Last Updated on May 19, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 399
Extended Character Analysis
In R. J. Palacio’s Wonder, August Pullman was born with mandibulofacial dysostosis, a severe birth defect that combined with other abnormalities to disfigure his face. When the novel opens, August is ten years old and has undergone a number of plastic surgeries that have reshaped his mouth and jaw, correcting his cleft palate. His loving and protective parents have been homeschooling him all this time but are debating sending him to a middle school called Beecher Prep. August and his parents take a tour of the school during the summer. Three students—Jack, Julian, and Charlotte—show him around. Jack and Charlotte are both polite, but Julian, the villain of the novel, asks rude questions about August’s defects.
August decides to enroll at Beecher Prep anyway. He knows that his classmates will stare at him and call him a freak. He deliberately sits in the back of the class, where fewer people will notice him. Jack sits with him, and August starts to think of Jack as a friend. August’s perception changes on Halloween, when he overhears Jack and Julian talking about how the principal forced Jack to be friends with August. August doesn’t talk to Jack for a long time. Only after Jack punches Julian and realizes why August is upset at him do the boys reconcile. August invites Jack to sit with him and Summer at lunch.
Gradually, August begins building a group of friends. The other students become accustomed to his face and start to realize that he’s funny. He happily attends a wilderness retreat with his classmates. Unfortunately, some older boys from a different school attack August and Jack in the woods, stealing August’s hearing aids. This has the unexpected effect of making August popular at school, where the story spreads amongst his classmates. Julian, who previously organized a campaign to shun August and Jack, finds himself ostracized now that all his classmates have decided they like August. To August’s delight, Julian won’t be returning to Beecher Prep the following year.
In recognition of his bravery in the face of difficult circumstances, August receives an award for honorable behavior at the fifth-grade graduation. His friends congratulate him, and August marvels at how his life has changed. He almost feels like a normal kid now and is very happy he decided to attend Beecher Prep.