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Charlie’s been avoiding everything, and he spend his time people-watching. For the first time since Michael died, Charlie goes up to Susan and asks her if she misses Michael. Susan doesn’t respond, and Charlie overhears another person call him a freak.
Charlie buys more pot from Bob, a part-time community college student who seems to spend most of his time getting stoned and watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Charlie then reports to his “friend” that Brad’s father caught Brad and Patrick together. Brad’s father started beating Brad in front of Patrick, and that Brad hasn’t come back to school since. Charlie sneaks into The Rocky Horror Picture Show to see if Patrick will show up to play Frank ‘N Furter, and when he does, Charlie is relieved. Charlie sneaks out before his friends see him, and he regrets messing everything up. On the way home, he talks out loud to his friends as though they’re there.
Brad comes back to school, but he seems cold and dead, and he completely ignores Patrick when Patrick tries to talk to him. Eventually, Brad uses a slur against gay people to insult Patrick in front of everybody in the cafeteria. Patrick punches Brad, and five of Brad’s football friends jump on Patrick. Charlie leaps into the fight in a furious whirlwind and beats up Brad’s friends. Patrick and Brad’s friends get suspensions, but Brad and Charlie only get detentions. In detention, Brad thanks Charlie for stopping the fight. After detention, Sam picks up Charlie and tells him that she’s angry at him for what he did to Mary Elizabeth. But then she thanks him for letting her cool off, and she says that they can be friends again. Mary Elizabeth has a new boyfriend, Peter, a college student. Patrick has stopped playing Frank ‘N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which makes Charlie feel tense.
Patrick and Charlie have been hanging out a lot lately. Patrick seems to be surviving on coffee, cigarettes, and caffeine pills. Patrick and Charlie go to the golf course, drink wine, and gossip. Patrick kisses Charlie at the end of the night, but Charlie doesn’t get mad, because he understands that it’s just a symptom of Patrick missing Brad.
Patrick takes Charlie to a park where gay men meet to hook up with each other. Patrick goes off into the bushes to make out with someone, and Charlie recognizes a local sportscaster. In a complete coincidence, the sportscaster talks to Charlie about Charlie’s brother. Patrick takes Charlie to several more underground homosexual locations in the city. One night, they go back to the park, and Brad is there, kissing another guy. Patrick drives Charlie home and doesn’t try to kiss him. Instead, he simply thanks Charlie for being his friend.
The school year is coming to an end, and all of Charlie’s friends are busy making plans. Bill tells Charlie that he had been planning to move to New York to become a playwright, but now, he thinks he’s going to stay, since he likes teaching high school English. He gives Charlie The Fountainhead to read, instructing Charlie to be a filter, not a sponge. Charlie writes to his “friend” that he now really enjoys school, as opposed to the beginning of the year, when he hated everything. He also writes that Patrick has stopped drinking and seems to have cleaned himself up.
Charlie really likes The Fountainhead, and he starts to write his own story, but only gets one line in. He’s both excited and sad when he thinks about his friends’ graduation, since his own graduation is three years away. Charlie’s friends are making prom plans. They’re also making their college plans. Sam is going to go to Penn State, the same college as Charlie’s brother. Charlie finishes The Fountainhead and wants to talk to his psychiatrist about it, but the psychiatrist just wants to ask Charlie questions about when Charlie was younger.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is symbolically very important to Charlie’s friend group. Going to these movie screenings and acting out all the parts is an important ritual. In becoming other parts, they get to let loose and become themselves. Patrick gets to be himself when he’s portraying this other role. When Brad rejects him as a lover, Patrick rejects himself as Frank ‘N Furter and, by extension, rejects his inner desires. Charlie creeps back into the audience for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but he cannot rejoin the show when he is still on the rocks with his friends.
Read more about the motif of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Patrick and Brad’s relationship has been repressed ever since its beginnings, and though they both have tried to pretend that things are fine, one of the main themes of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that the truth will eventually out, however willfully or unwittingly it has been suppressed for however long. Patrick is willing to bring their relationship into the open, but Brad isn’t yet ready to acnkowledge his desires honestly. Brad can only see a negative outcome for coming out in the open, since he gets beaten and sent to rehab. Brad gets reinforced by his parents and football friends that his true self is shameful and disgusting. He abuses Patrick to try and beat his passions out of himself.
Read more about how participating in one’s own life is not necessarily always a positive experience.
The one positive consequence of Brad rejecting Patrick to his face is that Patrick confides in Charlie, leading to Charlie’s acceptance again into their friend group. Patrick sublimates his desires for Brad onto Charlie. Charlie understands that Patrick doesn’t actually want Charlie, but that Patrick is lonely and confused, and needs friends who will love him. In the same way that Sam kisses Charlie out of friendship at the Secret Santa party, Charlie lets Patrick kiss him because he understands that Patrick just needs someone to accept him for who he is. One of the reasons that Charlie is able to be deeply empathetic with others is that he has been observing and listening to himself through the process of writing the letters that comprise this book. Charlie isn’t gay, but he doesn’t get freaked out when Patrick makes an advance. Partly, this lack of shock is because Charlie realizes that Patrick needs affection. But part of this lack of shock stems from the fact that Charlie is very passive when it comes to sexual encounters. He is empathetic and allows others to press their will upon him, but he isn’t yet comfortable expressing his own desires.
Read more about rejection and the theme of inclusion.
Even though Charlie is excited to be reunited with his friends, the spring is bittersweet, because all of his friends are seniors and will be moving onto college, whereas Charlie will remain behind in high school. Charlie has spent the whole year rebuilding his world and his confidence, and now, everyone whom he loves will be going away, repeating the same pattern of loss that has defined his childhood. Prom plans and college plans make Charlie feel like a wallflower more than ever. This time, he is a wallflower in a negative sense, since he feels left out of all the excitement, instead of part of the environment.
All year long, Bill has been giving Charlie coming-of-age novels with strong protagonists. Bill’s ability to match the right book to the right moment in Charlie’s life is occasionally a little eerie. During spring break, when Charlie feels all alone and torn between several relationships, he reads Hamlet. At the end of the year, when Charlie must start to learn how to be on his own, Bill has Charlie read The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand’s novel is all about learning how to become an artist and to trust in your own individual strength. The Fountainhead is a seductive book for a teenager because the characters are all very idealistic and very ambitious. However, The Fountainhead has to be taken with a grain of salt because Ayn Rand presents characters at their extremes. By giving Charlie The Fountainhead, Bill is helping Charlie embrace the idea of himself as an artist and a strong individual, and he is also asking Charlie to put pressure on what he encounters in the world. Charlie has become very good at being a sponge and learning from his environment, but by reading The Fountainhead, Bill is helping to teach Charlie how to develop his own nuanced opinions about the world. Bill teaches Charlie neither to accept or reject everything wholesale, but to dig down underneath the surface and to question everything in order to discover the real truth.
Even though Charlie has been reunited with his friend group, and even though his tone and mood have improved, Charlie’s psychiatrist realizes that Charlie still hasn’t done all the excavating work necessary to truly heal from his trauma and that Charlie is still repressing many of his emotions. Charlie may be much more well-adjusted now than he was in the beginning of the school year, but that doesn’t mean that Charlie is altogether independent of his wounds.