In this chapter of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky we're introduced to Charlie, the protagonist, in the form of a letter that's dated August 25, 1991. I'm guessing that this book doesn't really have chapters, and I'm also guessing that these letters will be how we learn about Charlie and learn about what goes on with him.
I really like this style; I feel a certain connection with Charlie right off the bat. The letters are addressed to us, the readers, making this book, as far as I can tell, in the second person, where the reader is addressed directly.
The expository setup displayed here in this first letter is positively brilliant, and, right off the bat, a significant event happens. I'm guessing it's a significant event, because, it's part of the expository setup. It's the death of Charlie's friend, who committed suicide.
Charlie has a Frank way of talking to me that honestly makes me feel as though I'm reading a letter from a newly developed pen pal. Right off the bat, in this first letter, I get a good idea of how Charlie perceives the world around him. It's in this clear plain X ray kind of way. He's not deep, and he's not metaphorical but there's something very knowing about the way he thinks. For instance when he's talking about his school… he gives me this as a setting description.
I don't know how news travels around school and why it is very often right.
I love that description. It tells me so much using so little. It tells me that it's a school full of mature kids. That quote follows the realization that a friend of his died. I'm guessing he's a friend, because Charlie just weeps in a psychologist's session, causing him to be sent home. His brother, who to me, sounds like your typical jock, picks Charlie up from school and takes him home,. In this letter Charlie tells me a lot about people in his life and I really want to expound on something I said before.
It's really hard to slap Charlie inside of a box because I believe he could be the most observant person on the face of the planet. The reason why isn't quite obvious, having just met Charlie, but I believe he can just "see" people for who they really are. I also believe that his descriptions shouldn't be taken too literally. Their kind of like generalizations sprinkled with dots of truth that no one else can see. This is what makes me think he has some sort of x ray vision into people. The below description alone illustrates the Frank vision.
Bridget who is crazy said that sometimes she thought about suicide when commercials come on during TV. She was sincere and this puzzled the guidance counselors. Carl who is nice to everyone said that he felt very sad, but could never kill himself because it is a sin.
That description is so generalized that that possibly can't be all there is to these people but I feel that, at the same time, that that's a perfect summery of some of the people who he hangs around with.
That's just a passing description of people at his school. His family, however, gets a little more scrutiny. I can't tell a lot about his family because he describes them, not with his own opinions, but things that they do.
Can I just say that Stephen Chbosky is a genius? One of a few cardinal sins in the world of writing is telling, not showing. I can't tell you how many books I've read where I'm always told something. Stephen Chbosky has taken the show, don't tell, preface and used it literally. Charlie doesn't tell us anything about his family. Instead, we're left with our own deductions. His mom cries during soaps, his dad takes charge of things, his brother likes to fix up his car, and his sister got dumped, crying for a really long time.
If I were to examine the family members exclusively I can pinpoint only a few things out. The mom is compassionate, the brother is obsessed with how things work, the dad is a bit of a control freak, and I'm guessing he has an ego as well. There's also a bit about him slapping Charlie because Charlie asked what a very bad thing was that happened to his aunt. This is like a beacon telling me that his dad is a huge control freak who really hates disorder of any kind. His sister… well… she seems like a drama queen, but this is just the first introduction after all. I do learn that she did recover from her terrible break up because Charlie tells me so.
A month later, my sister met another boy and started playing happy records again.
I love this new twist on setting up characters and scenes and plots. It leaves me to my own deductions. I don't have enough to really detail any of the family members but I'm sure I'll have a lot of character development within this story. The generalizations leave many opportunities for these people to grow.
Having been introduced to Charlie, the observant wallflower; can I just say that I've fallen in love with him? I want to bake him cookies. He seems sort of cute and innocent but I know that's a red herring provided by Stephen Chbosky. Just the clear cut, matter of fact info he gives about people tells me that he can see something in people others cannot. This leaves me to think that Charlie is smarter than, I believe, he knows.
This first letter ends with a confession from Charlie, telling me, or any other reader, that he's afraid of high school.
I should probably go to sleep now. It's very late. I don't know why I wrote a lot of this down for you to read. The reason I wrote this letter is because I start high school tomorrow and I am really afraid of going.
Love always, Charlie
Oh my god can I please give Charlie a hug before he leaves? He's so likeable and I just met him!
This is a brilliant way to captivate the reader. I'm already feeling like I'm a part of Charlie's life now. I wonder what will happen to him in his first day of high school. I believe Charlie's observation skills will get him into trouble and I also believe that that will some the plot for later on. Charlie will be the main conflict, I'm guessing but I don't have enough to go on yet.
This part, or letter, was possibly the best expository setup I have ever seen. Stephen Chbosky is a genius! I'm intrigued to see what Charlie will experience in high school. In two more weeks everyone will know.