Dear friend (beginning of every chapter)
Charlie addresses his letters to a "friend." Hmmm, this sounds more like a Facebook friend than an actual friend. After all, he tells us that he only knows one thing about the person and has never even met him or her in person.
Patrick and Sam didn't just throw around inside jokes and make me struggle to keep up. Not at all. They asked me questions. (1.7.11)
Perks is keeping some creepy tabs on our lives, don't you think? After all, we all know the feeling of being on the outside of an inside joke. Chbosky's use of everyday friendship happenings allows us to really understand how important Sam and Patrick will be to Charlie.
It would be very nice to have a friend again. I would like that even more than a date. (1.7.32)
After Michael's death, Charlie is eagerly craving any sort of social interaction. We know it's desperate when a teenage boy wants a friend more than a date.
Normally I am very shy, but [Patrick] seemed like the kind of guy you could just walk up to at a football game even though you were three years younger and not popular. (1.7.5)
Charlie acts against his shy nature, and he gets some friends as a reward. What do you think—is this a step in the right direction for Charlie, or is Patrick just a super understanding guy?
Sam sat down and started laughing. Patrick started laughing. I started laughing. And in that moment, I swear we were infinite. (1.10.118)
Infinite. What a great way to describe the profound power of a shared moment of joy between friends. Can you remember your most recent infinite moment?
I hope it's the kind of second side [of a mix tape] that [Patrick] can listen to whenever he drives alone and feel like he belongs to something whenever he's sad. (2.7.8)
Charlie is really the sensitive type, huh? No matter what kind of stupid stuff he does to and with his friends, it's pretty clear that he cares about them.
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. (2.10.6)
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. (4.1.16)
Friends are kind of like a drug for Charlie—going through withdrawal is painful.
I just couldn't watch them hurt Patrick even if things weren't clear just yet. (4.3.17)
Even though their friendship is strained, Charlie is loyal to Patrick in the Nutrition Center showdown. But it takes an extreme situation—like Patrick getting destroyed by Brad and his buddies—for Charlie to be prompted to act.
I just remember walking between them and feeling for the first time that I belonged somewhere. (4.14.11)
So happy together! A sense of belonging is so important in high school, even more for someone like Charlie. And his friends are able to give him that.
I think it's sad because Susan doesn't look as happy. (1.2.2)
Charlie barely knows Susan, but her happiness, or lack of, affects Charlie emotionally. If Charlie is so empathic, why doesn't he ever do anything about it?
I guess I'm pretty emotional. (1.2.10)
Early on, Charlie's writing comes across as pretty sterile, so we're surprised to hear this. The only emotion we've seen from him so far is lots and lots of crying, but that's more of a reaction than an emotion.
I'm really glad that Christmas and my birthday are soon because that means they will be over soon because I can already feel myself going to a bad place I used to go. (2.11.4)
Birthdays and Christmas are usually associated with happy memories and excited anticipation, but Charlie has some pretty deep-seated anxieties about these special days. We don't really find out why until the end of the novel. (And you know we're not going to spoil it for you.)
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. (2.14.9)
These feelings are beyond sadness—they're approaching serious depression.
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. (2.15.12)
Charlie's talking about the poem he read to Patrick: "A Person, a Paper, a Promise." Even when he's fatalistically depressed, this kid never ceases to defend his emotions. Does he really believe what he's saying, or is he trying to convince himself?
And then I felt really sad because I thought maybe I was different from how Mary Elizabeth saw me, too. (3.10.17)
Instead of trying to clarify to Mary Elizabeth who he really is—whoever that may be—Charlie just mopes about it. Passivity just seeps into every pore of his being.
I don't know if this is right or not, but it made me sad regardless. Not for Mary Elizabeth. Or for me. Just in general. (3.10.16)
Charlie spends a lot of time worrying about other people's low self-esteem. But what about his own?
The nights he would pick up someone always made him sad. (4.5.24)
Charlie's not the only sad one, of course. Patrick is using sex to get over Brad, but it's not quite working the way he intended. Is Stephen Chbosky trying to send a message here, or is he just telling it like it is?
I couldn't really tell if [Sam] was happy or sad, but it was enough just to see her and know she was there. (4.13.51)
One of the first things Charlie tries to figure out when he sees a person is if they're happy or sad—as though that's all that matters. Why is this so important to him?
"I thought that your being sad was much more important to me than Craig not being your boyfriend anymore." (4.14.25)
We all know the type: the ones who treat sad people as very fragile beings that need to be protected and coddled. Charlie feels that he has to act in these people's best interests—which is great—but he just seems to make assumptions as to what those interests are.
Over the summer, [Susan] got a little taller and prettier and grew breasts. Now, she acts a lot dumber in the hallways, especially when boys are around. (1.2.2)
Sound familiar? We all know someone like this. We here at Shmoop having nothing against puberty, but come on, Susan—be classy.
"You pervert." (1.4.18) (1.10.25)
Charlie's sister says this to him twice: once when he inadvertently witnesses a date rape, and another time when he accidentally walks in on her having sex with her boyfriend. Neither of these events were his fault, but she still calls him a pervert. What gives?
Masturbation is when you rub your genitals together until you have an orgasm. Wow! (1.8.2)
So that's what that Divinyls song means… Thanks for the clarification there, Charlie.
I told Sam that I dreamt that she and I were naked on the sofa, and I started crying because I felt bad. (1.8.5)
Relationship advice: don't tell someone you just met that you had a sex dream about her. You might cry, too. Because you've been slapped. With a restraining order.
My aunt Helen was molested. I hate that word. (2.13.8)
Charlie gets exposed to pretty much all the negative sides of sex. Aunt Helen's molestation in particular leads to a very traumatic situation for Charlie.
The erection made me feel guilty in hindsight though, but I guess it couldn't be helped. (3.5.26)
Charlie is having a completely normal physiological reaction to getting a compliment from someone who is attracted to him. But his past experience turns something that should be a little pleasurable into a source of guilt.
Each [cover] had a smiling face, and every time it was a woman on the cover, she was showing her cleavage. (3.8.3)
Even in the '90s, sex was everywhere. It's not just Charlie's family and friends who expose him to sexuality—just walking past a newsstand can do it, too.
After a while, the whole [hooking-up] thing just wasn't interesting to [Patrick] anymore, and he ran out of things to keep himself numb. (4.5.24)
Patrick uses sex with strangers as an escape in the same way that he uses drugs and alcohol. This kid never heard the phrase "safety first."
It was like everything made sense. Until she moved her hand under my pants, and she touched me. [...] It felt good actually. [But] I didn't know what was wrong. (4.14.51-54)
This should be a wonderful, pleasurable moment for Charlie, something that he's been secretly wanting since the moment he met Sam. But because of his history, it causes a lot of repressed memories to come gushing to the surface.
I kind of figured out that everything I dreamt about my aunt Helen was true. (Epilogue.4)
Charlie had repressed memories of his molestation so strongly that he had no idea it even happened. This revelation explains a lot of Charlie's unorthodox attitudes toward sex.
I was hoping that the kid who told the truth [about Sean] could become a friend of mine, but I think he was just being a good guy by telling. (1.2.13)
No one makes friends by hoping—it requires action. And good taste in TV.
"Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life." (1.8.32)
When done in moderation, these people are called authors. Oh, we kid. But maybe Charlie will use his observant wallflower skills to become a writer.
I'm sorry I haven't written to you in a couple of weeks, but I have been trying to "participate" [sic] like Bill said. (1.10.2)
Don't use sarcastic air quotes with us, Charlie!
I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. (2.7.9)
Charlie spends a lot of time thinking about how awesome it would be to do stuff—write a song, a novel, a poem—but no time actually attempting to do it. Or does he? He is writing these letters after all…
[Sam] really did look sad, and I wished I could have made her feel better, but sometimes, I guess you just can't. So, I stood alone by the wall and watched the dance for a while. (3.7.17)
That's the spirit, Charlie! NOT. Charlie can't even muster up enough action to help his friend feel better. It's one thing when your passivity only affects you, but Charlie's inaction is starting to affect everyone around him.
I'd do anything to […] not have to see a psychiatrist, who explains to me about being "passive aggressive." (3.12.13)
Hmmm. It might do Charlie some good to pay attention to this part of his therapy. What do you think? Is Charlie passive aggressive? Or just plain passive?
I just kind of listen and nod because Patrick needs to talk. (4.4.2)
Charlie makes for a pretty passive friend. But maybe Patrick really does just need a shoulder to lean on and a person to talk to. What do you think?
And I just let [Patrick kiss me]. Because that's what friends are for. (4.4.79)
Oh, that's what friends are for? We missed that boat. What we think Charlie is saying is that friends should just do whatever their friends want them to. Hmmm, we're not so sure.
It's just hard to see a friend hurt this much. Especially when you can't do anything except "be there." I want to make him stop hurting, but I can't. (4.5.3)
Why doesn't Charlie try to say or do something to help Patrick out? And who told him that all he could do was "be there"? Where is he getting all these ideas?
It was a great way to sit alone at a party and still feel a part of things. (4.9.9)
Charlie has found a way to turn his passivity into a strength—DJ Charlie, comin' at ya.
I just remember wanting to hug [Bill]. But I've never done that before, and I guess Patrick and girls and family don't count. (4.12.56)
We doubt Bill would have objected to a hug, but Charlie doesn't try—simply because he's never hugged another non-family adult before.
"You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love." (4.14.27)
We couldn't have said it better ourselves, Sam. Still, we're not sure if this will sink in with Charlie any time soon. And while we're at it, do you think Sam is being a bit harsh here? Will Charlie learn anything from this gem?
I like to read books twice. (1.3.2)
After the revelation at the end of Perks, you might want to read it a second time, too. Trust us—you'll see a ton more the second time around.
[To Kill a Mockingbird] is now my favorite book of all time, but then again, I always think that until I read another book. (1.4.2)
Confession: the same thing happens to us. Our favorite books are The Giving Tree, The Road, and Invisible Man, but tomorrow? It's anyone's guess. And you know what? We're not complaining about a world where there are enough great books to keep changing our minds.
When I write letters, I spend the next two days thinking about what I figured out in my letters. I don't know if this is good or bad. (1.10.2)
The process of writing something down can be a great way to figure out complex problems. Stumped on a paper? Just start writing, and the solution might just come to you.
Sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book. (1.10.2)
Charlie's taking empathy to the extreme here. And really, we don't want him to be Holden Caulfield. He's already depressed enough.
On that piece of white paper, Sam wrote, "Write about me sometime." (2.10.26)
Little does she know that practically every letter Charlie writes is about Sam.
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. (2.15.11)
What do you think? Is writing truly cathartic like that?
The only advice Bill gave me was to think about [Hamlet] in terms of the other main characters in the books I've read thus far. (3.11.18)
We'll do you one better, Bill. Shmoopers: think about Hamlet in terms of Charlie. And "they're both tragic characters" just isn't going to cut it.
When he gave me the book, Bill said, "Be skeptical about this one. It's a great book. But try to be a filter, not a sponge." (4.6.10)
Bill's advice should be applied to everything you read, even here on Shmoop. Even this very sentence. Whoa… mind blown.
That was the first sentence. The problem was that I just couldn't think of the next one. After cleaning my room three times, I decided to leave [my character] alone for a while because I was starting to get mad at him. (4.7.4)
Only one sentence? That's an extreme case of writer's block. For a guy who writes 52 letters in a year, we're thinking he can do better.
I read on the back cover that [Ayn Rand] was born in Russia and came to America when she was young. She barely spoke English, but she wanted to be a great writer. I thought that was very admirable, so I sat down and tried to write a story. (4.7.2)
Charlie doesn't try to write a story because he really wants to, he does it because he thinks Ayn Rand's life story was pretty spiffy.
A lot of kids at school hate their parents. Some of them got hit. And some of them got caught in the middle of wrong lives. (1.6.48)
Charlie is still thinking about his dad's "There are other people who have it a lot worse" (1.1.22) philosophy. For all of Charlie's griping, at least he can keep things in perspective.
Sam then gave me a hug, and it was strange because my family doesn't hug a lot except my Aunt Helen. (1.8.10)
Charlie talks about his Aunt Helen a lot in Perks. Once we find out that she molested him, all of these smaller comments start to make a lot more sense.
[Mary Elizabeth] says that my sister is a tease and a snob. I told her not to say anything like that about my sister again. (2.2.6)
The most recent thing Charlie's sister said to him was "You've always been a freak" (1.8.58), but Charlie still defends her. Is that family? Or is that just Charlie?
"I'm thankful that my brother played football on television so nobody fought." (2.6.19)
Charlie has the uncanny ability to be brutally honest when necessary, pretty much shutting up his entire family. Is he only able to be this upfront when dealing with his family?
I walked up to my grandfather and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He wiped my lip print off with his palm and gave me a look. He doesn't like the boys in the family to touch him. (2.6.23)
Maybe this is why Charlie's father doesn't show affection: his dad isn't the most affectionate guy on the planet either. What will Charlie be like as an adult?
I am very interested and fascinated by how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other. (2.6.3)
Charlie just wrote Webster's next definition of "family."
I don't know if it's better to be close with your daughter or make sure that she has a better life than you. (2.6.17)
Charlie feels like his grandfather had to make this choice, but do the two have to be mutually exclusive?
Before she left, she hugged me again. Two in one day! I really do love my sister. Especially when she's nice. (4.9.7)
Charlie's family shows physical affection so rarely that two hugs in one day ends up getting an exclamation point. And exclamation points from Charlie are a big stinkin' deal.
My mom made my favorite [lunch] because I think she knew how sad I would be with everyone gone. (4.10.3)
Charlie's mom also has her own way of showing affection. There's a lot of non-verbal, non-physical communication going on in this family. And if it works, it works.
Everyone said how much they loved my sister's speech even if they didn't. (4.13.60)
Charlie's family may not be affectionate, but at least they're supportive.
"We accept the love we think we deserve." (1.8.41)
Man, this Bill character is deep. Why doesn't Charlie's sister think she's deserving of real love? And while we're at it, does it run in the family?
I am really in love with Sam, and it hurts very much. (2.2.19)
Big-hair band Nazareth sang "Love Hurts". Maybe Charlie should include that on one of his mix tapes. Are there any kinds of love in this novel that don't hurt?
I love Sam. It's not a movie kind of love either. I just look at her sometimes, and I think she is the prettiest and nicest person in the world. (2.2.9)
Let's count, shall we? Charlie met Sam on October 6. It's now November 8. He's known her a little over a month. He's moving a little fast, but hey—he's fifteen. Love can seem more powerful at that age.
I love Twinkies, and the reason I am saying that is because we are all supposed to think of reasons to live. (2.3.2)
Why is Charlie so detached from emotional human relationships? Why do Twinkies pop into his mind when he needs to think of a reason to live? Is he deluding himself, or is this really how he feels?
I moved to the typewriter again, and I wrote something. "I love you, too." (2.10.29)
For someone as passive as Charlie, it's kind of surprising that he's so quick to declare his love. What is it about love that makes Charlie come out of his shell?
I decided then that when I met someone I thought was as beautiful as the song ["Something" by the Beatles], I should give it to that person. (2.10.22)
Love and music are pretty intertwined in Perks. What is it about Charlie that makes this connection so strong?
Aunt Helen was the only one who hugged me. (2.13.15)
Charlie's family doesn't exactly show their love physically, aside from Aunt Helen. When we find out that Aunt Helen molested Charlie, our understanding of his attitude toward physical affection becomes even more complicated.
I know my aunt Helen would still be alive today if she just bought me one present like everybody else. (2.13.20)
Love can all too often lead to guilt. In this case, Charlie thinks that if his aunt Helen loved him less, she would still be alive.
Love pats are soft punches of encouragement that are administered on the knee, shoulder, and arm. (3.1.12)
This is Charlie's quite clinical definition of one of the very few ways his dad shows physical affection.
Love always, Charlie (end of every chapter)
Charlie signs every letter not just love, but love always. Remember, he has never even met the addressee in person. What's up with that?
I had never been to a party before. (1.10.9)
This is an important first in any kid's life. We just wish all of Charlie's firsts were this tame.
She kissed me. 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. (2.10.43)
It was the kind of kiss that only happens in books or movies, the kind of kiss that only happens in slow motion in the rain with Zac Efron. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, Perks. The fact that Charlie is able to have this intimate moment gives us hope that he'll recover from his traumatic past experiences.
I think it was the first time in my life I ever felt like I looked "good." (2.10.13)
For a book that focuses on what's inside a teenage boy's head, appearances aren't all that central. What other moments in the book talk about the way someone looks? What's special about these moments?
[Bill] made tea, and I felt like a grown-up. (3.4.2)
Charlie's relationship with Bill is pretty complex if you think about it. We mean, really, have you ever had an English teacher with whom you shared your deepest secrets? (Shmoop doesn't count.) But their interactions—tea included—help Charlie feel mature, which in turn helps him become more mature.
My sister was counting on me, and this was the first time anyone ever counted on me for anything. (3.8.8)
That role reversal—going from counting on others to being counted on—Is a major part of growing up. Do other characters count on Charlie in Perks? Or does he still mostly play the part of the kid?
My father came in and sat on the edge of my bed. He lit a cigarette and started telling me about sex. He gave me this talk a few years before, but it was more biological then. (3.9.17)
Part of Charlie's transition involves learning about the social and psychological aspects of sex—not just the birds and the bees and what goes where.
It's strange to think of your teachers as being people. (4.6.8)
Teachers Are People: News at 11:00. But seriously, this is just another part of growing up: realizing that adults, even teachers, are people, too. Hey, they were even kids once. They might have been through the same things as you and made the same mistakes you made.
"I do consider you a friend, Charlie." (4.12.55)
Bill feels he can talk to Charlie as a peer. What do you think of this relationship? Does Bill assume too much maturity in Charlie, or does he just see his potential?
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. (4.12.32)
This declaration shows a real maturity on Charlie's part. During his relationship with Mary Elizabeth, Charlie hoped to make Sam jealous, but now he's just worried about her. That's assuming that he isn't just writing this to convince himself—but that's another discussion altogether.
Patrick said that Brad was pretending to be a lot more stoned than he really was. (2.1.14)
Brad, who is having a difficult time coming to terms with his homosexuality, uses drugs and alcohol as an excuse for his behavior. You know things are bad when you're willing to admit to drug use instead of just coming out of the closet.
Maybe my whole family has been high, and we just don't tell each other these things. (2.12.44)
Pot is on the brain, it seems. Drugs are everywhere in Charlie's life, so much that he thinks his family might be in on it, too.
My aunt Helen drank a lot. My aunt Helen took drugs a lot. My aunt Helen had many problems with men and boys. (2.13.9)
Aunt Helen turned to drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity to deal with problems that haunted her for years. We'll let you figure out how that turned out.
Things were worse an hour ago, and I was looking at this tree but it was a dragon and then a tree, and I remembered that one nice pretty weather day when I was part of the air. (2.15.4)
If it weren't for the fact that Charlie were tripping on LSD here, this might be a pretty Zen moment. Instead, it's something that might permanently damage his already fragile mind.
Regardless, I decided to never take LSD again. (3.1.17)
During the course of the novel, Charlie drinks, smokes cigarettes and pot, and does LSD. But the LSD doesn't quite work for him—it just heightens the activity in his already overactive mind.
Essentially [LSD] is twelve hours of schizophrenia. (3.2.3)
Wait, LSD? We thought Charlie was talking about a day he spent with Gary Busey.
Sam went on to explain what she called "the trance." The trance happens when you don't focus on anything, and the whole big picture swallows and moves around you. (3.2.25)
Here Sam is talking about one of the effects of LSD, but the same could be said about Charlie even when he's not doing the drug, don't you think? He has a tendency to let the world swallow him whole and move around him—and he doesn't do anything about it.
After a week of not talking to anyone, I finally called Bob. [...] He said he had a quarter ounce of pot left. So, I took some of my Easter money and bought it. I've been smoking it all the time since. (3.12.16)
When most people buy Easter grass, they're buying piles of that green plastic-y stuff that goes in baskets. The fact that Charlie uses his Easter money to buy drugs highlights how much his childhood innocence has been corrupted.
I figured that it was about time to stop smoking so much pot. (4.3.56)
…and start getting real. Oh, sorry, it's "stop being polite and start getting real." We're still thinking about the glory days of The Real World. In any case, Charlie finally gets real and understands that the drugs are hurting him way more than they're helping him.
Patrick and I have been spending a lot of time together. We drink a lot. Actually, it's more like Patrick drinks, and I sip. (4.5.2)
Now it's Patrick's turn to hop on the using-alcohol-or-drugs-to-cope-with-a-difficult-situation bandwagon. We wonder how that will turn out.