The Perks of Being a Wallflower Summary
Fifteen-year-old Charlie is coping with the suicide of his friend, Michael. To lessen the fear and anxiety of starting high school alone, Charlie starts writing letters to a stranger, someone he heard was nice but has never met in person. (Kind of like when we write letters to Paul Rudd before we go to sleep.)
At school, Charlie finds a friend and mentor in his English teacher, Bill. He also overcomes his chronic shyness and approaches a classmate, Patrick, who, along with his step-sister Sam, become two of Charlie's BFFs.
During the course of the school year, Charlie has his first date and his first kiss, he deals with bullies, he experiments with drugs and drinking, and he makes friends, loses them, and gains them back. He creates his own soundtrack through a series of mix tapes full of iconic songs, reads a huge stack of classic books, and gets involved in the Rocky Horror Picture Show audience-participation culture.
Charlie has a relatively stable home life, though, with supportive, if distant, parents to fall back on. Unfortunately, a disturbing family secret that Charlie has repressed for his entire life surfaces at the end of the school year. Charlie has a severe mental breakdown and ends up hospitalized.
Charlie's final letter closes with feelings of hope: getting released from the hospital, forgiving his aunt Helen for what she did to him, finding new friends during sophomore year, and trying his best not to be a wallflower. Charlie hopes to get out of his head and into the real world, participating in life instead of just watching it fly by.
Part 1, Chapter 1
August 25, 1991
- Charlie is writing letters to someone he doesn't know. These letters aren't addressed to us, so we feel a little strange reading them. But we have no choice. The whole book is made up of just that—letters from Charlie.
- It seems that Charlie is trying to cope with the suicide of his friend, Michael.
- (Grammar alert: We wouldn't normally put a comma after the word "friend," because that would mean Charlie only has one friend, Michael. But you know, we're pretty sure Charlie really did only have that one friend.)
- After a school announcement informs Charlie that Michael has died, Charlie's older brother picks him up early from school and takes him to McDonald's.
- The school guidance counselor helps students affected by the suicide, but it's not super successful with our boy. Charlie starts screaming at the guidance counselor and crying.
- Charlie attends Michael's funeral.
- In the last part of his first letter, Charlie introduces us to his family. Check out the "Characters" page to get the dish on them.
- The letter concludes as Charlie tells us (well, he's not talking to us, but we're reading it anyway) that he starts high school tomorrow—and that he's terrified.
Part 1, Chapter 2
September 7, 1991
- Charlie doesn't like high school for a few reasons:
- The cafeteria is called the "Nutrition Center." That's like calling a rollercoaster the throw-up machine. Kind of.
- Susan, who used to date Michael, acts dumber in high school just to attract boys.
- Charlie is being bullied by a kid named Sean.
- To remedy the last problem, Charlie beats the snot out of Sean.
- Lucky for Charlie, someone tells Mr. Small the truth about what happened, so Charlie doesn't get detention. Whew.
Part 1, Chapter 3
September 11, 1991
- Charlie's advanced English teacher assigns To Kill a Mockingbird. Well done, Charlie's advanced English teacher.
- After school, Charlie's family sees his brother on TV. He's playing football at Penn State. That's a pretty big deal.
- To remain anonymous, Charlie won't tell us what position his brother plays. Hmmm, is he even telling the truth about what school he goes to?
Part 1, Chapter 4
September 16, 1991
- Who's got a new favorite book? Charlie does. He loves To Kill a Mockingbird. Duh.
- Oh, and Charlie's now on a first-name basis with his advanced English teacher, Bill. This is so Dead Poets Society.
- Bill can tell that Charlie has a knack for the whole reading thing, so he gives Charlie another book to read. But Charlie doesn't tell us what it is. Boo.
- Now Charlie tells us a story about his sister.
- She has a boyfriend, whom Charlie doesn't give a name. (Get used to it.)
- This boy gave Charlie's sister a mix tape called Autumn Leaves.
- Quick cultural snack: For all you digital-era peeps, a cassette is a plastic thing with tape in it, like a movie reel for sound, which plays music. (For all your cassette-era peeps, we're sorry we had to describe that.) A mix tape is like an MP3 playlist, playing whichever songs you choose in whatever order you want.
- Okay, back to the story.
- Charlie's sister didn't want it, so she gave it to him. And sure enough, when Charlie listened to it, he fell in love with the song "Asleep" by The Smiths.
- Fast forward to a night when Charlie, his sister, and her boyfriend are watching a movie.
- Um, well, at least Charlie was watching a movie. His sister was otherwise engaged—you know, berating her boyfriend for not standing up to his bully when he was fifteen.
- The boyfriend starts to cry. Awkward.
- Trying to make her point, Charlie's sister uses Charlie as an example. "Even Charlie stood up to his bully" (1.4.12).
- Totally fed up, the boyfriend hits Charlie's sister. (This just got dark really fast.)
- She doesn't tell anyone. In fact, she starts spending more time with him.
- Even Charlie rationalizes the boy's behavior: "I guess he stood up to his bully" (1.4.15). Well, that's one (really twisted) way of looking at it.
- Later that weekend, Charlie walks in on his sister and the boy having sex in the basement. Blah.
Part 1, Chapter 5
September 18, 1991
- Charlie talks about a kid in his shop class named Nothing.
- That's a very esteem-boosting name, isn't it? Like Dave Pelzer's A Child Called It. Very uplifting.
- You can check out "Patrick's Character Analysis" for the story behind this term of non-endearment.
- Nothing's impersonation of Mr. Callahan, the shop teacher, is hilarious according to Charlie. Even Mr. Callahan thinks it's funny.
- Also, Charlie tells us that his sister asked him for the Autumn Leaves mix tape back.
Part 1, Chapter 6
September 29, 1991
- Charlie tells us that he received a C on his To Kill a Mockingbird essay. We weren't expecting that.
- Later, he does a lot of ruminating about ladies on magazine covers and the stale interviews they give. He also does a lot of thinking about his aunt Helen.
- Then he recalls a TV-related memory: the final episode of M*A*S*H.
- Not only was it the highest-rated TV show ever (remember, this is 1991, when people actually watched TV instead of Hulu), but it was also the only time Charlie ever saw his dad cry. (Now that's a man we'd want to have coffee with; we love a good TV-show crier.)
- Apropos of nothing, Charlie tells us that he has one cavity, but he doesn't want to floss.
Part 1, Chapter 7
October 6, 1991
- For the first time since Michael's death, Charlie goes to the high school football game. He doesn't really watch the game—our guy is more of a people watcher.
- Charlie sees the kid from his shop class at the game, the one he still calls Nothing.
- Nothing—who calls himself Patrick, of course—introduces Charlie to Sam, a very pretty girl if you ask Charlie.
- Now that Patrick has introduced himself as "Patrick," Charlie figures he'll call him by his actual name.
- After the game, the three teenagers go eat at the local Big Boy. Topics of conversation include favorite songs, movies, and books; and Charlie finds out that Sam and Patrick are step-siblings.
- Charlie really wants to ask Sam out on a date, but he doesn't. (Hey, what do you expect from a wallflower?) But that night, he has a sex dream about her. Yikes. That's definitely the stuff you only find out if you're reading someone's diary—which we essentially are.
- He wants to tell her about it because he's ashamed, but he definitely doesn't want the dream to ruin their new friendship.
Part 1, Chapter 8
October 14, 1991
- Charlie is proud of a new skill he's learned: masturbation. In case you don't know what that is, he gives us quite the definition.
- When Charlie actually tells Sam about his sex dream (why, oh why?), he cries.
- Although she doesn't judge him for it, she does tell him that he's too young for her.
- Patrick gives Charlie some rules for dating girls:
- Girls are always copying moms and magazines.
- Girls like guys who are a challenge, because it gives them a sense of purpose.
- Girls try to change guys, but if they do, they get bored.
- These rules puzzle Charlie (um, and us), so he spends a lot of time watching how other couples interact. Instead of, you know, trying it out for himself.
- Bill (the English teacher) asks Charlie if he dances or goes on dates. The answer? A resounding no.
- Here's Charlie's rationale for not participating: he doesn't have a car and he's not a good dancer. Well that settles it then, doesn't it?
- Charlie also tells Bill about the boy who hit his sister, and the teach has an interesting view on this: "We accept the love we think we deserve" (1.8.41). That's one to ruminate on.
- Then Bill gives Charlie a pat on the shoulder, a new book, and a cookie, and sends him on his way. Okay, we made up the part about the cookie. A Shmoop can dream, right?
- By the time Charlie gets home, Bill has called and told his parents about his sister's abusive boyfriend.
- The family has a heated discussion, concluding with Charlie's sister being forbidden to see the boy. (We second that decision, parental units.)
- She tells Charlie that she hates him, that he's a freak, and that everyone knows it.
- Not really taken aback by this, Charlie responds, "I'm trying not to be" (1.8.60). Well, that could have gone worse.
Part 1, Chapter 9
October 15, 1991
- This letter opens with Charlie telling his reader about his masturbation routine. Um, TMI.
- We also find out that Charlie's dad talked to his sister's boyfriend's parents. Man, all this no-naming makes things complicated.
- Inquiring minds (well, just Charlie's, really) want to know: does the boy have "problems at home" like Michael allegedly did?
- Dad's answer: "Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it's no excuse" (1.9.7). Tell that to the contestants on The Bachelor.
Part 1, Chapter 10
October 28, 1991
- Charlie tells his reader that he's trying to participate more. We're all for that.
- At the homecoming football game, he sits with Sam and Patrick as usual. This time, they invite him to a party afterward. He says yes, even though it's his first party. (First party!)
- Well, he's seen a party before. Flashback time. But not in a fun, wavy flashback effect, nostalgic kind of way.
- When Charlie's parents were out of town, his brother threw a huge party.
- Sound fun? Well, big bro ordered Charlie to stay in his room, where all the attendees would put their coats.
- Long, traumatic story short: Charlie witnessed a date rape while hiding in the pile of coats.
- But it's only now, when he tells Sam and Patrick about what he saw, that he realizes that Dave raped the girl.
- Charlie thinks he should tell someone, but Sam says no. She says there are too many "things you have to go through to prove it, especially in high school when the boy and girl are popular and still in love" (1.10.32).
- Although Charlie doesn't tell anyone about the rape, he tells us that he let the air out of Dave's tires. He seems to get some satisfaction out of that, at least.
- On the way to the party, Sam and Patrick drive through a tunnel and listen to the radio. After the song is over, Charlie says, "I feel infinite" (1.10.37). Deep, Charlie.
- But wait, we want to feel infinite! Too bad he doesn't say the name of the song.
- At the party, Charlie meets a bunch of new people, including Bob, whose house the party is at.
- Bob gives Charlie a brownie. Let's just say this brownie isn't how Betty Crocker would make it. Unless Betty Crocker was at Woodstock.
- Charlie can't think of anything other than how much he wants a milkshake. This is what we call the munchies. So while Sam is making a milkshake, Charlie tries to find the bathroom.
- Instead, he finds something else: Patrick making out with Brad, the quarterback.
- Patrick tells Charlie that Brad is scared people will find out about the two of them, so Charlie agrees to keep their secret.
- Before leaving the party, everyone does a toast to Charlie. Apparently they think he's really awesome, but Charlie is surprised that others think about him at all.
- The dance is pretty uneventful, mainly because Charlie observes rather than participates. Hence, wallflower.
- After the dance, they drive through the tunnel in Sam's pickup truck. Sam is standing in the back of the truck, and "the wind turned her dress into ocean waves" (1.10.117). Man, this kid is poetic.
- They exit the tunnel and see the lights of the city. Charlie observes, "in that moment, I swear we were infinite" (1.10.118).
Part 2, Chapter 1
November 7, 1991
- Charlie's actually enjoying school these days. The weather is nice and he's getting to know new people, like Mary Elizabeth, one of the girls from the party.
- On a totally unrelated note, here's Patrick's story about how he met Brad:
- Instead of admitting he was gay, Brad would drink and get high a lot. Then he would use that as an excuse for not remembering what went on between him and Patrick.
- Brad's parents sent him to rehab because they didn't want him to lose the opportunity for a football scholarship.
- For a while, Brad avoided Patrick. After a few months they got back together, but only late at night at the golf course or at Bob's house where people can keep their secret.
- And that's the story of Patrick and Brad.
Part 2, Chapter 2
November 8, 1991
- Charlie has some good news and some bad news. Let's start with the good.
- It's report card time, and Charlie got a B for his English paper on Peter Pan. He's also capitalizing "English" now, which is nice.
- He says that he wants to write when he grows up. Maybe.
- In the meantime, he's helping Mary Elizabeth with her Rocky Horror Picture Show fanzine, Punk Rocky.
- "I don't write for it, but I help out" (2.2.5), writer Charlie. Dude. You just said you wanted to write when you grow up. Get a head start.
- Anyway, Charlie tells us about Rocky Horror. Patrick plays Frank 'N Furter and Sam plays Janet.
- Charlie also tells us that he loves Sam. Well how about that bomb?
- Now it's time for the bad news: Sam has a boyfriend, Craig.
- Charlie's sister tells him that Sam used to have quite the reputation for doing sexual favors at school. Oh my.
- This revelation hurts Charlie quite a bit—he doesn't want to think of Sam that way.
Part 2, Chapter 3
November 12, 1991
- We only learn two things in this short letter:
- Charlie likes Twinkies.
- Mmm. Twinkies. Wait, where were we? Oh, that's right. Number 2. Charlie tells us a story about rats, pleasurable rewards, and electric shock. It's a very interesting experiment if you can put the whole animal-testing thing aside.
- What do we learn from this? "The rat or mouse would put up with a lot more voltage for the pleasure. Even more than for the food" (2.3.2). Pleasure trumps all.
Part 2, Chapter 4
November 15, 1991
- Charlie does a lot of thinking about his brother and his dad here. Check out their "Character Analyses" for our thoughts on these important figures in his life.
- Thinking is all Charlie does in this letter. If you're looking for action, move along. Honestly, if you're looking for action, go watch Transformers. But if you're looking for deep, three-dimensional characters, keep reading this book.
Part 2, Chapter 5
November 18, 1991
- Charlie's brother cancels his trip home for Thanksgiving.
- How does his mother cope with this? Retail therapy. She takes Charlie clothes shopping. She also agrees to have Sam and Patrick over for dinner sometime. They'll be Charlie's first dinner guests since Michael.
- Speaking of Michael, Charlie thinks about the time they used to do what all teenage boys do: peep into their neighbors' windows. The two peeping Toms would try to figure out each family's story.
- To us, it almost seems like Michael is window shopping for a new family of his own.
- After telling that story, Charlie lets his reader know that Michael's parents divorced, as many parents do if their child dies.
Part 2, Chapter 6
November 23, 1991
- In this letter, Charlie is writing about his Thanksgiving dinner with family.
- Maybe Charlie's a time traveler, because Thanksgiving was on November 28th in 1991. That would give this book a whole different feel, now wouldn't it?
- Anyway, Charlie details some of the typical family bickering.
- He also talks a lot about his grandfather—you can read more about him in his "Character Analysis."
- When the family sits down to watch Charlie's brother play football on TV, Charlie notices his grandfather crying.
- At dinner, everyone goes around and says what he or she is thankful for.
- Charlie's proclamation: "I'm thankful that my brother played football on television so nobody fought" (2.6.19). How sweet.
- His great-aunt echoes our sentiment: "Amen" (2.6.21).
- Before leaving, Charlie kisses his grandfather on the cheek. Gramps wipes it off, but Charlie's glad he did it. He never got to kiss his Aunt Helen before she died.
Part 2, Chapter 7
December 7, 1991
- In Secret Santa this year, Charlie draws Patrick's name.
- He makes him an amazing mix tape. You just have to check out the playlist and listen to all the songs. We'll wait here.
- Charlie thinks about how awesome it would be if he actually wrote one of the songs on the tape.
- Instead of sitting down to write a song, he just abruptly switches topics, saying how excited he'll be to get his driver's license. Hasn't the kid ever heard of segues? We know he hasn't heard of Segways. Oh, no—they hadn't been invented yet.
- To conclude the letter, he tells us that he's read The Great Gatsby and A Separate Peace. So have we!
Part 2, Chapter 8
December 11, 1991
- For Patrick's second Secret Santa gift, Charlie decides to write him a poem.
- Oh, no he doesn't. That would require actually doing something. Instead, Charlie buys him magnetic poetry so he can make his own poem.
- Charlie gets socks from his Secret Santa.
Part 2, Chapter 9
December 19, 1991
- The tension builds as Charlie reveals his Secret Santa gifts: slacks, a tie, a white shirt, shoes, and—wait for it—a belt. If he gets a cardigan, he could be Mr. Rogers. Who we love.
- For Patrick, Charlie has purchased watercolor paints (so Patrick can make his own painting) and a book on how to play the harmonica (so Patrick can play his own music).
- The fifth gift is a book: The Mayor of Castro Street about Harvey Milk.
- You'd think Charlie would know not to judge a book by its cover, but he hasn't read this book and he thought the back cover looked interesting. Oh, and Milk was gay, so Charlie figures that Patrick is bound to like it.
Part 2, Chapter 10
December 21, 1991
- It's time to head to Sam and Patrick's house for the final Secret Santa swap. Drumroll please…
- All the friends sit around and drink brandy and reveal who was whose Secret Santa.
- For Patrick's final gift, Charlie reads a poem. He doesn't know who wrote it. It's called "A Person, A Paper, A Promise," and you should definitely read it for yourself.
- Everyone else exchanges presents.
- Patrick reveals that he's Charlie's Secret Santa. His final gift? A suit coat. "All the great writers used to wear suits all the time" (2.10.12).
- Charlie gives everyone a gift, even though they didn't get him anything.
- His gift to Sam is the most special: a record of the Beatles' "Something" that his Aunt Helen had given him.
- In response, Sam tells him she loves him. (!)
- But wait! There's more! She also got him a typewriter.
- That clicking on the keys is the noise of Charlie typing to Sam on the blank page, "I love you, too" (2.10.30).
- Sam wants to know if Charlie has ever kissed a girl. When Charlie says he hasn't, Sam tells him that she wants his first kiss to be from someone who loves him.
- You'll never guess what happens next. She kisses him.
- Charlie says that "[i]t was the kind of kiss that made me know that I was never so happy in my whole life" (2.10.43).
- At the end of the letter, Charlie includes the poem he wrote to Patrick.
Part 2, Chapter 11
December 23, 1991
- Charlie's back on his own because Sam and Patrick have left for the Grand Canyon.
- He watches kids sledding and has a lot of philosophical thoughts about how they're going to grow up and kiss someone some day—you know, the usual.
- It seems that Sam's kiss has turned Charlie into quite the philosopher, and he does a lot of ruminating.
- During all his thinking, Charlie tells us that his birthday is on December 24th. If we had the Internet in 1991, we would have sent him this e-card.
- To close the letter, Charlie tells us that Bill gave him another book: The Catcher in the Rye. Man, this Bill character is really all about the classics.
Part 2, Chapter 12
December 25, 1991
- If this letter had a return address, it would be from Ohio, where Charlie's dad's family lives.
- "I'm just thinking too fast. Much too fast," (2.12.2) Charlie says, his mind racing. We think he might be about to have a panic attack or something.
- Holiday shopping with mom and sis is super stressful, and not in the typical fighting-over-the-latest-holiday-fad kind of way.
- Although he knows what to buy Sam and Patrick, he has no idea what to get his dad.
- After much debate, Charlie buys him a videocassette (which is what movies used to be on before DVDs, which is what movies used to be on before Netflix) of the final episode of M*A*S*H.
- When the shopping stress is finally over, Charlie's brother comes home, and the family has dinner.
- The next morning, they exchange gifts before driving to Ohio.
- Charlie asks his brother a lot of questions about his girlfriend, Kelly. He's getting kind of nosy here.
- After arguing with his sister about sororities, hazing, and the Equal Rights Amendment, Charlie's brother tells his sister, "Kelly believes in women's rights so much that she would never let a guy hit her. I guess I can't say that about you" (2.12.65).
- Dad stops the car almost instantaneously.
- He breaks up the fight, then gets out of the car to sit between Charlie's brother and sister.
- Who's going to drive the car the rest of the way to Ohio? Charlie is.
- He's sweating bullets, but he does it. It feels like the longest road trip ever.
- Over the river and through the woods (or however you get to Ohio), Charlie arrives at Grandmother's house.
- Charlie's free-associative style leads him to tell us his first memory, from when he was three years old:
- At the zoo, he saw a mother cow poop on its baby calf's head and laugh for three hours. Talk about, um, poops and giggles.
- For the first couple of hours, his mom and his Aunt Helen were okay with it, because he didn't talk much at that age.
- After sharing that morsel, Charlie tells us about Christmas dinner at Grandma's house.
- He also mentions that his dad's father was very abusive.
- Lying in his dad's old bed, Charlie thinks a lot of his dad, and how he seems to feel bad around his mom and sister. The guy carries a lot of guilt around with him because he left his mom and sister with an abusive man in order to live his own life.
Part 2, Chapter 13
December 26, 1991
- This letter is about Aunt Helen. For more on her, check out her "Character Analysis." We'll just hit the highlights here.
- The family visits Aunt Helen's grave on the way home every year.
- No happy memories of cow poop here (see last chapter). Aunt Helen was molested as a girl. Charlie won't say who did it, but it wasn't her dad—it was a friend of the family.
- Also, Aunt Helen drank, took a lot of drugs, and was very promiscuous growing up.
- She cleaned herself up, but stayed with Charlie's family a lot. She let Charlie stay up late, and was the only person, other than his parents, who bought him both a birthday and a Christmas gift.
- At Charlie's birthday party on Christmas Eve, the family got a visit from a policeman.
- He told them that Aunt Helen had died in a car accident.
- The last thing she said to Charlie before she left was, "I'm going to buy your birthday present" (2.13.19).
- Charlie has lived with this guilt ever since. He thinks that if she loved him less, she might still be alive.
Part 2, Chapter 14
December 30, 1991
- It's been just four days since his last letter, but Charlie has finished The Catcher in the Rye, and read it three more times since. Hey, we liked it too, buddy.
- Somehow he's also made time for solo driving.
- First, he drives to see Aunt Helen's grave, visiting her solo for the first time.
- He tells her all about his life, his favorite books and songs, and his driving test.
- On her grave, he leaves a mix tape.
- When he says goodbye to her, he starts crying really hard. Then he makes a promise to her: from now on, he will only cry about important things. He's afraid that crying about everything will lessen the importance of crying about Aunt Helen.
- Once he gets home, he spends a lot of time trying not to cry. This ain't gonna be easy.
- Charlie comes across as extremely depressed at the end of his letter. He wants "to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that [he does] exist" (2.14.9).
- He's afraid that, if this gets worse, he'll have to go back to see the doctor.
- Talk about a revealing letter.
Part 2, Chapter 15
January 1, 1992
- Happy New Year! Well, it's not that happy for Charlie. He's acting very weird.
- He says he's seeing things move. "I was looking at this tree but it was a dragon and then a tree" (2.15.4).
- Apparently, Charlie was at a party at Bob's house and someone named Mark gave him something which is making him hallucinate.
- Charlie feels alternately philosophical one moment and like total crap the next.
- At Bob's house, Charlie can hear Sam and her boyfriend, Craig, having sex, and the noise makes Charlie want to kill himself.
- He concludes the letter by writing, "I never wanted to [feel that way]. You have to believe me" (2.15.12).
Part 3, Chapter 1
January 4, 1992
- Right off the bat, Charlie apologizes for his last letter and the suicidal wishes he recorded.
- After he mailed that last letter, Charlie passed out in the snow. He tells his reader that this—his falling asleep in strange places—used to happen a lot.
- His family takes him home and takes care of him. Also, his sister cleans up his hair, which he had taken scissors to, resulting in a very unflattering haircut. A weed-whacker could have done a better job.
- Charlie closes the letter by swearing he will never do LSD again.
- Yeah, that's probably a good idea.
Part 3, Chapter 2
January 14, 1992
- Charlie goes to the library to do research. Not for a school project, though. He's researching the long-term effects of LSD usage.
- One of the books tells him that some people take LSD and never come out of their schizophrenic state. It's like the roach motel of drugs—you check in, but you don't check out.
- That piece of information makes Charlie really paranoid.
- It doesn't help that he wore the suit Patrick got him for Christmas. Everyone at school is making fun of him.
- Charlie decides to start smoking cigarettes, and he gets his first one from Patrick.
- Sam helps talk Charlie through what she calls "the trance" (3.2.25).
- Once the world stops moving around him, Charlie is able to focus on school and, as he puts it, "put [his] life back together" (3.2.27).
- After getting good feedback on his The Catcher in the Rye paper, Charlie receives a new book from Bill: On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
Part 3, Chapter 3
January 25, 1992
- This letter starts off with a much different tone than the last few: "I feel great! I really mean it" (3.3.2).
- Why does Charlie feel so great? It might have something to do with the new psychiatrist he's seeing.
- After telling his reader about his psychiatrist, Charlie talks about an article he read which compared Kurt Cobain from Nirvana to John Lennon.
- This article spurs a discussion among all Charlie's friends, and everyone has his or her own theory as to why critics insist on comparing people to others.
- Charlie's opinion? "He is just a guy who writes songs that a lot of people like" (3.3.15). Deep. But hey, we're glad that Charlie is participating in these discussions, and he is, too.
- Of course, he overthinks things and starts wondering what important, mind-expanding conversations are happening in other Big Boys. We hate to break it to him, but most people are probably just deciding whether to have fries or onion rings.
- Charlie closes the letter by saying that he hopes his reader has had a good day. We know he's not writing to us, but you know what? We did have a good day. Thanks, Chuck.
Part 3, Chapter 4
February 2, 1992
- Charlie tells us about how he and Bill talk about life together: Charlie tells Bill about his psychiatrist, and Bill talks about where he went to school.
- Bill even lets Charlie smoke in his office, but he gives him a pamphlet on the benefits of quitting.
- Now that Charlie's done with On the Road, he gets a new book: Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. It's not about a restaurant violating health codes; it's about a junkie.
- Either Charlie told Bill more than he led us to believe, or Bill is quite insightful into Charlie's personal life and his recent drug usage.
- At home, Charlie tries to read Naked Lunch but it just confuses him.
Part 3, Chapter 5
February 8, 1992
- Charlie tells us that Mary Elizabeth invited him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Here's what leads up to it:
- Mary Elizabeth says that the latest issue of Punk Rocky, their Rocky Horror fanzine, is the best yet. And thanks to Charlie's Christmas gift, it's in color. Plus, they included the poem Charlie read to Patrick.
- That night at Rocky Horror, Craig doesn't show up.
- Even though Charlie says he's not "cut and hunky" (3.5.13) like Craig is, he steps in to play Rocky, Craig's part in the show.
- He has to wear quite a revealing costume: a gold bikini bottom, slippers, and a feather boa.
- After the show, Mary Elizabeth asks Charlie out. He gets—ahem—quite excited thinking about it.
- Charlie tries to get dating advice from his sister, but she doesn't want to talk to him. Could she possibly have something else on her mind?
Part 3, Chapter 6
February 9, 1992
- Unable to get dating advice from his sister, Charlie gets some from Sam. Some advice, we mean—although he really wants something else from her.
- Charlie's a little upset that Sam isn't jealous of Mary Elizabeth. Instead, she tells him to tell Mary Elizabeth that her outfit is nice, not that she looks pretty. "Her outfit is her choice whereas her face isn't" (3.6.4). Hmmm, interesting point.
- Other advice? Ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers, even if she talks a really long time. Oh, and he should kiss her the same way she kisses him.
- Charlie tries to get a practice kiss from Sam, but she shoots him down. Even though his move doesn't succeed, it's actually a rare suave moment for our little narrator.
- At the end of the letter, Charlie tells us that he wishes he could stop loving Sam. But he can't.
Part 3, Chapter 7
February 15, 1992
- Charlie goes to the Sadie Hawkins dance with Mary Elizabeth, but we're not sure if he actually dances. Wallflowers aren't known for their dance moves, after all.
- We do know that Mary Elizabeth talks a lot. We won't put you through that. You can check out her "Character Analysis" for the low-down.
- There's some other dance drama, though.
- Craig doesn't go with Sam to the dance, so she's really bummed. Also, Charlie's sister and her secret boyfriend seem to have some sort of fight on the dance floor.
- Oh, and one other tiny little thing: later that night, Charlie's sister tells Charlie that she's pregnant.
- Her boyfriend told her it wasn't his and broke up with her right in the middle of the dance. Great guy.
- She asks Charlie to take her to the clinic, and he agrees.
Part 3, Chapter 8
February 23, 1992
- While waiting for her at the clinic, Charlie does a lot of thinking about his sister.
- Ironically, she was the one who told Charlie where babies come from.
- Charlie starts to cry because he realizes that this is the first time anyone ever counted on him for something. Big deal alert.
- He decides to sit in the car and smoke instead of sit in the waiting room.
- When his sister comes out, the first thing she says is "Charlie, are you smoking?!" (3.8.10).
- She says she's going to tell Mom and Dad, but he knows she isn't because then she would have to tell them where she was.
- They share one of those this-really-isn't-a-funny-moment-but-we-can't-stop-laughing laughs.
- Charlie and his sister each say "I love you" before she falls asleep and Charlie drives them home.
- At home, Mom and Dad ask a lot of questions about where they've been, but Charlie's sister covers their tracks pretty well.
- That night, Charlie can't sleep, so he calls an information 800 number.
- He tells the operator, Michelle, that he doesn't want to order anything, but he hopes she's having a good night.
- She hangs up on him, but he doesn't care.
Part 3, Chapter 9
March 7, 1992
- According to Charlie, "Girls are weird" (3.9.2). At least, that's what he thinks after his second date with Mary Elizabeth.
- Before the date, Charlie's dad gives him a little father-son talk. Dad seems to be glad that Charlie isn't kissing boys anymore, which he did when he was much younger.
- On to the date! Charlie and Mary Elizabeth go to see a foreign language film and then go to a record store.
- Mary Elizabeth buys Charlie a Billie Holiday record, and they go to Mary Elizabeth's house to listen to the music and drink brandy. Underage drinking and records—what is this, 1991?
- One thing leads to another, and they do "everything you can do from the stomach up" (3.9.51).
- Mary Elizabeth asks Charlie if he thinks she's pretty, and he says she is "very pretty" (3.9.55). Before they do much more, they hear her parents come home.
Part 3, Chapter 10
March 28, 1992
- Charlie spends the first few pages of this letter telling his reader how Mary Elizabeth talks a lot. And we mean a lot.
- Once, he put the phone down while she was talking, went to the bathroom, and came back and picked up the phone. She was still talking.
- It's only been four months, but Charlie's mom asks him when he wants to have Patrick and Sam over for dinner.
- When Charlie does ask them over, Mary Elizabeth invites herself. And just like that, dinner quickly turns into The Mary Elizabeth Show. Starring Mary Elizabeth. With special guest star Mary Elizabeth. And, playing herself, Mary Elizabeth!
- After dinner, Charlie spends a lot of time trying to process his feelings, or lack thereof, for this girl.
- His sister tells him that he should be honest about his feelings. Well, that much we agree with.
Part 3, Chapter 11
April 18, 1992
- Charlie's opener is a doozy: "I have made a terrible mess of things" (3.11.2).
- It all starts when Mary Elizabeth gives Charlie an E.E. Cummings book.
- You see, she got it for Charlie because she really liked it, not because she thought he would like it.
- He shows it to everyone even though he says, "I wasn't grateful at all. Don't get me wrong. I acted like I was. But I wasn't. To tell you the truth, I was starting to get mad" (3.11.5).
- Later, he returns the book to the book store. But then he feels guilty and goes to buy it back.
- He gives Mary Elizabeth a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, because it's very special to him.
- She doesn't seem very grateful, only saying, "that's original" (we can almost feel the sarcasm in that one). Charlie seems to be offended that she's not more excited about it, even though she really has no personal connection to the book.
- A few days later, after Rocky Horror, the gang gets together to play truth or dare. Ooh la la.
- Patrick dares Charlie to "kiss the prettiest girl in the room" (3.11.23).
- Charlie, being Charlie (i.e., nakedly honest at the worst of times), kisses Sam instead of Mary Elizabeth. Oh, Charlie.
- Um, yowza. The room is so silent, you could hear a gnat burp.
- Needless to say, Mary Elizabeth is upset. She runs out of the room.
- Sam isn't too happy either, and she doesn't mince words: "What the fuck is wrong with you?" (3.11.30).
- This makes Charlie cry. Not because he embarrassed Mary Elizabeth in front of everyone, but because Sam is mad at him.
- Patrick takes Charlie home, where he puts on the Billie Holiday record and starts reading the E.E. Cummings book, both things Mary Elizabeth gave him.
- He stares out the window for a long time. "Not feeling anything. Not hearing the record. For hours" (3.11.48).
- The letter ends with a troubling statement: "Something is really wrong with me. And I don't know what it is" (3.11.49).
Part 3, Chapter 12
April 26, 1992
- None of Charlie's friends are really talking to him after the mess he made during the truth-or-dare game.
- When Charlie goes to visit his aunt Helen's grave to clear his mind, it doesn't help.
- He worries that he's brought everything on himself, because his psychiatrist says he's passive aggressive.
- Near the end of the letter, Charlie has a wish: "I just wish that God or my parents or Sam or my sister or someone would just tell me what's wrong with me. Just tell me how to be different in a way that makes sense. To make this all go away. And disappear" (3.12.14).
- He concludes the letter by telling us he bought some pot from Bob and has been smoking it almost non-stop since. That's called a not-so-genius coping strategy.
Part 4, Chapter 1
April 29, 1992
- Wow, Charlie's feeling pretty fatalistic at the beginning of this letter: "It can't be like it was. And I wasn't ready to say good-bye just yet" (4.1.2).
- He's acting like he expected to lose everything from the beginning.
- For the last week or so, he's been doing a lot of people watching—at school, at the mall. Sometimes he follows people around to see how they act. His behavior toes that fine line between really interesting in a psychological way and really creepy in a weirdo stalker way.
- The only human interaction he attempts to make is with Susan, the girl who used to go out with Michael before he died.
- Without any warning, Charlie walks up to her and says, "Do you ever miss him?" (4.1.18).
- It's not a surprise—or very nice—when Susan's friends call Charlie a freak.
- But even Charlie agrees with them at this point.
Part 4, Chapter 2
May 2, 1992
- Charlie spends a good portion of this letter talking about Bob, his marijuana dealer. We haven't learned too much about Bob before this point, but check out his "Character Analysis" for more information.
- We do think it's funny that Bob has an encyclopedic knowledge of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Gotta love that Chuckles the Clown episode.
- Anyway, we do get some bad news from Charlie: Brad's father caught Brad and Patrick together. And instead of being super supportive, he beats Brad in front of Patrick.
- Patrick tries to stop it, but he can't.
- Charlie says he wishes he could "call Patrick and be his friend and help him" (4.2.10), but he does absolutely nothing.
- The only thing he does do is go to see everyone at The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Again, Charlie's, um, observant tendencies are showing, because he doesn't interact with anyone; he just leaves right after the show.
- At least he's not talking to himself, right? Oh, wait… nope. He does that, too. He pretends his friends are in the car with him, and he starts talking to them.
- To cap off Charlie's little existential crisis, he goes home to read The Stranger, which is the newest book Bill gave him.
Part 4, Chapter 3
May 8, 1992
- A lot has changed in the past week.
- Brad came back to school, but he just kind of wanders the halls like a hollow zombie. On Thursday, Patrick tries to get Brad to talk to him at lunch, but Brad ignores him.
- Charlie's too far away to hear what's being said, but Patrick looks really angry when he walks away.
- When Brad yells "faggot" (4.3.9) at Patrick, pretty much everyone in the cafeteria—oops, sorry, the "nutrition center"—hears it.
- The conflict between Brad and Patrick continues to escalate until Patrick punches Brad. Bad move. At that point, Brad and his four buddies gang up on Patrick.
- But wait! Charlie's anger-management issues come in handy when he single-handedly saves the day.
- Not only does Charlie bash one of the guy's knees with a metal chair, he almost takes another one's eyes out. (Okay, so maybe this isn't quite "saving the day.")
- Everyone else stops fighting after that, but Charlie makes sure to tell Brad who's boss: "If you ever do this again, I'll tell everyone. And if that doesn't work, I'll blind you" (4.3.20).
- Patrick and Brad's friends get suspended for a while; Brad and Charlie just get detention.
- In detention, Brad tells Charlie, "Thanks for stopping them" (4.3.27). Hey, that's what friends are for. Beating their friend's bully to a pulp… right? Oh wait, no. Totally not right.
- After detention, Sam is waiting for Charlie to give him a ride home.
- She tells him that she was really mad at him for embarrassing Mary Elizabeth at the party. She also suggests that he apologize to Mary Elizabeth. (We concur.)
- Aside from all that, they're back to being friends again. Charlie was really overreacting—all everyone really needed was some time to cool off.
- Turns out Mary Elizabeth has a new boyfriend, Peter. He's pretty much the exact opposite of Charlie, and she's happy.
- Before ending the letter, Charlie tells his reader that he "figured that it was about time to stop smoking so much pot" (4.3.57).
- Also, Patrick has quit playing Frank 'N Furter in Rocky Horror.
Part 4, Chapter 4
May 11, 1992
- Charlie tells us that he's been hanging out with Patrick a lot lately.
- They drive around town, Patrick talks, and Charlie smiles and nods and says "Sure" (4.4.19) a lot.
- It seems like Patrick is existing solely on cigarettes, coffee, and caffeine pills. That is one terrible combination.
- Sometimes they see a movie or eat lunch, but they're mostly on the Patrick & Brad Hook-up Tour; Patrick is showing Charlie all the places he and Brad used to get together.
- Charlie and Patrick sit on the golf course, sip wine, and tell embarrassing stories about other kids in school.
- After their long night out, Patrick drives Charlie home and gives him a good night kiss.
- Well, then.
- Patrick says he's sorry after, but Charlie pretty much encourages him: "No, really. It was okay" (4.4.76).
- They kiss in the car for a while longer, and then Patrick starts to cry and talk about Brad.
- What does Charlie do? He just sits there and listens to him. "Because that's what friends are for" (4.4.79).
Part 4, Chapter 5
May 17, 1992
- Patrick is still dragging Charlie all around town. One night, he takes him to a park where men hook up with each other.
- After Patrick disappears into the bushes with a stranger, another man approaches Charlie.
- They smoke and make small talk for a bit before Charlie recognizes the man as a local sportscaster. When Charlie tells him he recognizes him from TV, the guy scurries away pretty quickly. It's actually a pretty funny moment.
- They go to a few more places, huff a few drugs, and Patrick picks up a few more guys. Just your average night in teenage-land.
- Here's the thing: whenever Patrick hooks up with a guy, he gets really sad afterward. And one night at the park, they actually see Brad there with someone else. Boo.
- Patrick doesn't try to kiss Charlie that night. Charlie says, "He just thanked me for being his friend. And drove away" (4.5.25).
Part 4, Chapter 6
May 21, 1992
- The school year is coming to an end in a month. Charlie's friends are making prom plans.
- Bill tells Charlie that he was originally planning to move to New York to be a playwright, but he's realized he really enjoys teaching high school English.
- They talk about books and life, and Bill gives Charlie a copy of The Fountainhead to read.
- Not much else happens in this letter. Charlie mentions that he's enjoying school, which is ironic considering he was so afraid of it in his first letter. Ah, how times have changed.
- He also says that Patrick stopped drinking. Awesome.
Part 4, Chapter 7
May 27, 1992
- Charlie tells us that reading about Ayn Rand made him want to write a story.
- So he writes one sentence: "Ian MacArthur is a wonderful sweet fellow who wears glasses and peers out of them with delight" (4.7.3).
- Hooked? Want to read more? Too bad. That's the only line Charlie writes.
- He spends the rest of the letter thinking about his own graduation… which, in case you (or he) didn't realize, is over three years away.
Part 4, Chapter 8
June 2, 1992
- Charlie tells his reader about the senior prank at his school: they filled the pool with grape Kool-Aid.
- All of Charlie's friends and his sister are talking about prom or college. Meanwhile, Charlie's a little upset thinking about Sam going to college.
- Despite that, he's found time to finish The Fountainhead. Which, at over 700 pages, isn't an easy task.
- He tells us about the philosophy in it—pretty straightforward—and how he's applied it to his own life: "Every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people" (4.8.11).
- At the end of the letter, he tells us that his psychiatrist keeps asking him questions about his childhood, but he doesn't know why.
Part 4, Chapter 9
June 5, 1992
- The book isn't over, but school is, and everyone rides off into the sunset.
- Well, they run off into the sunset. Patrick, Sam, and Charlie, filled with the thrill of the last day of school (for Sam and Patrick, anyway), run up a hill into the sunset. "And everything was as good as it could be" (4.9.2).
- Later, they go to Rocky Horror, and Patrick plays Frank 'N Furter one last time.
- Charlie's sister even goes to the show, and she and her boyfriend dance the Time Warp.
- The loser of the dance contest has to pretend to have sex with a stuffed Gumby doll on stage. Charlie doesn't want his sister to lose, so he gives her some tips before the dance. It's just a jump to the left, you know. And a step to the right…
- Finally, they go to a party at Craig's house, and Charlie plays deejay: "It was a great way to sit alone at a party, and still feel a part of things" (4.9.9). That's our wallflower for you.
Part 4, Chapter 10
June 9, 1992
- Charlie still has a few days of school left, even though all his friends have graduated.
- That's a big problem with having older friends; Charlie has no one to hang out with, and he's super lonely.
- He spends a lot of time living in his head, thinking about how everyone else is doing, and hoping everyone has a fun time at prom.
Part 4, Chapter 11
June 10, 1992
- This is another lonely letter from our little wallflower, the fourth in ten days if you're keeping track.
- He has good news: a perfect score on his math final, probably a perfect score on his bio final, and he thinks he aced the English one, too.
- But none of this success seems to make Charlie very happy.
- Bill did invite Charlie to lunch at his house, though, and Charlie seems to be looking forward to that.
Part 4, Chapter 12
June 13, 1992
- Compared to the last few letters, this is a long one.
- The major news: Craig and Sam have broken up. Of course, Charlie has a lot to say about this.
- Long story short, Craig had been cheating on Sam. A lot. Mary Elizabeth's boyfriend, Peter, knew about it, and convinced him to tell Sam.
- Charlie writes that he "wasn't happy about Craig and Sam breaking up. Not at all" (4.12.31). Really, Charlie? Really?
- He then describes lunch at Bill's house, where he meets Bill's hippie girlfriend for the first time. They listen to music and eat salad and spaghetti, and during lunch they have a couple of very special moments.
- Bill tells Charlie that he's "very special" (4.12.53) and that he considers Charlie a friend. Apparently the feeling is mutual because Charlie says that Bill is "the best teacher [he] ever had" (4.12.57).
- Before wrapping up the letter, Charlie writes that the last person to call him special was his Aunt Helen. But he thinks, "everyone is special in their own way" (4.12.62). Maybe Charlie could get a job on Sesame Street.
Part 4, Chapter 13
June 16, 1992
- The wheels on the bus—and in Charlie's head—go round and round. Charlie rides the bus home on the last day of school and reminisces about bus rides from the past.
- Also, his brother has come home from college. In fact, the whole family has come to town for Charlie's sister's graduation.
- They all attend the graduation, and despite Charlie's grandpa's racist remarks, everything goes pretty smoothly for a Charlie family function.
- That night, Patrick invites Charlie to go out with him and Sam, but Charlie has to wait until his family leaves.
- Charlie writes a very beautiful paragraph about the tunnel he drives through on the way to the dance club. It might even be a metaphor for something. Life, perhaps. Or a car commercial.
- All Charlie's friends are at the dance club when he finally gets there.
- Charlie gets to share a dance with Sam. From what he's told us, this is his first dance ever. How did he know he was a bad dancer if he never tried? And, really, is anybody a good dancer? Every contestant on So You Think You Can Dance notwithstanding?
- Anyway, after dancing, Charlie gives everyone all the gifts he got them. We're sorry, but where does this kid get all his money from?
- His gifts to Patrick and Sam didn't cost a thing (Charlie's love don't cost a thing, we guess). He gives them all the books he's read and enjoyed over the past year.
- When they read the cards he gave them, it finally sinks in that they're really leaving, and Charlie starts crying.
- Sam takes him into the kitchen to calm him down. She tells him that she's scared to go to college, but she will call him if it gets to be too much. She wants him to do the same if high school becomes overwhelming.
- On the last day of school, Charlie approaches the kid who had the locker next to him and introduces himself.
- "All he said was, 'I know'" (4.13.134).
Part 4, Chapter 14
June 22, 1992
- It's the night before Sam is leaving for Penn State's summer program, and she and Charlie share an intimate chat.
- She wants to know a few things, like why did Charlie let Patrick kiss him, and why didn't he ask her out when Craig broke up with her?
- Basically, she wants to know why isn't he participating in his own life—but she says it better than we can. Check it out.
- They have a very nice, productive discussion that leads to a steamy make-out session.
- Charlie is really affected emotionally when Sam touches him in his bathing-suit zone. But not in a good way. He's not sure what's going on, but he's having a little internal freak-out.
- He goes pale and weird, and Sam has him lie down on the couch.
- When he falls asleep, he has a dream about Aunt Helen. A memory has come to the surface—a memory of Aunt Helen touching him the way Sam just did.
- Sam leaves for college in the morning, and Charlie drives himself home.
- When he gets home, things are really strange. For example, he sees TV shows on TV, even though the television isn't on.
- Charlie ends the letter by telling us that he doesn't want his reader to worry about him.
- He also thinks they deserve a nice life.
- Then he says goodbye, ending the final letter of Part 4.
August 23, 1992
- Charlie has been in the hospital for the last two months. He got there after his dad found him watching TV naked in a weird trance.
- The breakdown happened when Charlie finally realized that his Aunt Helen had been molesting him every Saturday when they would watch TV together.
- His family comes together to support and help him. Even distant relatives write letters and send flowers.
- It also seems to help when Mary Elizabeth and the rest of the gang visit him in the hospital. All her talking makes things seem normal again. Who knew being a chatterbox could be so helpful?
- For a few pages, Charlie says he forgives his Aunt Helen, and he ruminates on how important small things in life are—like eating French fries with his mother and just being with family.
- Sam and Patrick take Charlie through the "infinite" tunnel one more time.
- The main message Charlie wants to get across is that he wants everyone else to be happy.
- As for himself, well, at least he's not scared of starting sophomore year of high school. Hey, maybe he'll even participate!
- He tells his reader to believe that things are good for him, "and even when they're not, they will be soon" (Epilogue.23).
- Then he says that he will believe the same thing about his reader.
- And, for the last time, he signs off. "Love always, Charlie" (Epilogue.25).