The development of adolescent identity after traumatic experiences is a fragile process. In this essay, I use Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) to explore how adolescent relationships influence the path to recovery after traumatic experiences. After losing both his friend and aunt, Charlie, the novel’s protagonist, begins to write letters, which form the basis of the book. Recounting his journey to recovery, these letters ultimately reveal that Charlie’s aunt molested him when he was a child—a memory that he represses for years. Despite the importance of writing as a way for Charlie to cope with this traumatic experience, the familial, peer, and romantic relationships (both positive and negative) he describes in his letters also play an integral role in helping him negotiate his trauma. Recovery is a social process, just as adolescent identity is not created in isolation, but rather in combination with surrounding individuals. Therefore, it is crucial not to lift shared responsibility from the shoulders of parents, peers, or caregivers. In this way, Charlie’s story provides an important reminder for adolescents, parents, and medical professionals alike about adolescent development and trauma recovery.
"Trauma, Recovery, and Adolescent Relationships in Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower: An In-Depth Analysis,"
The Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research:
Vol. 13, Article 8.