The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Stephen Chbosky.

Here’s how the novel starts. If such a beginning can leave you indifferent, you’re very unlike me.

August 25, 1991
Dear friend,
I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don’t try to figure out who she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really don’t want you to do that. I will call people by different names or generic names because I don’t want you to find me. I didn’t enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad by this. Honest.
I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.

Charlie is a high school freshman caught between the colliding forces of inner turmoil and outside influences. The novel tells the story of a year in his life, in the form of letters to an anonymous friend. While it was difficult, at times, to believe that such deep thoughts could have originated from a 15-year-old, that didn’t stop me from feeling and relating with the character.

One could say the novel is a testimony of the friction between two desires: to embrace life, and to run away from life. But it is discussing a lot more than that. Since I have not grown up in an American high school environment, I cannot think of this in terms of “realistic” or “non-realistic”, but it certainly opens a clear and honest window into the world of a teenager.

I find it very lucky, if not downright miraculous, that Charlie manages to find a mentor (Bill, his English teacher) and friends (Patrick and Sam), who are older than him. Bill tells him to participate and stop using thought to remove himself from life. V fubhyq yrnea fbzrguvat sebz gung…

  • I wish I knew. It might make me miss him more clearly. It might have made sad sense.
  • You know… a lot of kids at school hate their parents. Some of them got hit. And some of them got caught in the middle of wrong lives. Some of them were trophies for their parents to show the neighbors like ribbons or gold stars. And some of them just wanted to drink in peace.
  • In the hallways, I see the girls wearing the guys’ jackets, and I think about the idea of property. And I wonder if anyone is really happy. I hope they are. I really hope they are.
  • (Bill) It’s just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.
  • (Bill) [...] we accept the love we think we deserve.
  • [...] get buried or married. I don’t remember which.
  • (Patrick) He’s a wallflower. [...] You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.
  • [...] I usually like songs you can’t dance to. [...]
  • Patrick actually used to be popular before Sam bought him some good music.
  • Sam and Patrick looked at me. And I looked at them. And I think they knew. Not anything specific really. They just knew. And I think that’s all you can ever ask from a friend.
  • (Sam) I want to make sure that the first person you kiss loves you. Okay?
  • 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 a gold star
    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 bag 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.
  • I guess what I’m saying is that this all feels very familiar. But it’s not mine to be familiar about. I just know that another kid has felt this. This one time when it’s peaceful outside, and you’re seeing things move, and you don’t want to, and everyone is asleep. And all the books you’ve read have been read by other people. And all the songs you’ve loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that’s pretty to you is pretty to other people. And you know that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing “unity.”
    It’s like when you are excited about a girl and you see a couple holding hands, and you feel so happy for them. And other times you see the same couple, and they make you so mad. And all you want is to always feel happy for them because you know that if you do, then it means that you’re happy, too.
  • I just wish that God or my parents or Sam or my sister or someone would just tell me what’s wrong with me. Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense. To make this all go away. And disappear.
  • (Sam) It’s great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn’t need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.
    [...]
    It’s just that I don’t want to be somebody’s crush. 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. I want them to be able to do whatever they want around me. And if they do something I don’t like, I’ll tell them.
  • 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.

See also:

Private remarks:

  • 41; 115.
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3 Responses to The Perks of Being a Wallflower

  1. Alex Railean says:

    Hmm… indeed, the intro captured my attention, and I think this is the kind of reading material I am interested in. I placed this book in my queue.

  2. natash Burns says:

    I think that this poem is the best ever. It made me cry when I read it

  3. Sydney says:

    The best part of the book to me was the poem it was so said but it was so good, the rest of the book was good to i love how the whole book played out that was one of the best books i have read

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