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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Main Ideas Key Facts
Main Ideas Key Facts

full title The Perks of Being a Wallflower

author  Stephen Chbosky

type of work  Novel

genre  Coming-of-age novel; epistolary novel; young adult novel

language  English

time and place written  Late 1990s, California

date of first publication  February 1, 1999

publisher  Pocket Books

narrator  Charlie, a fifteen-year-old high school freshman, narrates the story, and all events in the novel are seen through his perspective.

point of view  The narrator speaks in the first person, as the novel is written as a series of letters from Charlie to an anonymous “friend.” The point of view is subjective, as the novel is entirely through Charlie’s eyes. The reader only knows exactly as much as Charlie chooses to describe in each letter. Usually, Charlie seems to present a reliable description of events, but sometimes, he inserts tangential details, or he waits and buries the most crucial aspects deep in the body of a letter.

tone  The tone throughout the novel is nostalgic, inquisitive, and exploratory; Charlie’s mood can swing radically between depressed and elated.

tense  Past

setting (time)  August 1991 through August 1992

setting (place)  Suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

protagonist  Charlie

major conflict  Charlie is trying to come to terms with major traumatic events from his past, but he doesn’t even realize that he has repressed memories of still more trauma.

rising action  Charlie is in love with Sam throughout the entire novel, even though he has a relationship with Mary Elizabeth, and even though he does not act on his emotions for most of the book.

climax  On the night before Sam leaves to go to college, she and Charlie start to engage in sexual conduct, when Charlie stops abruptly.

falling action  Charlie realizes in the course of starting intercourse with Sam that he has been repressing memories of his childhood molestation.

themes  The Perks of Being Inclusive; The Importance of Participating in Life

motifs  Driving; The Rocky Horror Picture Show

symbols  Smoking, Drinking, and Drugs; Mix Tape

foreshadowing  Charlie’s frequent flashbacks to his memories of Aunt Helen foreshadow his revelation that she sexually abused him when he was a child. Michael’s suicide foreshadows Charlie’s suicidal thoughts. Patrick’s inclusiveness of Charlie when Charlie had no friends foreshadows Charlie’s emotional support of Patrick when Brad rejects him publicly.