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The Commons in the Perks of Being a Wallflower and a Catcher in the Rye

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Both “A Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and the film “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” based on the novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky, deliver an excellent deep dive into the psyche of a mentally ill teenager as they face everyday life. The main characters in both the book and film, Holden Caulfield and Charlie Kelmeckis, share almost identical character traits at points in their stories. Both characters are easily comparable and similar when you look at their lives and struggles with mental illness.

Holden and Charlie both have mental illness that seems to interfere with their everyday lives. Holden’s mental illness seems to stem from the death of his younger brother Aliie. “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have my psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don’t blame them. I really don’t. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken and everything by that time, and I couldn’t do it. It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it, and you didn’t know Allie. (5, 7)”. The death of his younger brother has affected him to the point that he talks to the air, pretending Allie is there, when in reality there is nooone. His fits of sadness can sometimes be the reason of him thinking about death or feeling guilt for not going to the funeral. Charlie also had gone through the death of a loved one, his Aunt Helen. Because of this fatal incident, Charlie suffers from PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of it. Leading him to see his Aunts Death and have visions of her throughout most of his day. It’s even hinted that Charlie had to spend a bit of time in a mental hospital to recover from this. Both Characters have suffered and therefore been ultimately affected by the death of a close loved one.

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Not only do we see them be affected by the death of a loved one, we also see how they are affected by them being abused in their lifetime. As we find out by the end of the movie, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, Charlie as a child was sexually abused, and the strangest part is that it was done by a person who Charlie continued to say he loved the most, his Aunt Helen. This has affected him metally because he had kept the abuse a secret from everyone, both his friends and family, thus filling him with internal conflicts. Holden on the other hand seems to have gone through sexual trauma as well, however he might not admit it as sexual abuse. “That kind of stuff happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can’t stand it” (Salinger, 193). It’s not common for victims of sexual abuse to turn out well, if they don’t get the proper help and therapy they need to release whatever emotions they’re feeling. Sexual abuse only contributes to the growing mental illness of these two characters.

While both characters suffer from some type of mental illness, they both go about it in different ways. Holden from “A Catcher In the Rye” probably doesn’t feel he has any problems. At the time period this book takes place, shedding a light on mental illness was not too common, so while Holden may show warning signs of mental illness to others, they choose to ignore it, instead of getting psychiatric help. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” takes place in a time where widespread knowledge of mental illness and treatments for it were more popular and widely accepted. So Charlie knows he has a mental illness because he’s gone to treatments in the past. He knows he has PTSD because he’s aware of the flashbacks and the illness that causes it. He even tells his brother at dinner that he can “Control it” and “Turn it off” because of his recovery of his mental health. While both characters have similar mental illnesses, the way they go about treating them and over all recovery varies widely.

In Conclusion, Holden and Charlie’s actions and lives based on their mental illness and tragic traumatic events are easily comparable. Both characters have gone through the death of a loved one, which in turn has given them severe PTSD and allows them to have visions of that said loved one. As well as, both characters going through some sort of sexual abuse and trauma which only adds more problems and issues on top of an already building mental illness. Although two different characters in two different time periods, both have almost identical lives, and mental illness and their struggle in life are evident and therefore easily comparable.

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The Commons in the Perks of Being a Wallflower and a Catcher in the Rye. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
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