The characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky experience


Using three or four independently-researched outside sources in conjunction with your own observations,
analyze the ways in which the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky experience,
conceive of, or express love (for the purposes of this assignment and in the interest of opening up the prompt
as much as possible, we can interpret platonic, friendly relationships as loving ones) This prompt is maximally
permissive—effectively, so long as your essay is centered on how love plays a role in the novel, you may write
about anything you wish. Below are some guiding topics and questions, should you like some specific possible
areas to think about:
Analyze infatuation and crushing as an experience in the novel. This can apply to Charlie’s crush on Sam,
Patrick’s infatuation with Brad, and/or any other similar relationship in the novel. How does Chbosky
portray/understand the nature of such relationships?
Similar to above: to what extent are the loving relationships in Perks asymmetrical? How does that
asymmetry/lack of reciprocation affect those relationships?
One of the most famous lines in this novel is spoken to Charlie by his English teacher: “We accept the love we
think we deserve.” To what extent does the rest of the novel support, refute, or complicate this observation?
One of the hallmark features of this novel is its heavy use of intertextuality: Chbosky often refers to or
otherwise integrates other works into the characterizations, themes, and plot of the novel (eg, the various
books Charlie’s English teacher gives him to read out of class, the music Sam and Patrick expose Charlie to,
the shadow-cast performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Sam and Patrick’s friend group runs, etc.).
How does Chbosky use these other pieces of media to help mediate love between characters in the story?
Another often talked-about feature of Chbosky’s novel is its portrayal of abuse and violence—emotional,
physical, and sexual. How does the abuse/violence that several characters in Perks suffer impact their capacity
to express love for, or establish loving relationships with, others?
Slightly related to the above, you might consider Chbosky’s portrayal of mental illness. In what ways does
mental illness disrupt (or enhance) the ability of characters in the novel to express love for, or establish loving
relationships with, each other?
How does Chbosky portray queer love? One example: does Chbosky portray the love Patrick experiences, as
one of the queer characters in the story, differently or similarly to the heterosexual love other characters
experience? What do you make of one particular scene/set of scenes between Patrick and Charlie (you’ll know
the scene when you get to it)?
How important is it that this novel is part of the young adult genre? In other words: how do common elements
of YA manifest themselves in the relationships at the center of the novel? You can apply the same question to
the movie as a teen/high school/coming-of age movie, if you choose to use that as a secondary text.
How does Charlie’s role as a first person narrator affect the way that love between characters is presented in
the novel—both his own love for others, and love between characters other than him? (Another helpful way of
thinking about this: how differently do you think we would understand how characters love each other if the
story were told in the third person?)
How do the loving friendships in the novel complicate the romantic feelings of the characters in the novel, and
vice versa?
The same question as above, but with family: how do familial relationships complicate young love, and vice


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