As bildungsroman books discuss themes that are rather ubiquitous to the lives of high school students, it seemed rather natural to investigate certain popular themes discussed in them. Bildungsromans depict the moral and psychological growth of a young person, which is something that practically everyone has gone through. Thus, the themes presented in those books are bound to create discussion around them. Hence my research question reads: “Friendship, drugs and alcohol: the growth of the protagonist as a person in the novels ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, ‘Looking For Alaska’ and ‘The Catcher In The Rye’.”
Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has been in the vanguard of the American Library Association’s list of challenged books in the 21st century. It has created rather massive discussion around it, for the most part due to concerned parents and even until the extent that it was banned from various school libraries in America. (Baldassarro, 2011) When looking at other books in the bildungsroman category, by an accident I managed to find two other works, “The Catcher in the Rye” and ”Looking for Alaska”, which can also be found from the American Library Association’s list. Thus, it seemed quite worthwhile to dig deeper into the predominant themes of friendship, drugs, and alcohol. After all, most of the reasons for challenging these books have revolved around their discussion on the use of substances such as alcohol.
In Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, John Green’s “Looking for Alaska” and J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” the protagonists are relatively alike. Albeit having been published during a timespan of seventy years, the predominant themes and issues have remained similar. In one form or another, friendships have always existed in people’s lives, and shaped their perceptions on life and everything around them. Hence, friendships as a theme seem to hold quite central value to begin with. Alcohol and drugs can be thought as slightly newer inventions but in the present days they are a part of people’s lives. (University of Michigan, 2012) Not necessarily through one’s own experiences, but nearly everyone has heard or read about the effects of substance abuse.
Since all of us have been teenagers at one point, it is natural to assess the effect of these themes on the lives of teenage protagonists. After all, teenage years are possibly the most difficult ones of one’s lifetime thus traumatic experiences, such as drug related ones, are felt more powerfully than in adulthood. (Eckes & Radunovich, 2007, 2012) The relatable issues make the study of the novels from Chbosky, Green and Salinger enjoyable and interesting. While Salinger’s book has been studied at high schools for decades, Chbosky and Green provide new viewpoints to the issues and themes presented in The Catcher in the Rye.
Possibly one of the most common issues in teenager’s life is the fear of not being accepted and being made fun of in...