The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Summary & Characters

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  • 0:03 Major Characters
  • 1:14 ~'Loser~' Makes Some Friends
  • 3:08 Charlie's First Relationship
  • 4:01 Being a Friend to Patrick
  • 5:00 Charlie, Sam, and a Big Secret
  • 5:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Expert Contributor
Kaitlyn Danahy

Kate has a bachelor's degree in literature & creative writing from Gordon College. She taught high school literature in India and tutored in the US.

Meet Charlie, a smart, shy, and unpopular high school freshman, who eventually makes friends and gets involved at school. Then, secrets from his past threaten the happiness he has managed to create. Let's review the summary and characters of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower.'

Major Characters

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a 1999 book by Stephen Chbosky. It follows Charlie during his freshman year of high school as he makes and loses friends, experiments with drugs and his sexuality, and comes to grips with his past.

Charlie is the main character and first-person narrator of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is told through Charlie's letters. Charlie is fifteen and a high school freshman.

Patrick, a high school senior, meets Charlie in shop class and introduces him to Sam. Patrick has a big secret: he's homosexual.

Sam is also a senior. She is Patrick's step-sister and Charlie's love interest. She's pretty, outspoken, and a supportive friend.

Mary Elizabeth, another senior, asks Charlie out on a date. They have a sort-of relationship.

Charlie's sister often gives Charlie advice about dating and life, but doesn't follow her own advice. She's dating an abusive boy.

Aunt Helen was Charlie's favorite aunt, but she died before the action in the story. Charlie carries guilt over her death and a big secret about their relationship.

'Loser' Makes Some Friends

Charlie just lost his only friend, Michael, to suicide. Charlie's first letter talks about his family and that he starts high school the next day. The first few days of school are rough for Charlie, as he copes with new classes and gets into a fight with a bully.

Charlie's sister gives him a mix-tape (a cassetteā€¦this is 1991, after all) of songs her boyfriend gave her, and Charlie relates to a song called 'Asleep.'

At school, Charlie loves his English class and meets a boy in his shop class named Patrick. Patrick introduces Charlie to his step-sister, Sam. Charlie develops a crush on Sam, but she tells him that she's too old for him. They become friends, and one night, Patrick and Sam invite Charlie to a party.

At the party, a boy named Bob gives Charlie a drug-laced brownie, and stoned Charlie sees Patrick kissing the football team quarterback, Brad. Brad doesn't want anyone to know that he's gay, so Charlie promises not to tell. At the party, Charlie also meets a girl named Mary Elizabeth who seems to like him.

Charlie agrees to help Mary Elizabeth with a story she's writing about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which both Sam and Patrick are involved in. Charlie admits that he has a big crush on Sam, but she has a boyfriend named Craig. At a Christmas party, Sam tells Charlie that she loves him and kisses him.

Charlie's family heads to Ohio for Christmas. The trip makes Charlie remember his Aunt Helen, and we learn that Aunt Helen died on her way to buy Charlie a birthday present, and he has felt guilty ever since.

When they get home, Charlie visits Aunt Helen's grave. At a party, Bob gives Charlie some acid, and Charlie thinks he sees dragons in the trees. Then, Charlie hears Sam and Craig having sex and wants to kill himself, and swears he will never take LSD again. He begins to see a psychiatrist and feels much better.

Charlie's First Relationship

At a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Charlie steps in when Craig doesn't show up. He has to wear a sparkly gold speedo bathing suit in front of a crowd. Mary Elizabeth is impressed and asks him out. Sam gives Charlie dating advice, and Charlie wishes he wasn't in love with Sam.

Charlie and Mary Elizabeth go to the Sadie Hawkins dance. At the dance, Charlie's sister breaks up with her boyfriend. Later, she tells Charlie that she needs a ride to the clinic for an abortion. He realizes that it is the first time anyone has ever depended on him for something, and Charlie and his sister become closer.

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Additional Activities

Writing Prompts for The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told through Charlie's letters to an unnamed person whom Charlie does not know well, yet Charlie is spilling all of his secrets to this person. For this writing exercise, you will be writing a letter along the same lines as Charlie. The letter will be either to or from one of the other teenage characters identified in the lesson: Sam, Patrick, Charlie's sister, or Mary Elizabeth. The letter should be between 300-500 words.

Prompt One:

Rather than Charlie spilling his secrets to an unknown character, write a letter in which you imagine yourself as Charlie writing a letter to the character. Charlie's relationships with all four of these characters evolve throughout the novel (from Sam not returning his feelings to returning them, from his sister being someone he looked up to, someone that is his equal, etc.). What might he want them to know?

Prompt Two:

Write a letter from one of the four characters to Charlie. Charlie is not the only character who struggles with secrets and the toll they take: Sam is ashamed of her past; Patrick is troubled by Brad's need for secrecy; Charlie's sister kept seeing the boy who hit her even after her parents forbid her from doing so. If they were to write a letter to Charlie, what would they say? Why would they feel they can trust him? What might they want Charlie to know?

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