The character I chose to analyze from The Perks of Being a Wallflower is Charlie. Charlie is a fifteen-year-old Caucasian boy entering his freshman year of high school. Before entering high school, Charlie went through a rough patch after having to deal with his best friend shooting himself and dealing with the death of his Aunt Helen. Charlie had always had a rough time in school and always gets bullied by the other students. He is actually very smart but does not like to speak up in class. His professor discovers this and wants to find out why. Charlie is hesitant at first, but he actually develops a good relationship with the teacher that helps him while going through his freshman year. In my opinion, I think this helped Charlie get closer to finding his identity because his professor provided him books which he would then write essays on just because he enjoyed to.
In addition, Charlie meets Patrick and Sam with whom he starts hanging out with a lot. This supports the fact we learned that during adolescence, time with family is decreased and is replaced (Socioemotional Development in Adolescence, slide 11). At a party that they took him to, he is offered a brownie and takes it without knowing that it has drugs in it. All of the teenagers that they hang out with use alcohol and drugs to cope with their problems. This fact follows along with what we learned in class that drug use is a problem in adolescence (Socioemotional Development in Adolescence, slide 17). Charlie was very shy, awkward and felt like no one noticed him; that is why he is called a wallflower. The fact that Charlie thought nobody noticed him proves that he did not experience the phenomenon of ‘imaginary audience’, which is when “many adolescents feel that they are actors watched constantly by their peers” (Kail & Cavanaugh, pg. 237).
There is a specific scene that portrays Charlie is in Kohlberg’s post conventional stage of moral development. “At the postconventional level, moral reasoning is based on a personal moral code” (Kail & Cavanaugh, pg. 228). In this scene, Charlie’s friend Patrick was getting attacked because he stood up for himself after getting called a homophobic word for being gay. Charlie steps in and fights the people attacking Patrick but blacks out in the process. This shows that Charlie is in the level of postconventional moral development because he was not worried about the external forces of punishment or social norms. Charlie broke social norms by fighting the kids in the cafeteria and standing up to the bullies. He also was not worried about being punished for fighting, instead he followed his own moral code because he wanted to stand up for his friend.
In reference to Marcia’s identity theory, Charlie is in moratorium. Charlie loves to read and write but has not chosen a specific identity; he is still trying to figure out who he is and what his purpose is. In the Romantic Relationships section of the book, it says “adolescents in romantic relationships report more emotional upheaval and conflict” (Kail & Cavanaugh, pg. 241). This is proven throughout The Perks of Being a Wallflower in many of the character’s relationships. First of all, Charlie likes and wants to be with Sam, but Sam always ends up with guys who do not treat her right. Then Charlie ends up going to ‘Sadies’ with Mary Elizabeth who then assumes they are boyfriend and girlfriend after the dance. Their relationship is complicated because Charlie does not actually like her which creates a lot of emotional conflict for Charlie and eventually for Mary Elizabeth when Charlie is dared to kiss the prettiest girl in the room and kisses Sam instead of her.
Due to all of the obstacles he has faced in his life, Charlie suffers from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. In addition, he also seems to be depressed. Charlie randomly gets flashbacks of his Aunt telling him that she was going to get his Christmas present, but she gets in a car accident and dies on her way to get it. Because of this, Charlie believed that it was his fault that she died. Charlie was also molested by his Aunt and suffers from the trauma of going through that. It was only towards the end of the movie that all of Charlie’s family discovered he was molested by his Aunt. Charlie was in a dark state because he made a mistake and kissed Sam instead of Mary Elizabeth (his girlfriend at the time), so Patrick told him to stay away for a while.
He eventually made up with them but then had to say goodbye to them when they left for college which caused him to sink into a depressed state which eventually caused him to have a mental breakdown. The visions of his Aunt reappeared which lead him back to the belief that her death was his fault and even admitting that he might have wanted her to die when he said to his sister on the phone “what if I wanted her to die Candice?”. After his sister received this call, she had her friend call the police and go to their house; Charlie was institutionalized again after this and this was when he told his therapist about his Aunt molesting him who then told his parents. His best friend taking his own life is also a contributing factor in why he suffers from these psychological disorders and why he was institutionalized the first time.
I feel that this movie was an accurate portrayal of what an adolescent could go through after being sexually abused as a child and having PTSD. Recommendations I would give Charlie would be to continue with psychotherapy. The book says that psychotherapy is a better choice for treating depressed adolescents (Kail & Cavanaugh, pg. 250). Another approach would be to emphasize his cognitive and social skills by having rewarding social interactions and being able to interpret them correctly (Kail & Cavanaugh, pg. 250). I think that, in light of all that Charlie went through and his personality type, that he reacted in the best way he could. He did make some questionable decisions, but everyone makes mistakes; they are inevitable. I can relate to Charlie in that I was a very shy child and experienced bullying in middle school, but I did not experience any of the trauma that he endured.