The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What does Bill mean by "We accept the love we think we deserve," and how does Charlie apply this quotation to his own life?

    The answer to this question should address the context within which Bill offers this idea to Charlie - the moment when Charlie's sister is hit by her boyfriend. However, an effective answer should also focus on Bill's concern over Charlie's observational tendencies. Charlie is constantly thinking about how other people experience love, and Bill tries to provide a framework that will help Charlie to work through his own relationships. Charlie uses this quote to talk to his sister and also to handle his erotic and romantic feelings for Sam.

  2. 2

    Who is the "friend" to whom Charlie is writing, and what is the overall effect of the phrase "Dear friend," as used in Charlie's letters?

    The "friend" in Charlie's letters goes unnamed throughout the novel. Because of the "friend's" anonymity, the reader of the novel can feel an intimacy with Charlie. By the end of the novel, the reader feels as though Charlie has been writing to him or her in all of the letters.

  3. 3

    How is Charlie a "wallflower," and how does this idea relate to the title of the novel?

    Patrick calls Charlie a wallflower at Bob's Homecoming party and says, "You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand." Previously, Charlie's observational tendencies had been framed in a negative light, but now Charlie has found a group in which these traits are seen as positive attributes. Charlie is becoming more comfortable in his own skin and with his past experiences, and he is finally discovering "the perks of being a wallflower."

  4. 4

    What is the role of sexuality in the novel, and what forms does sexuality take for the characters?

    Sexuality plays a major role in the novel and takes many forms: LGBTQ identities, sexual abuse, and sexual desire. To take one major example, Patrick's experience concealing his sexual relationship with Brad is one of the breakthrough literary portrayals of LGBTQ youth. Sexual abuse also lurks behind many of the major characters: Aunt Helen, Sam, and Charlie were all sexually abused as children. Lastly, the novel deals with Charlie's sexual awakening, which is in important ways a result of his relationship with Sam, though he also has a sexual relationship with Mary Elizabeth.

  5. 5

    How does Charlie develop through the novel and become more comfortable with his identity?

    This essay should address the reason why Charlie began writing the letters in the first place - he was about to start high school. As he fosters both a personal and literary relationship with Bill, Charlie begins to think about his feelings in a more productive manner. Likewise, friendships with Sam, Patrick, and their larger group of friends help Charlie to see the positive aspects of his personality, and he begins to acknowledge the value he brings to society.

  6. 6

    What is the significance of Charlie's decision not to provide the names of his family members?

    While Charlie claims that he does not provide his family members' names in order to preserve his anonymity, there is significance in the fact that he provides the names of all of his friends. Charlie's identity could be easily determined from the information he provides about these acquaintances. This essay could talk about the significance of naming Charlie's friends, and could also explain how this writing strategy reflects the priority that they have in his life - a priority that, arguably, causes them to trump Charlie's own family.

  7. 7

    In light of the specifics of Charlie's life, how can readers relate to his high school experiences?

    This essay should touch on the fact that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age story that describes a difficult time for many people: high school. However, people of all ages have struggled with fitting in and finding positions in society, two issues that Charlie is constantly writing about and reflecting on in his letters. Additionally, the story's coverage of drug use, or of experimentation more broadly, touches on issues that many people have explored in their own lives (whether directly or indirectly). Finally, it is hard not to relate to Charlie at the end of the novel, since the letters here are so intimate and leave the distinct impression that Charlie, seeking sympathy, is writing directly to the reader.

  8. 8

    What is the role of secrecy in Charlie's life?

    This essay should address the secrets that Charlie keeps for other people: Patrick's homosexual relationship, his father's crying, his sister's abortion, his sister's abusive relationship, and own his childhood sexual abuse. In some cases, secrets bring Charlie closer to other people; this is very much the case when he drives his sister to the abortion clinic and when he keeps Patrick's relationship a secret. In other cases, the secrets tear him down - for instance, when he conceals his own sexual abuse. An effective answer should compare and contrast the different ways that the secrets operate in Charlie's life, with both positive and negative results.

  9. 9

    How does Charlie's writing style change depending on his mental state?

    When Charlie is excited, his writing becomes sporadic and frequently takes off on tangents. He assumes a similarly choppy yet more panicky style when sadness begins to creep into his mind. When his actions are frenetic, so is his writing: he moves from one activity to another just as his writing jumps from one idea to another in surges of emotion. In contrast, when Charlie is happy and stable, his writing reflects such a state of mind and progresses in a much slower, much more logical manner.

  10. 10

    What exactly are the perks of being a wallflower?

    The answer to this question should delve into Charlie's life when he focuses on observation as contrasted to his life when he focuses on participation. An effective essay could discuss the moment when Patrick first calls Charlie a "wallflower" and Charlie's response to the label. In addition, the writer could offer some personal commentary on the perks of being a wallflower - perhaps by drawing on personal experience, or by explaining how Chbosky's novel relates to the contemporary high school scene.