Wonder: The power of perspective

“Wonder” hit the screens on the 17th of November. Graphic courtesy of Summer Chen

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind. – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer”

This quote encapsulates the theme of Wonder, a book written by R. J. Palacio, as well as the film adaptation, directed by Stephen Chbosky. The book provides a first-person perspective of the characters, while the film allows the audience to see the story unfold from an outsider’s point of view.

Wonder tells a story about a boy, August Pullman also known as “Auggie”, who is born with Treacher Collins syndrome, which is a condition that can result in facial deformities and complications of the senses. Because of this, he undergoes twenty-seven surgeries. When people see his face, he is met with surprised screams and scared faces. Though his face may seem different from the other 10 year-olds’, he has a great sense of humor and has a “glass-half-full” attitude on life.

Homeschooled by his mom, Auggie goes to middle school for the first time at Beecher Prep. At school, Auggie learns about bullying, peer pressure, and trust. Though his friendships waver at times, he masters how to be a true friend by telling jokes and standing up for his friends. For the first time since starting school, he feels like an ordinary boy.

The story also explores the lives of Auggie’s friends and family. Others often forget how the syndrome impacts family members. For example, Auggie’s parents have to pay his medical bills, buy softer foods, and prepare for bullies. Over the course of the book, readers check in with Auggie, his sister Via, and his friends.

The movie does the same by flashing the character’s name on the screen. Though each character gets their own section, the film is more focused on Auggie’s life, as opposed to backstories like Via’s conflict with her friend.

The book allows readers to understand the struggles of the characters and their internal dialogue. This gives insight to how much Auggie has in common with other kids his age. If an excerpt of the book is read out without background knowledge, the listener would not be able to spot Auggie’s differences.

As a visual adaptation of the book, the film brings Auggie to life, starring Jacob Tremblay. The audience surely had a reaction to seeing Auggie on screen. If the audience can notice themselves reacting like this, they can imagine how people on the receiving end of surprised faces can feel. According to People.com, transforming into Auggie took two hours, because there was a neck piece, facepiece, eye mechanism, wig, contact lenses, and dentures.

The book does a better job of emphasizing Auggie’s normalcy by letting readers into his mind, while the film allows the audience to explore the consequences of judging people by their looks in order to understand that Auggie’s just a normal boy. The message from this story is to treat everyone kindly and with respect, regardless of who they are or what they look like.

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