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Author Topic: Dear Friend, Love Always: Why is Charlie's story told in letters?  (Read 1189 times)

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October 09, 2012, 08:33:47 AM

paint it Black

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In the first words of the first letter of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, our narrator Charlie explains why he has chosen this particular "friend" as the person he is writing to, and his reasons for writing to them.  He also states that he intends to remain anonymous in his letters, and will take steps to ensure that his new friend will not guess his identity.  Why do you think it is important to Charlie that he he remain anonymous?  Do you have any guesses as to who the "friend" receiving the letters may be?  Do you think that the "friend" is male or female?  Why does he address his letters to this unnamed person "Dear friend," and sign them "Love always"?

How would this book have differed had it not been an epistolary novel?  What do you think the story would have been like if we'd just seen Charlie's freshman year play out as it went, or, if Charlie had instead confided his thoughts to a journal?  Could Charlie have gained any insight from his writing if he had kept his letters as a journal instead of mailing them?  Or was the act of mailing the letters beneficial for him?  What does writing these letters mean to Charlie?

Please share any other insights you have into Charlie's one-sided correspondence right here.  :)

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October 23, 2012, 08:41:55 AM
Reply #1


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I love letter novels! There's just something very intimate about hand-written letters, something that even diaries don't have. It's difficult to explain, but when one opens up to another person it's different than opening up to oneself, one makes themselves more vulnerable. And it seems that Charlie isn't afraid of it at all - he tells this mysterious friend everything: every time he cries, and just exactly how he feels about Sam. So I guess that is what this novel gets from this particular form - the honesty and vulnerability, and it feels like he's opening up to me, you, i.e. the reader. He makes me feel as though I'm the friend he's writing to and it feels nice because Charlie looks up to this friend.

I don't think a particular gender was intended for this mysterious friend, but just because Charlie's a boy, I somehow often imagine this friend to be a guy as well. Also, I'm reading (not finished yet) a translation and my language has different noun and adjective endings to mark different genders and the translator uses male adjectives whenever Charlie talks about his correspondent, so it creates a sort of bias - I understand that if I was reading this in English, there wouldn't be any way to tell whether Charlie addresses a boy or a girl - in that case I guess I would just feel that he's addressing me and I'm female ;) On the other hand, it seems unlikely to me that a guy open up like that to a girl - but I'm not a guy so I don't really know ;D Maybe Charlie would - he seems like the sort of guy who wouldn't really care for the gender of his friends.

My only problem with it is the anonymity of it all. Charlie carefully points out how he's protecting the identities of everyone he's talking about and how he doesn't want to be found. And he doesn't seem to know much about this mysterious friend also - a couple of times he remarks how he thinks that this friend is older and wiser and whatnot, but it seems he doesn't know much more than the address of said friend. However, I guess that is the only way that Charlie is comfortable with. I guess it allows him to be more honest.