The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a 1999 novel by American novelist Stephen Chbosky. The story is a series of letters to an unknown recipient written by the narrator, a Pennsylvania teenager who calls himself Charlie (his real name is never mentioned — no one's real names are mentioned besides Alice).
- 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.
- 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.
- Bridget who is crazy said that sometimes she thought about suicide when commercials come on during TV. She was sincere and this puzzled the guidance counselors.
- Some kids look at me strange in the hallways because I don't decorate my locker, and I'm the one who beat up Sean and couldn't stop crying after he did it. I guess I'm pretty emotional.
- I look at people holding hands in the hallways, and I try to think about how it all works. At the school dances, I sit in the background, and I tap my toe, and I wonder how many couples will dance to 'their song.' 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.
- "Do you always think this much, Charlie?"
"Is that bad?" I just wanted someone to tell me the truth.
"Not necessarily. It's just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life."
"Is that bad?"
- “Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.”
- "I hate you."
My sister said it different than she did to my dad. She meant it with me. She really did.
"I love you," was all I could say in return.
"You're a freak, you know that? You’ve always been a freak. Everyone says so. They always have."
"I'm trying not to be."
- Then, I turned around and walked to my room and closed my door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be.
- “Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it's no excuse.”
- When the police came, they found my brother asleep on the roof. Nobody knows how he got there.
- “I feel infinite.”
- I have since bought the record, and I would tell you what it was, but truthfully, it's not the same unless you're driving to your first real party, and you're sitting in the middle seat of a pickup with two nice people when it starts to rain.
- Bob started passing around food.
"Would you like a brownie?"
"Yes. Thank you."
…I ate the brownie, and it tasted a little weird, but it was still a brownie, so I still liked it. But this was not an ordinary brownie. Since you are older, I think you know what kind of brownie it was.
- You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand. You're a wallflower.
- And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
- Patrick actually used to be popular before Sam bought him some good music.
- I have decided that maybe I want to write when I grow up. I just don't know what I would write.
- I just think it's bad when a boy looks at a girl and thinks that the way he sees her is better than she actually is. And I think it's bad when the most honest way a boy can look at a girl is through a camera.
- I guess I could tell people about Punk Rocky and walking home from school and things like that. Maybe these are my glory days, and I'm not even realizing it because they don't involve a ball.
- This moment will just be another story someday.
- I am very interested and fascinated by how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.
- I hope it's the kind of second side that he can listen to whenever he drives alone and feel like he belongs to something whenever he's sad. I hope it can be that for him.
- I really think that everyone should have watercolors, magnetic poetry, and a harmonica.
- 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.
- I think it was the first time in my life I ever felt like I looked "good". Do you know what I mean? That nice feeling when you look in the mirror, and your hair's right for the first time in your life? I don't think we should base so much on weight, muscles, and a good hair day, but when it happens, it's nice. It really is.
- After that, I couldn't believe that Sam actually got me a present because I honestly thought that the "I love you" was it.
- And I closed my eyes because I wanted to know nothing but her arms.
- And Sam looked at the paper and then she looked at me.
"Charlie. . . Have you ever kissed a girl?"
I shook my head no. It was so quiet.
"Not even when you were little?"
I shook my head no again. And she looked very sad.
She told me about the first time she was kissed. She told me that it was with one of her dad's friends. She was seven. And she told nobody except Mary Elizabeth and then Patrick a year ago. And she started to cry. And she said something that I won't forget. Ever.
"I know that you know that I like Craig. And I know that I told you not to think of me that way. And I know that we can't be together like that. But I want to forget all those things for a minute. Okay?"
"I want to make sure that the first person you kiss loves you. Okay?"
"Okay" She was crying harder now. And I was, too, because when I hear something like that I just can't help it.
"I just want to make sure of that. Okay?"
And she kissed me. And it was the kind of kiss that I could never tell my friends about out loud. It was the kind of kiss that made me know that I was never so happy in my whole life.
- 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
- p. 70
- 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.
- p. 71
- 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
- p. 71
- 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.
- p. 72
- I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn't.
- It's kind of like when you look at yourself in the mirror and you say your name. And it gets to a point where none of it seems real. Well, sometimes, I can do that, but I don't need an hour in front of a mirror. It just happens very fast, and things start to slip away. And I just open my eyes, and I see nothing. And then I start to breathe really hard trying to see something, but I can't. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it scares me.
- "But there's another difference between you and her. You see... Kelly believes in women's rights so much that she would never let a guy hit her. I guess I can't say that about you." I swear to God, we almost died.
- Little kids talk about the strangest things. They really do.
- pg. 86
- I laid down on his old bed, and I looked through the window at this tree that was probably a lot shorter when my dad looked at it. And I could feel what he felt on the night when he realized that if he didn't leave, it would never be his life. It would be theirs. At least that's how he's put it.
- Despite everything my mom and doctor and dad have said to me about blame, I can't stop thinking what I know. And I know that my aunt Helen would still be alive today if she just bought me one present like everyone else. She would be alive if I was born on a day that didn't snow. I would do anything to make this go away. I miss her terribly. I have to stop writing now because I feel too sad.
- I even made her a mix tape and left it at the grave. I hope you do not think that makes me weird.
- I don't know if you've ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that. I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this. That's why I'm trying not to think. I just want it all to stop spinning.
- Everyone else is either asleep or having sex. I've been watching cable television and eating jello.
- Sometimes, I look outside, and I think that a lot of other people have seen this snow before. Just like I think that a lot of other people have read those books before. And listened to those songs. I wonder how they feel tonight.
- So, I looked up and we were in this giant dome like a glass snowball, and Mark said that the amazing white stars were really only holes in the black glass of the dome, and when you went to heaven, the glass broke away, and there was nothing but a whole sheet of star white, which is brighter than anything but doesn't hurt your eyes. It was vast and open and thinly quiet, and I felt so small.
- 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 you’re happy, too.
I just remembered what made me think of all this. I’m going to write it down because maybe if I do I won’t have to think about it. And I won’t get upset. But the thing is that I can hear Sam and Craig having sex, and for the first time in my life, I understand the end of that poem.
And I never wanted to. You have to believe me.
Love Always, Charlie.
- And my mind played hopscotch.
My brother... football... Brad... Dave and his girlfriend in my room... the coats... the cold... the winter... "Autumn Leaves"... don't tell anyone... you pervert... Sam and Craig... Sam... Christmas... typewriter... gift... Aunt Helen... and the trees kept moving... they just wouldn't stop moving... so I laid down and made a snow angel.
The policemen found me pale blue and asleep.
- Everything can't be low self-esteem, can it?
- "It's too bad you're not gay.”
That made me stop crying a little bit.
“ Then again, if you were gay, I would never date you. You're a mess."
That made me start laughing a little bit.
"You know, Patrick? If I were gay, I'd want to date you."
- 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. I know that's wrong because it's my responsibility, and I know that things get worse before they get better because that's what my psychiatrist says, but this is a worse that feels too big.
- I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.
- I don’t know how much longer I can keep going without a friend. I used to be able to do it very easily, but that was before I knew what having a friend was like. It’s much easier not to know things sometimes. And to have French fries with your mom be enough.
- But because things change. And friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.
- I remember going to sleep last night, and I realized something. Something that I think is important. I realized that throughout the course of the evening, I wasn't happy about Craig and Sam breaking up. Not at all. I never once thought that it would mean Sam might start liking me. All I cared about was the fact that Sam got really hurt. And I guess I realized at that moment that I really did love her. Because there was nothing to gain, and that didn't matter.
- And I guess I realized at that moment that I really did love her. Because there was nothing to gain, and that didn't matter
- There’s something about that tunnel that leads to downtown. It’s glorious at night. Just glorious. You start on one side of the mountain, and it’s dark, and the radio is loud. As you enter the tunnel, the wind gets sucked away, and you squint from the lights overhead. When you adjust to the lights, you can see the other side in the distance just as the sound of the radio fades because the waves just can’t reach. Then, you’re in the middle of the tunnel, and everything becomes a calm dream. As you see the opening get closer, you just can’t get there fast enough. And finally, just when you think you’ll never get there, you see the opening right in front of you. And the radio comes back even louder than you remember it. And the wind is waiting. And you fly out of the tunnel onto the bridge. And there it is. The city. A million lights and buildings and everything seems as exciting as the first time you saw it. It really is a grand entrance.
- And we kept dancing. It was the one time all day that I really wanted the clock to stop. And just be there for a long time.
- I remembered this one time that I never told anyone about. The time we were walking. Just the three of us. And I was in the middle. I don’t remember where and I don't remember when. I don't even remember the season. I just remember walking between them and feeling for the first time that I belonged somewhere.
- The inside Jokes weren't jokes anymore. They had become stories. Nobody brought up the bad names or the bad times. And nobody felt sad as long as we could postpone tomorrow with more nostalgia.
- “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.
- And we could all sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn't do or what they didn't know. I don't know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. Maybe if my grandfather didn't hit her, my mom wouldn't be so quiet. And maybe she wouldn't have married my dad because he doesn't hit. And maybe I would never have been born. But I'm very glad to have been born, so I don't know what to say about it all espically since my mom seems happy with her life, and I don't know what else there is to want.
- 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.
- Maybe it's good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there.
- Things just keep going. We didn't talk about anything heavy or light. We were just there together. And that was enough.
- So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough.
And I will believe the same about you.
Love always, Charlie
“It's much easier to not know things sometimes. Things change and friends leave. And life doesn't stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people. 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. I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to be who I really am. And I'm going to figure out what that is. And we could all sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn't do or what they didn't know. I don't know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. It's just different. Maybe it's good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Because it's okay to feel things. I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite. I feel infinite.”