The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Summary and Analysis of October 6, 1991 - November 8, 1991

October 6, 1991

In this letter to his "friend," Charlie gives an account of his experiences at a football game, which he is embarrassed to say that he attended. He doesn't consider himself popular enough to attend, further revealing his deep insecurities and constant observation of the social circles around him. While there, he sees "Nothing" sitting in the stands and intensely watching the game, yelling out instructions and encouragement to the players on the field. Charlie sits with "Nothing," whom he decides to now call by his real name, Patrick. Charlie also meets Sam, a beautiful girl with brown hair and green eyes who is sitting next to Patrick. Charlie enjoys listening to them quip back and forth, and after the game he accompanies them to Big Boy, a restaurant where Sam and Patrick pepper Charlie with questions and get to know him better. After talking and eating for awhile, Charlie asks, "How long have you been 'going out'?" (54) and the two older students respond with laughter. Patrick and Sam tell him that they are step-brother and step-sister. Charlie is immensely relieved because he has a crush on Sam and would like to take her out on a date, and later that night he has a sexual dream about Sam. Yet instead of just finding a girlfriend, Charlie very much wants to find friends, and he believes that he may have found some.

October 14, 1991

Charlie leads off this note with a definition of masturbation, a ploy to make his "friend" smile, but also the beginning of Charlie in-depth discussions of sexuality in the letters. Charlie tells Sam about the sexual dream that he had about her, crying in the process, but she only laughs in a warm, comforting way, telling Charlie, "You know that you're too young for me, Charlie? You do know that" (57)? Sam hands Charlie off to Patrick, who gives him advice about girls and dating, insisting that a girl wants someone who will give her a purpose or a mold to fill.

As Charlie observes the couples in the hallways and continues to take note of social customs, he wonders "if anyone is really happy" (62). These thoughts lead into one of his conversations with Bill, who has noticed Charlie watching people during class and urges him to participate in life, not just observe. Later, Charlie tells Bill about the boy who hit his sister, and Bill seriously responds, "Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve" (64). When Charlie returns home later that afternoon, he realizes that Bill has called his parents and told him about the boy's violent actions. His sister is crying and fighting with his parents, who are insisting that she can never see the boy again. Charlie's sister tells him that she hates him, but Charlie can only respond with "I love you" (67).

October 15, 1991

The letter begins with the topic of masturbation, and Charlie tells the "friend" that Patrick was the one who told him about it. Charlie describes the guilt he feels when he masturbates and explains that he never thinks of Sam when he does it, only of a lady he does not know. Charlie's dad has since gone to speak to the boy's parents and inform them of what their son did to his daughter. It was a serious talk, and the boy's mother yelled at the boy and the boy's father was very quiet. Charlie's father's main priority is keeping the boy away from his daughter, and that was what he asked of the parents. When his dad returned, Charlie asked if the boy had problems at home, but his dad told him to mind his own business. "Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it's no excuse" (71). Charlie is still dealing with the repercussions of his sister's negative feelings, but he likes to believe that he did the right thing.

October 28, 1991

There is a two-week gap in the letters because Charlie has been trying to participate rather than just observe. He has been trying to go to social events, like the Homecoming Dance and Football Game, which he attends with Sam and Patrick. He is beginning to feel closer to the two of them, and he appreciates that they don't regard him as crazy for some of the things he does or pretends to do. Sam even invites Charlie to a party that takes place after the game. Charlie accepts because he had never been to a party before, though his older brother had once thrown one in their house when Charlie's parents were away for a wedding. Charlie was forced to stay in the bedroom where the coats were kept, and couples were constantly stumbling in looking for a place to make out. One couple stayed even after they saw Charlie in the room. A boy named Dave began kissing an unnamed girl and then moving forward sexually, despite her protests and crying. Charlie tried to cover his ears, but he could still hear her saying "No." Charlie's sister eventually came in to give him food, and the couple left. When Charlie recounts this story to them, Sam and Patrick remain quiet; Charlie eventually says, "He raped her, didn't he?" and Sam just nods (81). During the game, Dave catches a touchdown pass to win, but all Charlie can think about is the party. As an act of retaliation, Charlie lets the air out of Dave's tires.

The second half of the letter takes a brighter turn, as Charlie describes the warm feeling he had as he sat between Sam and Patrick on the way to the party. They find an amazing song on the radio, and Charlie looks at both of them and says, "I feel infinite." They all look at one another, knowing that a great thing has just happened - "five minutes of a lifetime were truly spent, and we felt young in a good way," Charlie writes (84). They enter the party, and Sam and Patrick introduce Charlie to the host, Bob. Charlie refuses a drink of alcohol, but later eats a pot brownie, which causes him to get stoned and have a desire for a milkshake. While Sam is making him a milkshake, Charlie walks upstairs to use the bathroom and hears a noise in the room where everyone left their coats - inside he sees Patrick and Brad, the star quarterback, kissing. Patrick steps out of the room and says, "Listen, Charlie. Brad doesn't want people to know. I need you to promise that you won't tell anyone. This will be our little secret," (93) and Charlie agrees. At the end of the party, the guests are all sitting in the basement when Patrick points to Charlie and says, "He's something, isn't he?" (94) and Bob agrees. They call him a wallflower because he sees things, understands them, and keeps quiet about them. They then propose a toast to Charlie, who is moved to tears by this recognition.

The next day, at the Homecoming Dance, Charlie notices that Brad and Patrick are not speaking to each other. Charlie takes Bill's advice about participation and tries to dance, but he doesn't think that he is a very good dancer. On the way home, Sam gets out of the truck and climbs into the back, instructing Patrick to drive. As Charlie and his friends approach a tunnel, Sam stands up and lets the wind blow wildly around her. As Charlie hears Sam scream with happiness and looks out onto downtown Pittsburgh, he feels infinite.

November 7, 1991

Charlie is very happy, and he seems to appreciate everything around him. He considers attributing his happiness to Zen, a concept that was introduced to him by Mary Elizabeth, one of Sam and Patrick's friends. Charlie tells the reader more about Patrick and Brad's illicit relationship. When the two young men first began hooking up, Brad consistently pretended to be much more under the influence of drugs and alcohol than he really was, insisting the day after each meeting that he never remembered what had happened the night before. This behavior went on for seven months, and it reached the point that Brad was getting stoned or drunk before school. Brad's behavior only grew worse during the summer, when he didn't need to worry about school.

One night at a party, Brad and Patrick went to Patrick's room and had sex for the first time. Brad began to cry. After several attempts to comfort Brad, Patrick pulled up Brad's pants and said, "Just pretend you're passed out" (107). Patrick left the room and entered the party from a different direction, asking everyone if they had seen Brad. When people went to search for him, they found him asleep on Patrick's bed, and Patrick called Brad's parents. Brad's parents placed him in a rehabilitation center for the summer, but they never figured out why he was getting stoned so much. After Brad returned, he avoided Patrick, but one night he approached Patrick and said that nobody could know; Patrick understood this desire for secrecy. Now, Patrick and Brad only see each other in secret or at parties (like the ones Bob hosts) where the guests understand. Charlie asks Patrick if he feels sad that he must keep his relationship a secret, and Patrick responds that he isn't sad "because at least now, Brad doesn't have to get drunk or stoned to make love" (109).

November 8, 1991

After receiving his first B from Bill (which is only a grade between the two of them, because Bill gives Charlie A's on his report card) Charlie decides that he would like to become a writer one day. He has begun working for a fanzine called Punk Rocky, which is about the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sam, Patrick, and Mary Elizabeth all star in the show, and Charlie loves going to see it, particularly because he is able to watch Sam. Charlie writes, "To tell you the truth, I love Sam. It's not a movie kind of love either. I just look at her sometimes, and I think she is the prettiest and nicest person in the whole world" (114). Unfortunately, Sam has started to date an older boy named Craig, who is also featured in Rocky Horror and who attends the Art Institute. Charlie doesn't believe that Craig sees Sam the way that he sees her, and he desperately wants Craig and Sam to stop dating. "I am really in love with Sam, and it hurts very much," Charlie writes, even though his sister has told him that Sam had a reputation for being a "blow queen" during her sophomore year (117). While talking with his sister about Sam, Charlie also finds out that his sister has continued to see the forbidden boy. Yet Charlie enjoys the time that he was able to spend with his sister because she is normally not communicative. He thinks that she is only confiding in him because she has so many secrets and wants to tell someone about them.


In this set of letters, Charlie's discussion of sex begins to take a more finite shape, now that he has now found an object of affection - Sam, the beautiful brown-haired, green-eyed girl who is the step-sister of Patrick. Even though Charlie has unwanted sexual dreams about Sam, at this point in the novel he truly craves for something other than sex: friendship. Charlie's insecurities have mostly stemmed from his lack of friends so far; his sense of isolation nearly stops him from attending the football game because he doesn't consider himself "popular enough" to attend at all. This conception of himself begins to change after he sits down with Patrick and Sam, who are kind, warm, and welcoming. As he spends more time with these new acquaintances, his letters become more upbeat and lighthearted, even though Charlie continues to discuss sources of conflict.

In addition to taking a romantic interest in Sam, Charlie has also begun to physically act upon his sexual desires, and even devotes a few of his letters to the subject of masturbation. Even though he greatly enjoys this activity, he also feels guilty: he insists that he does not imagine anyone that he knows or look at pictures. Instead, he tries to conjure a fantasy of an imaginary person he has never met before. His guilt and his obsession with this new aspect of his sexuality lead him to confess to Sam that he had a sexual dream about her, yet she handles the situation by laughing warmly and passing Charlie off to Patrick for advice about girls. Themes involving both sex overall and the cruder parts of it, such as masturbation, caused heavy criticism of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and even led it to be banned in many schools. Chbosky has heartily defended these portions of the novel, insisting that they are essential aspects of this high school coming of age story.

In addition, a binary between participation and observation begins to form in these letters. Bill has encouraged and challenged Charlie to begin participating in life, and he assigns Charlie Peter Pan to read and contemplate in order to further hammer home that point. Charlie tries to become less preoccupied with watching everyone around him, and his attempts to participate are reflected in the large time gaps between some of these letters. But while Charlie begins to participate more by attending the Homecoming events and by forming closer relationships with Patrick and Sam, he is also appreciated for his position as a wallflower - someone to quietly observes and understands. The guests at Bob's party validate Charlie's desire to understand; their acknowledgment that Charlie is able to understand what he sees is formative for Charlie, particularly because he is so obsessed with understanding others. Charlie begins to learn what it means to live in the moment when he is driving with Sam and Patrick. He is finally living and participating in individual moments, but it is hard for him to string several of these moments together; nonetheless, he is improving.

This new community that has accepted Charlie will become a sounding board for him. Now, instead of simply writing impressions down in his letters, Charlie is also able to communicate these thoughts to real people. Finally, Charlie has a basic support system within which he can communicate tragic events, such as the rape that he witnessed at the party; as he communicates, he gains further understanding. He tells the entire story without classifying it as rape until the very end, when he poses a question to Sam: "He raped her, didn't he" (81)? With Sam's help, he is able to begin to make sense of his memories, rather than just holding onto them as private thoughts.

With greater understanding also comes greater secrecy, and Charlie's new friends invite him to share secrets which are crucial to later stages of the novel. Patrick is romantically involved with the star quarterback, Brad, but Brad does not want the secret to be released to anyone. He fears that it will ruin his reputation and his relationships with friends and family. As Charlie gives more information about Brad's behavior at the beginning of his relationship with Patrick, the letters begin to raise the question of how people deal with secrecy and accommodate it in their lives. Brad used drugs and alcohol to allow for such a high level of secrecy, but Charlie sees his parents and siblings deal with secrecy in other, less extreme ways.