The Perks of Being a Wallflower: the Theme of Coming of Age

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

The perks of being a Wallflower written by Stephen Chbosky was released 1999 which was then released as a movie in 2012. The novel is a well-known coming of age story, which was set in 1991, follows Charlie, who is 14, through his life in high school where he is confronted with parties and drugs, experimenting with his sexuality and creating life-long friendships. Stephen Chbosky tackles the subject of coming of age through the exploration of these challenges.

Stephen Chbosky uses experimentation with drugs in The Perks of Being a Wallflower to symbolise coming of age. Charlie’s first experimentation with drugs was at a party he went to with Sam and Patrick. Without realising, Charlie had eaten a brownie that had drugs laced within it. Even after the party, Charlie continued to smoke weed. Charlie hadn’t spoken to his friends because of mistakes he made, “after a week of not talking to anyone, I finally called Bob… He said he had a quarter ounce of pot left. So, I took some of my Easter money and bought it. I’ve been smoking it all the time since.” Charlie also experimented with LSD but then decided it wasn’t for him. Chbosky used the use of drugs to tackle the subject of coming of age because while it can be a common thing for teenagers to experiment with, it was an element that was specifically chosen to be incorporated into Charlie’s coming of age. It was chosen because Charlie was sexually abused as a child by his Aunt Helen and it can be presumed that experimenting with drugs is Charlie’s way of coping with the overwhelming amount of guilt he feels after Aunt Helen Died.

At the start of the school year, Charlie is innocent, and it is evident he hasn’t given much thought about relationships until he meets Sam, he immediately finds her attractive and continuously dreams of her. Charlie then meets Mary Elizabeth and ultimately uses her in hopes of making Sam jealous. Charlie and his group are going to the school dance and Mary Elizabeth is his date for the night, “I think Mary Elizabeth is a really smart and pretty person. I’m glad that she is my first date ever… I wanted Sam to be jealous… Sam wasn’t jealous though” Charlie hoped Sam would be jealous because it would show she’s interested in him. However, Sam believes Charlie is too young for her and that they can only be friends and although Charlie has a hard time comprehending why she feels like this, he still respects her choices and tries his best to stop dreaming about her. Patrick and Brad also experiments with their sexuality in this novel. Patrick and Brad are caught kissing at the party by Charlie which worries Brad and even though Charlie promises not to tell anyone, Brad is still paranoid of Charlie telling people about his and Patricks secret. Chbosky explores sexuality in the novel to tackle the subject of coming of age. During this time in people’s lives, they begin to explore themselves and their sexuality. Chbosky uses the confusing relationship between Charlie and Mary Elizabeth to show this.

Stephen Chbosky confronts the struggle of coming of age by using friendship in the novel. Charlie starts school feeling isolated and lost. This is because his only friend, Michael, had recently committed suicide leaving Charlie alone. Due to Charlie having no friends, he despises going to school. This is until he meets Patrick, a senior, who then introduces him to Sam. They are Charlie’s first friends of the year, who help guide him through all the challenges he has to face. Charlie starts to enjoy going to school because he is allowed to sit with their group of friends. Charlie feels as if he has found people who accept him for who he is, and this positively effects his mental state. When he is around his friends, he doesn’t think about his traumatic past and focuses on the present. However, when Charlie kisses Sam instead of Mary Elizabeth in a game of truth or dare, his friends get mad at him and he is, once again, alone. Charlie immediately regrets his choices, “Mary Elizabeth walked quickly out of the room and into the bathroom… I felt terrible. Just terrible.” This effects Charlie negatively and he turns to drugs to comfort him. Friendship is a topic of coming of age because friends guide and support each other especially through hard times. Charlie wouldn’t have been able to make his way through his high school year without the support of his friends.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, written by Stephen Chbosky, tackles the subject of coming of age by using experimentation of drugs, the exploration of sexuality and the bittersweet reality of friendship. Charlies matured throughout the novel because of his friends. Patrick and Sam guided him through the tough challenges of growing up which, in the end, increased Charlie’s sensibility and awareness of situations.  


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