This week, I was reading two books in particular; The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Great Expectations. From two different periods of time, you’d think that these two books have nothing to do with each other. The irony is that at one point while I was reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, my mind drifted off and I thought I was reading Great Expectations.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was published in 1999 while Great Expectations was published in 1861. In the 90s, life was advancing and I consider it the last era before the technological world took over. The 19th century was the era of industrialization in England. Even though the context of both novels completely contrasts with each other, the protagonists in both novels were very similar.
In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie is fifteen years old and suffers from depression. In the beginning of the novel, he isn’t mature for his age yet as the novel progresses, one can tell that Charlie is a smart cookie as he does eventually show signs of maturity.
In Great Expectations, we are presented with Pip who is nine years old in the beginning of the novel, who shows signs of intelligence too. He is still getting an education, thus he is still developing. What makes him somewhat different to Charlie is that Pip immediately realizes the social class system that he was not exposed to before visiting Miss Havisham. A social class system is not something natural, thus for Pip to have realized such a thing at a young age makes him quite intelligent. On the other hand, it takes Charlie a while to come to terms with why he is feeling the way he is feeling. SPOILER He was emotionally instable and suffered from mental illness since he was constantly sexually harassed from his Aunt Helen at a young age yet he never realized or understood that he had ever been sexually harassed.
Furthermore, both experienced events which left an everlasting effect on their lives. Charlie’s events regarding his Aunt Helen and her eventual death even caused him to feel guilty. On the other hand, in Pip’s case, it was when he first met Magwitch who had just escaped from prison. These events eventually cause both characters to experience life in a certain way. Aunt Helen caused Charlie to suffer from mental illness whilst Pip was able to sympathize with someone of the lower class, who will eventually be his benefactor to make him a gentleman.
I felt that both characters suffered from emotional stress in their own ways. Pip’s emotional stress came from his want to become a gentleman and go up in the social class system. This even caused him to look down upon his only friend; Joe Gargery. They were also both misunderstood children that had to develop on their own. They were both somewhat lonely; Pip only had Joe Gargery and Biddy and Charlie only had Sam and Patrick. They both lacked sibling love too; Pip’s sister considered him a burden and Charlie’s siblings neglected him.
What makes Great Expectations somewhat different to The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that eventually the reader will follow Pip as he reaches adulthood. However, the reader does not get to see what happens to Charlie after he leaves the hospital and goes back to high school. Honestly, I felt very concerned for Charlie at the end of the novel. Yet with Pip, we are aware of what comes to be of him; he comes to realize how the society of the Industrial Revolution creates criminals itself and how the social class system is a horrible system.
Furthermore, Charlie is called a “wallflower” by Patrick, which means being “an outcast, just like them” and this makes Charlie feel better. However, Pip’s lifelong initiative was to always fit in; the become a gentleman.
Both novels are special in their own ways. Personally, having read them both at the same time, I felt I could understand them both better. I found it surprising that two novels from two different eras could be so similar in their own ways. Literature reflects the time it is being written and so does Great Expectations and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.