The Perks of Being a Wallflower Summary
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The novel is set in Pittsburgh.
Charlie- he is the fifteen-year-old protagonist of the novel. The novel is told through a series of letters that Charlie is writing to an anonymous friend, and the whole story is narrated entirely through Charlie’s perspective.
Patrick- he is a high school senior, Sam’s stepbrother, and one of Charlie’s best friends. Patrick is in a closeted relationship with Brad, the quarterback of the football team.
Sam- she is a high school senior, Patrick’s stepsister, and one of Charlie’s best friends. Charlie has a huge crush on Sam throughout the entire book.
Craig- he is Sam’s boyfriend throughout most parts of the novel.
Bill Anderson- he is Charlie’s English teacher and mentor. Bill recognizes and nurtures Charlie’s talent for reading and writing.
Mary Elizabeth- she is a Smart, attractive, self-centered senior in Charlie’s friend group. Mary Elizabeth invites Charlie to the Sadie Hawkins dance, and the date,
Brad- he is Quarterback of the football team and a closeted homosexual. Brad and Patrick have a covert relationship until Brad’s father finds about it.
Bob- he is Patrick’s friend who goes to community college. Bob represents what might happen to Charlie’s schoolmates if any one of them starts depending on drugs too heavily.
Michael Dobson- he is Charlie’s middle-school friend who committed suicide.
Susan- she was Michael’s girlfriend when Michael committed suicide.
Peter- she is Mary Elizabeth’s boyfriend.
The novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is written from the point of view of Charlie, who is in his freshman year at high school. The book narrates his trials and tribulations as he goes through high school and tries to make friends with people who are very different from him. He writes letters to an unnamed friend, which act as a diary for the events that happen throughout the story. Charlie begins writing soon after his best friend commits suicide, and he feels alone in the world because it was only him and Michael for so long. When school opens again, Patrick introduces himself to Charlie and invites him over to hang out with Sam, Patrick’s sister, and her group of misfit friends that she hangs out with on weekends.
Charlie’s letters tell of his adventures with his new friends, but they also reflect the bigger personal problems that he deals with. Charlie worries about other people and tries to determine what is going on beneath the surface of society. As the story continues, it becomes clearer that Charlie has mental issues. He is obsessed with a woman who died on his birthday when he was young; she bought him a present for his birthday before her death. His love for this woman remains unwavering throughout the book.
Throughout the story, Charlie meets people who are dealing with difficult personal issues. Many of these individuals have been sexually abused, but Charlie does not react strongly to such information. It is only at the end of the novel that he realizes that his Aunt Helen had molested him when he was a child and then suppresses those memories. The book ends with Charlie saying that he may no longer need to write letters. He has started to believe that he can change his life and is not defined by his past. Charlie’s development as a character shows the benefits of being a wallflower, but also some of its drawbacks.
- Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health. Charlie, the novel’s protagonist was molested as a child by his favorite aunt. Following this trauma, for much of his childhood and adolescence, Charlie repressed his traumatic memories, as he lacked a positive example of how to release his tension in a healthy way. Most of the people Charlie knows have also experienced trauma and abuse, including many members of his family and some of his friends.
- Adolescence and Transformation. Some characters In the Perks of Being a Wallflower have had life-altering experiences in their young adulthood. For example, Charlie’s parents illustrate that the experiences of adolescence can be lingering and deeply impactful. The teenage characters in the novel have typical experiences like first dates and applying to college, but they also confront issues like accidental pregnancy, sexual assault, and suicide.
- Masculinity. As he matures throughout his first year of high school, Charlie struggles to understand what others conceive to be a man. He learns this mainly by seeing and imitating the behaviors of the men around him and social norms that instruct him on the characteristics that are considered masculine. While some of the men in his life are kind, confident, and emotionally perceptive, others embody another type of masculinity characterized by aggression, sexual prowess, social dominance, homophobia, and a general lack of emotional connection and expression. This latter type of masculinity is harmful to Charlie and the men and women around him, who make him realize that he does not have to be or want to be that kind of man.