“…even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there” (Chbosky 211). In The Perk of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Charlie constantly feels like an outsider which causes him to isolate himself from everyone around him. In the letter, Charlie is sensitive, curious, and an outsider even in his own family. When Charlie becomes friends with Sam and Patrick he feels more open and himself with them. But even though this doesn’t change everything in his life, their presence helps him navigate through tough situations. Stephen Chbosky uses character development and symbolism to help the readers understand Charlie’s complex persona and how he matures throughout the book. Often when people are judged they can feel alone, but having friends and family that accept you can help you feel more confident.
At the beginning of the novel, Charlie comes off as a quiet outcast with little friends. He tends to pay more attention to the things and people around him rather than himself. “So this my life […] I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (Chbosky 2). Charlie is always in search of a deeper understanding of the world around him. He wants to better understand his friends, his family, and the general society around him. Most importantly Charlie wants to understand himself and come to terms with numerous events in his life. Charlie is asking this simple question not only to himself but he asks it about everyone around him. This quote foreshadows all the traumatic events that have gone in Charlie’s life that are later revealed. Later in the story, during homecoming weekend Partirack says “He’s a wallflower […] You see things. And you keep quiet about them. And you understand them” (Chbosky 37). Patrick says this about Charlie and it goes to show the “perks” of being a wallflower with a negative aspect, which is seen when Charlie has trouble interacting with others and is better at observing rather than participating. This is a major turning point in the novel because Charlie realizes that his position in society. And from this point forward Charlie begins to find value in himself. He finds it easier to participate with the people around him and spends less time second-guessing what to do or say. Charlie still may struggle with deep and complex inner thoughts, but now he has the confidence to feel and act as though he belongs.
The tunnel into the city is a special place for Charlie and his friends. The transition between long dark passage represents their childhood and the feeling of safety and protection into the city which represents the excitement and freedom of adulthood. “Just when you think you’ll never get there, you see the opening right in front of you.”(Chbosky 192 ).The tunnel symbolizes Charlie’s youth and his anticipation of getting to the other side, meaning he would rather skip through the next couple of years. Charlie is so used to living in the future rather than the present. Later in the novel, Charlie overcomes his trauma and learns that being young can also be an exciting time. Charlie finally realized that being present in the moment is more important than the future because no matter where you end up the journey is what counts. Throughout the novel, music is used to represent the connection between characters. Music symbolizes experiences, good or bad, that cannot be expressed through words. During the drive with Sam and Patrick songs plays on the radio and Charlie says, “I feel infinite” (Chbosky 33). This shows the importance of community and friendship and how it can influence someone’s life. By making mixtapes for his friends Charlies is expressing the importance and value of his friends. As Charlie is making the mixtape for Patrick he explains, “ I hope […] he can […] feel like he belongs to something” (Chbosky 62). Charlie understands the power of music and that it can express what often cannot be said with words. Charlie made the mixtape very personal and took time picking each song and it goes to show his affection for Partick and that he feels safe with him. Music is so powerful it can bring and connect people and capture the moment they share.
Having friends and family that support you no matter what and are not afraid of telling you the truth is important because it can make an individual feel as though they belong and are accepted. Chbosky was able to show the difficulties of growing up and the struggles of love, friendship, forgiving and moving on. Although Charlie’s character was very unique and complex his life experiences were easy to relate to. A major message that Chbosky was conveying throughout the book was “ We accept the love we think we deserve” (Chbosky 24). When you accept yourself and love yourself, things start to get better. In the novel, the idea that it doesn’t matter where you come from is significant because everyone has a future to look forward too. And your past should not define you. But it is also important to live in the moment and not let what is going to happen next worry you and stop you from enjoying what is happening in the present. Another message that is also very important is being able to forgive the ones who hurt us. At the end of the story, Charlie forgives his Aunt Helen because he knows that he can’t hold a grudge for the rest of his life. By letting go Charlie felt like he could move on and be happy again and be there for the people who love him.