impactful case for Charlie is his Aunt Helen. Similarly, I have three members of just my immediate family who are victims of addiction, and — undoubtedly — the struggles derived from drug and alcohol abuse directly affect familial relationships. This is exemplified within Charlie’s maternal grandfather. During Thanksgiving, Charlie explains the traditional fights that occur, generally beginning “when his mom’s dad…finishes his third drink”. It is very important to recognize the direct relationship between substance abuse and other types — physical, sexual, emotional — abuse, which is evident when Charlie later describes listening to his maternal grandfather’s drunk babbling about “beat[ing] some sense into” his daughters, when their grades weren’t ideal. Within my immediate family, there is no physical or sexual abuse; however, my father morphs into this excessively derisive monster when he drinks, and he has made every family member cry on more than one occasion because of his words — and he is completely unapologetic. Nonetheless, these interactions have benefited me by allowing me to learn to handle unreasonable amounts of negative feelings and to develop conscientious and nurturing characteristics when I am not his target.Evidently, Charlie has stronger and more supportive relationships with his siblings as opposed to his parents, which is very similar to my household. The readers see Charlie’s bond with his sister grow deeper and more intimate as the plot progresses, especially when Charlie accompanies his sister to the abortion clinic and he is there for her both physically and emotionally. Because my parents have six kids and are generally reluctant to show any emotions — especially affection, my siblings and I have learned to depend on each other for comfort and encouragement. In Charlie’s case, the interactions between him and his siblings seem to generally develop into two-way relationships, where each person is investing the same amount of effort. Although some may argue that Charlie is predominantly the receiver of care, it is necessary to recognize the nonverbal actions that he takes to protect his siblings. For example, Charlie’s initiative to tell Bill about his sister being hit by her boyfriend not only demonstrates Charlie’s trust in Bill, but also exposes his underlying — possibly, subconscious — motive to seek help for his sister. However, in contrast to Charlie, throughout high school, I was the oldest kid living at home, the responsibility of caretaker pushed solely onto me by my older siblings who had left. None of my younger siblings at home consistently supported and encouraged me, which is not a complaint or expectation, because we all experienced great difficulty with emotional regulation.
Both having older siblings, Charlie and I were exposed to inappropriate actions as children. Charlie innocently walked into his basement, through the door which his sister neglectfully forgot to lock, to watch television when he stumbled upon his sister and her boyfriend in a moment of sexual intimacy. Additionally, while his parents were out of town, Charlie’s brother decided to throw a notorious high-school party, where Charlie was ordered to hide away. Charlie was not only surrounded by alcohol but also witnessed a rape, which affected his future sexual interactions. Similarly, my three older siblings tended to be involved with the wrong crowds throughout high school, and they often threw parties when my parents had left. I vividly remember playing beer pong in our garage on top of a mattress board — and I was pretty good. Everyone wanted me on their team, and I was extremely overjoyed to be so included with the high-school crowd. My older siblings weren’t careless with me though. Being in the early years of elementary school, I was not allowed to drink; I was just someone’s partner. While these unsuitable exposures rooted in the party scene deeply affected Charlie’s emotional and sexual development, my growth was hardly negatively impacted by the candidness of high school that these experiences entailed. Although the parties normalized alcohol use, this may have instead been accomplished through my father’s alcoholism.
The last familial similarity between Charlie and me is our fathers; the book implies that Charlie’s father is unaccepting of any sort of emotional display. This is shown when Charlie’s brother tells him to “get it out of [his] system before Dad [comes] home” while Charlie is crying. My father, similar to Charlie’s, is unwilling to show, admit, or welcome the exhibition of feelings; in my family, my siblings and I adopted the method of smiling through any suffering, and then crying alone in secrecy. Although Charlie excessively cries in public and I would be utterly humiliated crying with any audience, we both recognize the crucial extent to the concealment of tears in the presence of our fathers. However, The Perks of Being a Wallflower never mentions what actions of his father this emotional display might initiate. In all likelihood, I would infer that Charlie’s father’s dismissive and detached nature may cause him to act very comparable to my father. After telling my father about my excessive suffering with depression and the immense weight that was added while trying to conceal it, he could not comprehend that nonphysical pain exists. He did not understand that silent cry in the dead of night that we are all a little too familiar with — holding back as much as we can, just enough, so that no one can hear.
Because of the father issues Charlie and I share, we had this gaping hole that should have been filled with a strong and supportive male role model. It was difficult to accept this fact since my father was present but inactive. Until high school, I was in denial that he was a damaging kind of different — and the only reason I realized otherwise was that I happened upon a considerate, good-hearted male role model in my high school that was invested in saving me. This guidance counselor reached out to me, instead of the usual vice-versa, allowing me to feel acknowledged and remembered. Similarly, Bill expressed his concerns with Charlie after class about how he may “use thought to not participate in life” and Bill even invites Charlie over for the afternoon toward the school year. While I never went over to my role model’s house, we spent hours on end getting to know each other over the four years in high school. His office represented a safe haven where I could go with any news, with any feelings, and without any judgment. We talked about fears and insecurities, the future and the past, and how to deal with the present. Strangely, he spoke with this delicate diction, where I had to make inferences about his implications, but I didn’t mind it, for it allowed me to continue thinking about our conversations long-past their ends. While Charlie and Bill did not have lengthy conversations, they also spoke in great depths about ambiguous topics; however, many of the subjects were related to which book Charlie was assigned.
Another characteristic that Charlie and I share — most likely stemming from familial issues — is the role played in friendships. I constantly have to remind myself to reach out to my friends, instead of waiting for them to contact me. Throughout the book, Charlie hardly ever initiates contact, except when introducing himself to Patrick and Sam at the football game. For example, when Charlie is feeling strange on Christmas, he mentions that he “would tell Sam and Patrick, but they didn’t call yesterday”. Charlie doesn’t even consider calling them in order to share. This plays into the fact that both Charlie and I are individualistic and independent. However, when it comes to loneliness, we take different actions. I refuse to accept that I need friends and continue to be alone; oppositely, Charlie earnestly desires profound friendships.
Charlie’s family history and relationships are hauntingly accurate in echoing those of my family, even though we have a varying family size and my family has larger age gaps between siblings. This applies to the discussion of drug abuse and its relationship to other abuse types, sibling interactions, and fatherly disapproval of emotional displays. One can assume that these family issues played into the seeking out of a male role model throughout high school by both Charlie and me. Lastly, during relationships, Charlie and I adopt a passive role, hoping that friends will reach out to us. During his last letter, Charlie undoubtedly has acquired the sought-out support from his friends and family and the recognition of his psychological pain that had been looming over him. Contrarily, aside from the encouragement by my male role model, I continue to seek out a support system as strong and boundless as Charlie’s company.
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