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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky

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.