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The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Existential Analysis
Transcript of The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Existential Analysis
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Charlie shows symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. He seems to also suffer from depression, which can root from PTSD. He became mentally unstable as a result of being sexually abused as a child. He blocked (repressed) thoughts like that out, and they never come back to him until later in life (as flashbacks). Charlie seemed to repress any thoughts or memories that he didn’t want to remember and refused to believe, such as his Aunt molesting him at age five, which caused him some serious trauma, especially his being a young boy. Ever since he was little he had a strong relationship with his Aunt, so he makes himself believe that she was a wonderful person and that her death was totally his fault. He also blocked out his memory of beating Brad’s friend (because he was hurting Patrick). Charlie blames a lot of problems on himself, and sees others of having absolutely no faults. He didn’t want to believe that he was a bad person and just wanted to make friends.
Charlie believed that he was going to continue his life feeling guilty, and that he will never truly be happy. He would always see himself as not good enough, and that he was going absolutely no where in life. For the most part, he thought that essence precedes existence, and that no matter what he does, he wouldn't make any difference.
Charlie believes that we know what we know through how things are portrayed to us, through our memories. It can be seen this way because he remembers his aunt being nice at first, but then later in the movie links her with other memories that taunt him into believing her death was his fault. The way Charlie remembers and perceives a situation causes him to be confused, have blackouts, and feel/see things that aren’t completely true.
How do we know what we know?
Mental Illnesses & Effects
Near the end of the film, Charlie’s mental illnesses started playing a bigger role in his life and he ‘went bad’ again. He felt helpless and kept blacking out. He had more flashbacks of memories he did not want to remember and kept persuading himself to believe a truth that doesn’t exist.
Example: Aunt didn’t hurt me, she always loved me, we were great friends, why did she have to die, it was all my fault she was getting my birthday present, it was all my fault she died, she was such a good person.
However, after being treated by a medical facility (he gained confidence and accepted reality), and after his parents found out what he has been hiding all these years, he learned that even though you can't change where you come from, you can always choose where you go from that point on. Charlie realized that he is ‘alive’ and that he can do anything he wants to. His friends Sam and Patrick helped him believe that with the tunnel experience. Existence precedes Essence: Charlie can go about his goals and dreams and live life to the fullest, living an ‘authentic life’. He knows he is going somewhere and that somewhere will take him so many places and make his existence on this world that much more meaningful. Charlie has no sad destiny to his sad story. He can do what he wants. It’s his life, and he’s in full control - no one can stop him. He is infinite.
Zaina Abubeker and Erika Gonzalez
Comp Gov/English 12
Existence precedes Essence
Film Background Info/Summary
Charlie is a 15 year old boy who is starting high school alone. There is no one he can really talk to in the beginning of the film. The only people there are his sister and a couple of classmates he barely talked to in middle school. Throughout the film he writes letters to a “friend” in order to not feel alone in the world. His start in high school was pretty rough, and he even started counting the days until he would leave. He believed his starting mission was to make friends. His first friend was his English teacher, Mr. Anderson, who is aware of Charlie’s writing abilities. He later meets Patrick from his wood shop class and through him ends up meeting his crush, Sam. Patrick and Sam find out that Charlie’s old friend committed suicide, and as time goes by, the trio became closer. Throughout the film, Charlie keeps mentioning how much he loved and missed his Aunt, who passed away in a car crash, and repeatedly blacks out and has flashbacks to repressed memories. His friends Mary Elizabeth and Patrick take a bit of advantage of him and Charlie struggles to please everyone. In the end we find out that Charlie suffers of anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and learn that he has been repressing memories of his Aunt raping him since the age of five. He attempts to commit suicide after his friends leave for college and completely goes crazy from all the flashbacks he’s having, believing that he himself killed his Aunt. Charlie goes through therapy and ends up finding his own truth, and what it means, “to be”.
Throughout the entire movie, Charlie doesn’t exactly live in ‘good faith’. He lets others take control over him, such as Mary Elizabeth getting what she wants from him, Patrick taking advantage of him, and his Aunt ruining his childhood. He gets bossed around in school and doesn’t voice his opinions, for they don't matter to him. He never made his own choices and constantly made sure everyone was happy. He was also played with at parties and had his innocence stolen away. He never took in mind his own feelings, and doesn’t live his own life. As a result, he was living in bad faith most of the film, until the end.
Living in Good/Bad Faith
What did it mean for him to be a wallflower?
The wallflower may serve as a symbol. When someone is called or referred to as a wallflower it tends to be because that person is shy, not sociable, and most typically categorized as a loner. The fact that people noticed Charlie at a school party proved that he was certainly not a wallflower, and even marked the first turning point in the movie.
Charlie as a Wallflower
Charlie searches for his sense “to be”. It is seen at the beginning when he tries to fit in with his sister’s group, or with his old friends. To them he is just another person, since he had stayed at the hospital for so long. For Charlie it was hard to arrive to the conclusion of what it meant “to be” because he kept repressing everything that reminded him of pain. He always wants to please others and when something doesn’t go as planned he constantly blames himself just like he does with his aunt's death, when in reality his aunt is the one who caused him pain in the beginning.
To Charlie, making friends mattered a lot, so that he felt a sense of belonging. To Sam what mattered was to feel genuine happiness, not the kind of happiness people wish for you, but genuine happiness, to feel it. As the film progressed, what mattered to Charlie the most was Sam. What also mattered was his fear of seeing things that caused him to feel uneasy and anxious. When Charlie starts seeing things, it would often lead him to believe that many things were his fault.
There are Christ figures in the movie as well, an example being when Charlie and his family go to church. This could have served as foreshadowing about his realization that he is infinite and alive at the end of the film. It can be argued that he thinks God is truth, because at the church he starts seeing things (aunt’s funeral), so it could be that God’s truth led him to seeing more things - which even though we later see caused him pain along with the reappearance of the rape situation with his aunt - it lead him to the realization of what his life meant now.
Time is key in this movie and it goes hand in hand with his blackouts. At certain events in his life he has blackouts or flashbacks. For example, when he’s with Sam and she touches his leg, he also sees his aunt. At this point he is constantly switching between these two situations. At that moment in time, Sam brought out a repressed memory of his Aunt and all that she had done to him.
“And in this moment, I swear,
we are infinite.”
“We are alive.”
"We can't choose where we can come from, but we can choose where we go from there."
"We accept the love we think we deserve."
"Write a story about us."
Charlie defending Patrick and blacking out, forgetting what happened.
Charlie's Mental Breakdown