The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by: Stephen Chbosky

Part 3

Summary: April 18, 1992

Mary Elizabeth gives Charlies a book of e.e.cummings poems because she likes the book, and she makes Charlie parade his gratitude towards her. Charlie gets so annoyed that he returns the book to the bookstore, but he immediately feels so guilty that he buys the book back. He buys Mary Elizabeth a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, but she dismisses it patronizingly. A few days later, Charlie and his friends play Truth or Dare. Patrick dares Charlie to kiss the prettiest girl in the room, and Charlie kisses Sam. Mary Elizabeth stalks out of the room, and Sam follows, saying to Charlie, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Charlie starts to cry. Patrick drives Charlie home, and Charlie tells him everything. When Charlie gets home, he lays on his bed, reads the e.e. cummings book, and listens to the Billie Holiday record.

Summary: April 26, 1992

None of Charlie’s friends are talking to him after the Truth or Dare debacle. He spends spring break reading Hamlet, the latest book Bill has given him. Charlie tries to apologize to Mary Elizabeth, but she tells him that it’s too late. Patrick tells Charlie he should stay away from them for a while. Charlie wants to figure out how to make this all go away, but he can’t. Instead, he smokes pot.

Analysis

After the holidays, Charlie becomes much more cheery almost immediately. His tone in the letters in January is a bubbly, almost forced happiness that feels very deliberate and very artificial in contrast to the raw, depressed Charlie who ended the last letters in December. Charlie blames a lot of his problems on taking LSD at a New Year’s Eve party. Even though some of this might be true, Charlie is also not quite facing all of his problems just yet. The uptick in mood from his depressed state at the end of the year is a good thing, but it doesn’t yet feel permanent. Charlie is still hiding from his pain rather than confronting it head-on.

Charlie is a literal wallflower at the Sadie Hawkins dance. On the one hand, he does get invited to the dance, which means that a girl has picked him out of the crowd and singled him out as special. On the other hand, Charlie doesn’t yet feel comfortable enough in his own skin to dance, instead preferring to hang back and observe.

Charlie’s relationship with his sister becomes much stronger and deeper when she trusts him to help her with her abortion. One of Charlie’s greatest strengths as a symbolic wallflower is his capacity for tolerance and for his ability to be there for others in their moments of crisis. Even though Charlie’s sister was very angry with him when he told Bill about her abusive boyfriend, she now realizes that he has her best interests at heart and that she can rely on him. Charlie tells his “friend” about his sister’s abortion in a curious way. Instead of leading with this event in the very beginning of a letter and letting himself express all his existential and emotional concerns regarding this topic, Charlie brings up the abortion in the middle of a longer letter, after describing all the rest of the events at the homecoming dance. But just because Charlie doesn’t bring up a topic first doesn’t mean that it’s not important to him. Since Charlie tends to repress the most important aspects of his life, he rarely brings the most important things the most immediately to the surface.

Many different relationships ravel and unravel simultaneously throughout The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Just as Charlie’s sister and her boyfriend break up as a result of her pregnancy, Charlie finds himself getting deeper into a relationship with Mary Elizabeth. At first, Charlie’s relationship with Mary Elizabeth seems like an exciting step forward in his process of growing up. When he first started high school, he didn’t speak to anyone; now, a beautiful senior has asked him to a dance and wants to have a relationship with him. Mary Elizabeth first notices Charlie when he dances on stage as Rocky in the routine staging of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Ironically, Charlie is standing in for Sam’s boyfriend, Craig, in the role, but instead of letting his acting give him the confidence to act on his love for Sam, Charlie gets seen as someone other than himself.