The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Quotes and Analysis

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.”

Charlie, Page 11

Charlie is constantly in search of greater understanding. He wants to better understand his family, his friends, and the general society around him: he wants to know why people do the things that they do, and he wants to understand the sides of these individuals that they choose not to show to the public. Most importantly, he wants to understand himself. This quote begins the series of letters to the unnamed "friend," and it shows how Charlie is trying to come to terms with the various events in his life, both happy and sad, and to achieve a sense of reconciliation so that he can consider himself whole. The questions he is asking about himself in these simple sentences are questions that he asks about everyone around him. This quote also foreshadows the traumatic events that Charlie has experienced, as revealed later in the book. It sets the stage for the rest of the novel, and it gives an intimate tone to the letters, one that the reader can easily latch onto for the remainder of the story.

"He's a wallflower...You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand."

Patrick, Page 95

When Patrick says this about Charlie during the Homecoming Weekend party, he contrasts the "perks" of being a wallflower with the negative aspects, which are seen in Charlie's difficulty interacting with others and preoccupation with observing rather than participating. Patrick affirms Charlie's position in society: the reserved Charlie is able to sit back and listen, yet he still understands and is valuable to his friends. This validation of Charlie's behavior is a turning point in the novel. From this point forward, it is easier for Charlie to find value in himself. He finds it easier to participate in the events around him, and he spends less time second-guessing what he is about to say or do. He may still struggle with his deep and complex thoughts, often reverting back to a reflective position, but he finally has the confidence to act and feel as though he belongs.

"When we got out of the tunnel, Sam screamed this really fun scream, and there it was. Downtown. Lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder. Sam sat down and started laughing. Patrick started laughing. I started laughing. And in that moment, I swear we were infinite."

Charlie, Page 98

As he drives through Pittsburgh with the girl he loves and his best friend, Charlie starts the process of living in the moment and soaking up what the present has to offer. Many times throughout his letters, Charlie describes the situations of other people and tries to delve deeper into the causes of their actions, but this drive marks the first instance of firm focus on himself and on how he is feeling in a precise moment: infinite. He and his friends can do anything or feel anything: happiness is not out of reach. Charlie's tendency to reflect first is not abandoned in this scene, since he still remarks that the lights represent everything that makes him wonder. But now, he is able to observe and participate simultaneously. His feelings of infinity are the culmination of many influences - sexual awareness of Sam, friendship with Patrick, and the sheer happiness of being a group, of enjoying music and laughter. Together, they are endless.

"I asked Patrick if he felt sad that he had to keep it a secret, and Patrick just said that he wasn't sad because at least now, Brad doesn't have to get drunk or stoned to make love."

Charlie, Page 109

This quote showcases two major themes in the novel, identity and secrecy. Even though Patrick feels confident in his identity and does not want to hide his relationship with Brad, he still must do so because of Brad's wishes. Patrick's identity is not just shaped by his own wishes; it is also shaped by the actions and demands of others, such as Brad. Patrick's acceptance of this shows a remarkable level of patience, which Charlie admires and tries to emulate in his own life. Charlie's participation in the secrecy surrounding the Patrick and Brad's homosexual relationship represents an advance in his friendship with Patrick. At many points in his life, Charlie holds onto the secrets of others, in addition to his own secrets. This secret is just one of many that he must maintain.

"Once on a yellow piece of paper with green lines

he wrote a poem

And he called it "Chops"

because that was the name of his dog

And that's what it was all about

And his teacher gave him an A

And his mother hung it on the kitchen door

and read it to his aunts

That was the year Father Tracy

Took all the kids to the zoo

And he let them sing on the bus

And his little sister was born

with tiny toenails and no hair

And his mother and father kissed a lot

And the girl around the corner sent him a

Valentine signed with a row of X's

and he had to ask his father what the X's meant

And his father always tucked him in bed at night

And was always there to do it

Once on a piece of white paper with blue lines

he wrote a poem

And he called it "Autumn"

because that was the name of the season

And that's what it was all about

And his teacher gave him an A

and asked him to write more clearly

And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door

because of its new paint

And the kids told him

that Father Tracy smoked cigars

And left butts on the pews

And sometimes they would burn holes

That was the year his sister got glasses

with thick lenses and black frames

And the girl around the corner laughed

when he asked her to go see Santa Claus

And the kids told him why

his mother and father kissed a lot

And his father never tucked him in bed at night

And his father got mad

when he cried for him to do it

Once on a paper torn from his notebook

he wrote a poem

And he called it "Innocence: A Question"

because that was the question about his girl

And that's what it was all about

And his professor gave him an A

and a strange steady look

And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door

because he never showed her

That was the year that Father Tracy died

And he forgot how the end

of the Apostle's Creed went

And he caught his sister

making out on the back porch

And his mother and father never kissed

or even talked

And the girl around the corner

wore too much makeup

That made him cough when he kissed her

but he kissed her anyway

because that was the thing to do

And at three A.M. he tucked himself into bed

his father snoring soundly

That's why on the back of a brown paper bad

he tried another poem

And he called it "Absolutely Nothing"

Because that's what it was really all about

And he gave himself an A

and a slash on each damned wrist

And he hung it on the bathroom door

because this time he didn't think

he could reach the kitchen.

Poem read by Charlie, Pages 167-173

Charlie reads this poem aloud at the Secret Santa party. The poem was given to him by Michael, a friend of his who committed suicide; at first, Charlie does not realize that the poem is allegedly a suicide note. As Charlie reads the note aloud, he attains greater understanding of the poem, noting that he doesn't think he likes the end of the poem. The poem reflects the darkness that underlies so much of Charlie's life: while this poem is incredibly sad, Charlie doesn't truly realize how dark it is until many days after he reads it aloud. His ability to live and operate in the midst of the poem's darkness hints at the darkness that he lives with every day.

"You ever think, Charlie, that our group is the same as any other group like the football team? And the only real difference between us is what we wear and why we wear it?"

Patrick, Page 363

One of the most beautiful parts of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that people from very different backgrounds and age groups can relate to its story. Even though it addresses a very specific set of issues, this novel is able to strike a chord with a vast group of readers. Patrick alludes to this commonality of experience in this quote. He and his friends may be misfits who star in Rocky Horror and write for a fanzine, but their hopes and dreams of fitting in and finding happiness are not unlike the hopes and dreams of their classmates.

"Charlie. Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm not trying to make you feel uncomfortable. I just want you to know that you're special...and the only reason I'm telling you is that I don't know if anyone else ever has."

Bill, Page 425

Bill says this to Charlie when Charlie comes to his apartment for dinner. He has just thanked Charlie for all of his hard work during the year, and he is telling him how amazingly gifted he is - not just as a student, but as a person. Both Bill's need to reach out to Charlie in this way and Bill's uncertainty that other people have done so speak to the way that Charlie carries himself in public. Given this reaction from Bill, it is clear that Charlie walks around with little self confidence: his family has failed him in terms of providing solid support during these difficult years of his life.

"In the silence, I remembered this one time that I never told anybody about. The time we were walking. Just the three of us. And I was in the middle. I don't remember where we were walking to or where we were walking from. I don't even remember the season. I just remember walking between them and feeling for the first time that I belonged somewhere."

Charlie, Pages 467-468

This quote speaks to the power of Charlie's friends in his life. Once a misfit who needed somewhere to fit in, he has found a group of friends (centered around Patrick and Sam) who love and care for him. It does not take much for Charlie to feel happiness when he is with them, but when he is without them his life begins to crumble. The value of their friendship shines through in this simple memory: Charlie loved just walking with them when he was between them both. He had been craving a sense of belonging - something that he couldn't find within his family, but that he was able to discover with Sam and Patrick.

"If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don't want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it, too."

Sam, Page 474

Sam challenges Charlie to participate on an entirely different level than the level Bill indicated at the beginning of the school year. Sam knows that Charlie loves her, but the love that he describes is not enough for Sam. She wants him to truly express himself and act on his affectionate feelings rather than to sit back and wait for Sam to make a move. In this challenge, Sam also encourages Charlie to be more honest and to show his real self. Instead of allowing Charlie to worry about what to say and do, or to obsess about how this will affect people's perceptions of him, she challenges Charlie to be honest about his true self. Ultimately, Sam cares deeply about Charlie and wants the best for him.

"So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them."

Charlie, Page 497

Charlie says this at the end of the novel as he is coming to terms with the fact that his Aunt Helen had sexually molested him as a child. He has spent so much time fixating on the past experiences of others in order to better understand the world around him, but now he realizes that these perceptions of society cannot determine his fate. Charlie here understands that he has agency and control over his life, and he knows that Aunt Helen's actions, however terrible they were, do not need to define him. He can still be a writer, friend, boyfriend, and caring person. His childhood experiences do not set him on a path to becoming an abusive person, and this realization is empowering. Charlie, armed with this information, can begin to see the world in a new way.