Your final formal essay for this class will mirror the process and end-product of the third formal essay.
However, with this essay, you have greater leeway with what you write about, and your primary text is a
novel—as such, there is far more possible material for you to work from. With this one, I want to give you
maximal freedom. But very, very careful. It’ll be easy to start giving your own opinions and takes on the
topic at hand, so be sure that your writing is grounded in a strong, nuanced analysis of the primary text, as
well as strong analysis and use of secondary sources to support your main claim about the novel.
As stated in the prompt below, for this assignment you are expected to make use of 3 or 4 secondary
sources to aid in your analysis of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. At least 2 of these sources must be
scholarly sources (that is, an article published in an academic journal, likely found in a database like
JSTOR, Project MUSE, the MLA International Bibliography, ProQuest, EBSCOHost, or similar). 1 of these
sources may be the movie adaptation of the novel (2012, directed by Stephen Chbosky). As with the
previous formal essay, none of the written secondary sources may be directly or explicitly about The Perks
of Being a Wallflower, although they may be about related ideas (eg, a scholarly journal article about
queerness in YA novels is fine).
Write a complete essay that responds to the prompt. Your essays must be 6 to 8 double-spaced, typed
pages in length. You must use standard margins and a standard font type (eg, Times New Roman, Arial, or
similar), in 12-point size. Include your name, my name, and the date, and number your pages. Be sure to
give your essay an appropriate title. Remember to properly cite when you borrow an author’s words, ideas,
or refer to their work. This (especially) includes close paraphrasing or any short phrases borrowed.
Especially for this as a research assignment, proper citation and a works cited page are musts. Important
note: you must include an entry for the novel (and the movie, if you choose to use it) on that works cited
page. Based on my copy this might look like the following, but this is variable depending on what edition of
Perks you are reading:
Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. MTV Books, 1999.
And a citation for the movie might look like:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Directed by Stephen Chbosky, Summit Entertainment, 2012.
A typed annotated bibliography featuring at least 5 possible sources to use for the essay is due before
class on Monday, November 30, 2020. An annotated bibliography is a Works Cited page with a paragraph
after each source. You should include the full citation you will put in your Works Cited page, followed by a
paragraph consisting of around 2 or 3 sentences summarizing the source and around 1 or 2 sentences
discussing how that source might be used in your essay. An exploratory draft of at least 2-3 pages of your
essay is due before class on Monday, December 7, 2020. The final draft of your essay is due by 11:59pm
on Friday, December 11, 2020.
Using three or four independently-researched outside sources in conjunction with your own observations,
analyze the ways in which the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
experience, conceive of, or express love (for the purposes of this assignment and in the interest of opening
up the prompt as much as possible, we can interpret platonic, friendly relationships as loving ones) This
prompt is maximally permissive—effectively, so long as your essay is centered on how love plays a role in
the novel, you may write about anything you wish. Below are some guiding topics and questions, should
you like some specific possible areas to think about:
Analyze infatuation and crushing as an experience in the novel. This can apply to Charlie’s crush on Sam,
Patrick’s infatuation with Brad, and/or any other similar relationship in the novel. How does Chbosky
portray/understand the nature of such relationships?
Similar to above: to what extent are the loving relationships in Perks asymmetrical? How does that
asymmetry/lack of reciprocation affect those relationships?
One of the most famous lines in this novel is spoken to Charlie by his English teacher: “We accept the love
we think we deserve.” To what extent does the rest of the novel support, refute, or complicate this
One of the hallmark features of this novel is its heavy use of intertextuality: Chbosky often refers to or
otherwise integrates other works into the characterizations, themes, and plot of the novel (eg, the various
books Charlie’s English teacher gives him to read out of class, the music Sam and Patrick expose Charlie
to, the shadow-cast performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Sam and Patrick’s friend group runs,
etc.). How does Chbosky use these other pieces of media to help mediate love between characters in the
Another often talked-about feature of Chbosky’s novel is its portrayal of abuse and violence—emotional,
physical, and sexual. How does the abuse/violence that several characters in Perks suffer impact their
capacity to express love for, or establish loving relationships with, others?
Slightly related to the above, you might consider Chbosky’s portrayal of mental illness. In what ways does
mental illness disrupt (or enhance) the ability of characters in the novel to express love for, or establish
loving relationships with, each other?
How does Chbosky portray queer love? One example: does Chbosky portray the love Patrick experiences,
as one of the queer characters in the story, differently or similarly to the heterosexual love other characters
experience? What do you make of one particular scene/set of scenes between Patrick and Charlie (you’llknow the scene when you get to it)?
How important is it that this novel is part of the young adult genre? In other words: how do common
elements of YA manifest themselves in the relationships at the center of the novel? You can apply the same
question to the movie as a teen/high school/coming-of age movie, if you choose to use that as a secondary
How does Charlie’s role as a first person narrator affect the way that love between characters is presented
in the novel—both his own love for others, and love between characters other than him? (Another helpful
way of thinking about this: how differently do you think we would understand how characters love each
other if the story were told in the third person?)
How do the loving friendships in the novel complicate the romantic feelings of the characters in the novel,
and vice versa?
The same question as above, but with family: how do familial relationships complicate young love, and vice