The Theme Of Coming Of Age In The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about Charlie a fifteen-year-old boy who has just entered his freshman year of high school. Charlie is a “wallflower.”A wallflower is a person who has no one to dance with or who feels shy, awkward, or excluded at a party. They are usually introverts. Charlie is quiet and withdrawn just like a wallflower, but he is also very watchful and thoughtful, he always paying close attention to everything going on around him. He matures throughout the book and shows both how people can blossom when they are accepted for who they are and how painful life can be for people who are ignored or mistreated. He makes two senior friends Patrick and Sam.Who help guide Charlie to become into the fullest version of himself when he takes charge of his life and learns how to stand up for himself. Charlie shows maturity and coming of age with meeting new people and going through conflicts he has never had to deal with before, such as drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure.
At the beginning of the book, Charlie is an inexperienced, naive person. An example of this is shown when Sam invites Charlie to her room to show him the typewriter she bought for him. Sam asks Charlie if he has ever kissed a girl Sam stating “he shook his head no. It was so quiet”. This proves how much Charlie is inexperienced with sexuality. Although he inexperienced and naive person in the beginning, towardS the middle of the book when they are at a party Patrick says ‘He’s a wallflower…You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand’. Patrick asserts Charlie’s place in society. This affirmation of Charlie’s behavior is a critical moment in the novel. After this part, it is easier for Charlie to find value in himself. He finds it easier to participate in the events around him, and he spends less time second-guessing what he is about to say or do. He may still struggle with his deep and complex thoughts, often going back to a contemplative position, but he then has the confidence to act and feel as though he belongs. This is a representation of coming of age.
Although Charlie is very observant his naiveness can sometimes get in the way of that. One part that shows this is when He is at a Christmas party and reads a poem by his late friend Michael who committed suicide. One part of the poem says ‘Absolutely Nothing Because that’s what it was really all about and he gave himself an A.and a slash on each damned wrist And he hung it on the bathroom door because this time he didn’t think he could reach the kitchen.” Charlie does not realize that the poem is allegedly a suicide note. As Charlie reads the note aloud, he attains a greater understanding of the poem, noting that he doesn’t think he likes the end of the poem. The poem reflects the darkness that underlies so much of Charlie’s life: while this poem is incredibly sad, Charlie doesn’t truly realize how dark it is until many days after he reads it aloud. His ability to live and operate in the poem’s darkness hints at the darkness that he lives with every day. Another part that shows that he can live and operate within knowing of darkness is when he says “… even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.” This shows that he knows life is not full of rainbows and sunshine and that there is a possibility that Charlie will not like the outcome of his actions/life but he can learn how to deal with it.
Charlie has two sudden realizations during his conflicts. One part of this realization happens with Mary Elizabeth during a game of truth or dare where Charlie is dared by Patrick to kiss the prettiest girl in the room and he thinks “I knew that if I kissed Mary Elizabeth I would be lying to everyone. Including Sam. Including Patrick. Including Mary Elizabeth. And I just couldn’t do it anymore…”. Charlie discovers that faking his feelings for Mary Elizabeth is not helping anyone, including himself. After this realization he let’s know of his feelings by kissing Sam instead of Mary Elizabeth, acknowledging his true feelings for Sam. Charlie’s second realization is based on his lack of compatibility to do things for himself, and this shows when Sam gives him a talk about being more self-sufficient: “I figured that I should just do what I wanted to do… And if she didn’t like it, then she could just say so”. This shows Charlie’s progression into becoming more self-sufficient as he does not care so much about how Sam would feel, but rather what he feels. This is also shown coming of age.
By the end of the novel, Charlie is more aware and experienced. Charlie’s increased self-awareness and confidence in his ability to control his future, including the relationships he engages in, demonstrate his character’s maturity through the novel. The Perks of Being a Wallflower knowledge the readers about embracing differences, since life is about overcoming fears and challenges to become as happy as possible. Charlie matures and demonstrated coming of age characters throughout the book with have to deal with conflicts about sexuality and friendship then realizing that not everything is perfect but to live life and Charlie shows this maturity.
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