Wonder | Teen Ink


January 21, 2021
By eshap GOLD, San Ramon, California
eshap GOLD, San Ramon, California
10 articles 1 photo 0 comments

Imagine living in a world, constantly being judged by your looks. The 2012 novel Wonder, written by award winning author R.J. Palacio tells the story about a young boy named August Pullman. August was born with a very rare genetic condition that caused him to have a major facial deformity. It is because of this that he’s had over 27 different surgeries, none of them able to work, resulting in him having to be homeschooled. He often finds himself wishing he could be like the other kids in his community. Throughout Wonder, Palacio attempts to awaken each reader that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That those who wish to see beyond one’s appearance are the luckiest ones of all. That inner beauty is more important than physical beauty. Palacio uses metaphors, foreshadowing, and symbolism to continue the theme of wonder, that people should hold the ones who love them for who they are, close to their heart. 

From the beginning, palacio uses metaphors to indicate that Auggie is different, but his family still accepts him. Having been homeschooled for most of his childhood, August is surprised to hear that he has been enrolled for fifth grade in a local prep school. He’s been with his family his entire life, but now he’d have to go out and communicate with other kids his age. 

“August is the sun. Me and Mom and Dad are planets orbiting the sun.”(page 82). Via describes her family as a universe in which August is the sun, with everyone else revolving around him. August’s family loves him and would do anything for him. It is because of this though that Via is often left unattended to, the universe is fixed, the system is unchangeable. “Does August see how people see him, or has he gotten so good at pretending not to see that it doesn’t bother him.” (Page 89).  But there's something else that's important to think about with Via's universe metaphor. While it's easy to assume that everyone orbiting around Auggie is just a bad thing, the comparison of him to the sun also suggests that he's the main source of light in their lives—or at least in Via's life, since this is her metaphor we're hanging out with. And since the sun illuminates the world, we can also see Via acknowledging that her understanding of the world around her is illuminated by having Auggie as her brother. “But this year there seems to be a shift in the cosmos. The galaxy is changing. Planets are falling out of alignment.” (Page 83). While it all might feel larger than life for Via, she can also sense that it's going to be a big year for the Pullman family. Via is now off to high school, and Auggie's ending his time as a homeschooled kid. Things were changing. As long as the Pullmans stuck together, Via knew that she and Auggie would be just fine. 

Palacio also uses epigraphs to foreshadow many events in the story. ““You are beautiful no matter what they say Words can’t bring you down You are beautiful in every single way Yes, words can’t bring you down.” - Christina Aguilera, “Beautiful.” (Page 119) Palacio uses this epigraph to foreshadow that something good is bound to happen. Summer is introduced to indicate the proper way to treat someone who might be different. Summer does not shy away from Auggie's face because it is unusual, nor does she stay away from him because everyone else does. Going along with the crowd is much less of a consideration for her than it is for her classmates. Summer makes her own decision to be a friend to Auggie, and she is the one kid at school who has truly been Auggie's friend from the beginning. While the some of the other kids are presented as judgmental, rude, and downright cruel, Summer is a shining example of kindness. ““Far above the world Planet Earth is blue And there’s nothing I can do” - David Bowie, “Space Oddity.” (Page 81). Palacio uses this epigraph to foreshadow that this chapter will be about Miranda and Auggie's relationship. It was Miranda who had given Auggie the astronaut helmet he wore practically every day of the year when he was five or six. She would call him Major Tom and they would sing “Space Oddity” by David Bowie together. It was their little thing. Miranda considers the Pullmans as her second family. She is essentially jealous of Via because she has a family that cared for and loved her. Most importantly, Miranda loved Auggie regardless of how he looked, and wished she had a brother of her own. “Now here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.” (Page 133). Palacio uses this epigraph to describe Jack and Auggie’s friendship. Jack punching Jullian is an important moment in the story. This action proved Jack's allegiance to Auggie, and whether he cared more about being popular or being a good friend. Though it was hard for him to make up for what he said about Auggie, by punching Julian and thus defending Auggie's worth, Jack showed that he was desperate to do better.

Palacio finally uses symbolism throughout the novel to carry the theme of acceptance. 

Auggie's relationship with masks is symbolic of his struggle to accept his appearance. “I wish everyday could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.” (Page 73). All Auggie wanted was a fighting chance to reveal who he was on the inside before anyone could  look at him. Many people judged him based on his appearance without bothering to get to know him at all.  Halloween offers him a chance to hope for a little bit more. Halloween is the one day each year that Auggie gets the gift of anonymity, when hiding his face behind a mask is a totally normal thing to do. it's the day Auggie gets a little break from his usual reality. “Everything was different now. I was different. Where I usually walked with my head down, trying to avoid being seen, today I walked with my head up, looking around. I wanted to be seen.” In his mask, Auggie wants to be seen. It is only while hidden that he dares to stand tall and risk being noticed. That simple gesture, a rare celebration of sameness, feels fantastic for Auggie. The astronaut helmet represents Auggie's desire to hide from the world, and it gives him a little, space from all the gawkers out there. Astronauts wear their helmets to make little safe spaces for themselves amongst the endless and inhospitable expanse of outer space, and in his own way, Auggie does the same. “I think there should be a rule that everybody in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” (Page 231). Fortunately, Auggie's dad misses his son's face so much that he secretly throws away the helmet, and in doing so, we understand that the helmet was a tool for a kid, and that now Auggie's growing up. “And I wondered how it would feel to be in heaven someday and not have my face matter anymore. Just like it never, ever mattered to daisy.” (Page 227). Daisy the dog is an important symbol of the Pullman family's love and loyalty. Daisy tied the Pullmans together in a way that nothing else could, helping them to move past their fights and arguments. She is also a symbol of unconditional love; no matter what Auggie looks like, she loves him no matter what. When Daisy died, the Pullmans had to learn to come together without their beloved dog. This was a very hard time for August, but eventually he learned to move on. And in moving on, he was also growing up.

Wonder portrays the importance of looking beyond one’s physical appearance. At the beginning of the story, we can see that August was a frail little boy who was afraid of the world, but as he went to school, he experienced situations that changed his life. The kids that once used to bully him, soon became his closest friends.  Most of us are not often confronted with a person whose appearance is dramatically different, and it can be a startling experience. August gives readers a glimpse into this experience. He hates his appearance, and desperately wishes he were normal. He hides. He mumbles. He suffers. But he hangs tough, and along the way he learns to hold his head up and be seen for who he is. He learns that he must accept the way he looks, and that others can too. The novel’s evident addresses of metaphors, foreshadowing and symbolism prove that inner beauty is the most important thing of all, and that those who choose to honor that are the best kind of people to be surrounded by. 

The author's comments:

This book is 310 pages and I would give it 5 stars!

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