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Author Topic: Pseudonym Central: Charlie renames his friends.  (Read 2373 times)

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October 11, 2012, 08:17:55 AM

paint it Black

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story comprised of letters that 15 year-old Charlie sends to an unnamed "friend" whom he's never met.  And he intends to remain anonymous; he writes, "I will call people by different names or generic names because I do not want you to find me."  So if we take him at his word, none of the people we read about in this book are referred to by their actual names; Charlie has chosen a new name for each of them.  Can you guess why he may have picked these particular names for his group of friends?  Why does he choose "Charlie" for his own name?  Why does he not give any of his family members names, except for Aunt Helen?




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November 09, 2012, 09:42:44 PM
Reply #1

Kickassnoodle

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Yeah, I thought it was pretty interesting that he was so careful to rename his friends. Though I must admit that after a while I completely forgot that all the names were made-up, and I actually didn't even take note that Charlie doesn't mention any of his family members' names. My guess would be that he simply felt weird about using a different name for his sister. And I mean, it's not as if he has to come up with names for them - mother, dad, sister is enough to refer to them. Whereas with friends it would get kind of tedious, it's simpler to use made-up names.

Aunt Helen is a curious exception to this rule. I guess it's because she was special in Charlie's life. Also, Helen feels like a name for the tragic character of the story for me. And that befits Aunt Helen, I think.
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November 15, 2012, 06:21:40 AM
Reply #2

paint it Black

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After reading the book for a while, I started thinking how difficult it would be if I were writing with pseudonyms for each and every person as Charlie was.  Wouldn't it be easy to slip up and insert the real name once in a while?  Or get so caught up with the fake names that it would be more like writing a fictional story about someone else's life?

I notice that for Patrick, Charlie chose a name that in one form or another could be unisex; this seems to be necessary for the story of how he got his "Nothing" nickname.  It's interesting though that he chose a unisex name for Sam as well.  Perhaps to show that they belong together, as step-siblings and as his friends?

"Brad" I think sounds like a typical name for a jock, lol.  "Mary Ellen" sounds like the name of a Catholic girl to me, which seems ironic since she is not very straight-laced.  ::)

I'm still curious as to why he chose "Charlie" as his own name.  What does that tell us that he thinks about himself?  The one thing that's coming to mind for me is Charlie Brown, who continues to have some vague sense of optimism despite his hapless journey through life.  I wonder what each of us would choose for a name if we were to rename ourselves, and what that would say about us?

When we are first reading this story, we can tell that Charlie really misses Aunt Helen, but we don't yet realize just how pivotal she will be in his life and in the book.  Since Charlie is a bright kid who is into literature, maybe naming her was a Helen of Troy kind of thing, where he'd go to war to get his prized Aunt Helen back if he could.  In the end he did have to fight some pretty tough battles to get Aunt Helen to have her proper place in the scope of his life.

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January 16, 2013, 12:22:15 PM
Reply #3

Frankie

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Equally, it could be a reference to T.S Eliot's poem, Aunt Helen. The connection can only be seen as an ironic one.

Eliot's aunt was well-to-do, whereas Charlie;s aunt had a difficult life, moving in with his family having a history of drug use. The formal, dry language of the poem suggests that Eliot had no real love for his aunt, that she really had very little impact on him, either in life or in death. Charlie's Aunt Helen had obvious influence on Charlie by her actions and when she died, Charlie obviously grieved for her.

In short, Charlie's Aunt Helen is the exact opposite of T.S. Eliot's Aunt Helen. Charlie, being very literary, would name his Aunt Helen ironically, which I think fortifies the idea of her importance in his life.

Or I'm completely off, that is very possible.
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January 23, 2013, 09:05:22 AM
Reply #4

Kickassnoodle

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"Mary Ellen" sounds like the name of a Catholic girl to me, which seems ironic since she is not very straight-laced.  ::)
(it's Mary-Elisabeth ;) as far as I recall).
Equally, it could be a reference to T.S Eliot's poem, Aunt Helen. The connection can only be seen as an ironic one.

Eliot's aunt was well-to-do, whereas Charlie;s aunt had a difficult life, moving in with his family having a history of drug use. The formal, dry language of the poem suggests that Eliot had no real love for his aunt, that she really had very little impact on him, either in life or in death. Charlie's Aunt Helen had obvious influence on Charlie by her actions and when she died, Charlie obviously grieved for her.

In short, Charlie's Aunt Helen is the exact opposite of T.S. Eliot's Aunt Helen. Charlie, being very literary, would name his Aunt Helen ironically, which I think fortifies the idea of her importance in his life.
Oh, I think, that's quite a nice connection and I do see Charlie choosing ironic names (sometimes). I mean, we've got Mary-Elisabeth too. I actually kept wondering throughout the book why her parents would give her such a strange name or why she didn't go by some sort of abbreviation or a nickname, having quite forgotten that Charlie gave her that name ;D Also, another point for the T.S. Elliot connection would be that Charlie never wavers in his referring to Aunt Helen - it's always in full, Aunt Helen. Never just Aunt or even Helen, given how close they were, or anything else.

This name game is actually throwing me off a bit. I mean, Charlie says outright that these are not people's real names, and yet, the reader (at least I) come to associate the names with the characters and think of them as their real names. I mean, this is fiction, of course, so technically, nothing is real, but this bit of him renaming everyone gets kind of meta, or something. It's as though it's a story within a story. I actually kind of think that maybe Charlie just wrote that he renamed everyone but still used their real names, just to throw the mysterious friend off. However, given the thoughts about Mary-Elisabeth and Aunt Helen above, I guess it's not the case. And it really doesn't matter if it's Charlie who came up with the pseudonyms for people around him or the author, because it's the same thing. And were Charlie real, he would've chosen names that reflected something that he wanted to say about those people, like the author would choose names for his fictional characters. It's all going in circles, gah! ;D
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April 12, 2013, 09:06:56 PM
Reply #5

blue_dreamer

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Thinking back to the book about this, Patrick's name is a plot-line in itself, so if Charlie has named him Patrick, how did the real 'Patrick' have problems with his name?

The person whose name I'm curious about is Sam's. She's one of the most important people in Charlie's life, he could choose her name depending on the person he knew, was his favourite girl's name Sam, and that's why he chose it for his favourite person?
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April 13, 2013, 09:00:49 AM
Reply #6

paint it Black

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(it's Mary-Elisabeth ;) as far as I recall).
Oops.  ::)  Yes, you're right.  Mary Elizabeth still doesn't sound like a racy name to me, though, lol.

This name game is actually throwing me off a bit. I mean, Charlie says outright that these are not people's real names, and yet, the reader (at least I) come to associate the names with the characters and think of them as their real names. I mean, this is fiction, of course, so technically, nothing is real, but this bit of him renaming everyone gets kind of meta, or something. It's as though it's a story within a story. I actually kind of think that maybe Charlie just wrote that he renamed everyone but still used their real names, just to throw the mysterious friend off. However, given the thoughts about Mary-Elisabeth and Aunt Helen above, I guess it's not the case. And it really doesn't matter if it's Charlie who came up with the pseudonyms for people around him or the author, because it's the same thing. And were Charlie real, he would've chosen names that reflected something that he wanted to say about those people, like the author would choose names for his fictional characters. It's all going in circles, gah! ;D
I agree that we as readers really come to think of these names as the actual names of Charlie's friends.  But if Charlie truly wants to keep his identity a secret, he'd have to re-name them.  It sounds as though the "friend" that Charlie is writing to is an acquaintance of someone who is (at least) on the outer edges of his social circle, so theoretically the "friend" might recognize the names connected to a stepbrother and stepsister who have a stoner friend and do the Rocky Horror show, and might be able to identify Charlie through them.

Thinking back to the book about this, Patrick's name is a plot-line in itself, so if Charlie has named him Patrick, how did the real 'Patrick' have problems with his name?
I know; I'm guessing that it must have been another unisex name that "Patrick" was teased about.  Maybe someone was calling "Joe" by the name Joanne so he preferred being called Joseph?

The person whose name I'm curious about is Sam's. She's one of the most important people in Charlie's life, he could choose her name depending on the person he knew, was his favourite girl's name Sam, and that's why he chose it for his favourite person?
Yeah, this one is wide open.  It could be any of the things you suggested, or it could be the name he'd like to give his daughter some day, his mother's name, or the name of his favorite stuffed animal as a small child.  Maybe "Sam" was Michael's real name.  I guess we can only speculate.

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