The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Charlie Character Analysis

Charlie, the protagonist of the novel, tells the story of his first year of high school through writing letters to an anonymous friend. At the beginning of the year, he is recovering from his best friend’s suicide the previous spring and feeling isolated at his new school. In his letters, Charlie is sensitive, observant, curious, reflective, and deeply lonely, feeling like an outsider even within his own family. As a child, Charlie was molested by his Aunt Helen, who was his favorite person in the world. She died while driving to buy him a birthday present on his 7th birthday, and Charlie feels at least partially to blame for her death. Throughout the novel, he carries the emotional weight of both his guilt and his repressed trauma, and his family demonstrates a pattern of keeping secrets, never really being open with each other. Because of this, Charlie feels as though he doesn’t have anyone to talk to about his problems, and he eventually experiences a mental health crisis near the end of the novel. Charlie’s open voice in the letters invite the reader in to process Charlie’s experiences along with him. He struggles through the normal teenage challenges—friend groups, intimacy, grades, etc.—along with the emotional burden of his childhood abuse. Luckily, Charlie meets Patrick and Sam, two seniors at his school who invite him into their friend group and give him a sense of belonging. Together, they bond over reading and music and navigate relationships, social expectations, and the tough and messy transitions of adolescence. Charlie also develops a stronger sense of self throughout the year through writing, reading books, and listening to music and decides that he wants to be a writer one day.

Charlie Quotes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The The Perks of Being a Wallflower quotes below are all either spoken by Charlie or refer to Charlie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Gallery Books edition of The Perks of Being a Wallflower published in 1999.
Part 1 Quotes

So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
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Some kids look at me strange in the hallways because I don’t decorate my locker, and I’m the one who beat up Sean and couldn’t stop crying after he did it. I guess I’m pretty emotional.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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My advanced English teacher asked me to call him “Bill” when we’re not in class, and he gave me another book to read. He says that I have great skill at reading and understanding language, and he wanted me to write an essay about To Kill a Mockingbird.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Bill
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:
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I walked into the kitchen, and I saw my dad making a sandwich…and crying. He was crying harder than even my mom. And I couldn’t believe it. When he finished making his sandwich, he put away the things in the refrigerator and stopped crying and wiped his eyes and saw me. Then, he walked up, patted my shoulder, and said, “This is our little secret, okay, champ?”

“Okay,” I said.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Charlie’s Dad
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
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Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.

Related Characters: Bill (speaker), Charlie, Charlie’s Sister
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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I feel infinite.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Sam, Patrick
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
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“He’s something, isn’t he?”

Bob nodded his head. Patrick then said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

“He’s a wallflower.”

And Bob really nodded his head. And the whole room nodded their head. And I started to feel nervous in the Bob way, but Patrick didn’t let me get too nervous. He sat down next to me.

“You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Patrick (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2  Quotes

I have decided that maybe I want to write when I grow up. I just don’t know what I would write.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Bill
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sometimes, I look at my parents now and wonder what happened to make them the way they are. And I wonder what will happen to my sister when her boyfriend graduates from law school. And what my brother’s face will look like on a football card, or what it will look like if it is never on a football card. My dad played college baseball for two years, but he had to stop when Mom got pregnant with my brother. That’s when he started working at the office.

Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
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When we were all getting ready to leave, 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. But I’m very glad that I did it anyway in case he dies. I never got to do that with my Aunt Helen.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Aunt Helen, Charlie’s Grandfather
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
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I had an amazing feeling when I finally held the tape in my hand. I just thought to myself that in the palm of my hand, there was this one tape that had all of these memories and feelings and great joy and sadness. Right there in the palm of my hand. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Patrick
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
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It was an old 45 record that had the Beatles’ song “Something.” I used to listen to it all the time when I was little and thinking about grown-up things. I would go to my bedroom window and stare at my reflection in the glass and the trees behind it and just listen to the song for hours. I decided then that when I met someone I thought was as beautiful as the song, I should give it to that person. And I didn’t mean beautiful on the outside. I meant beautiful in all ways. So, I was giving it to Sam.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Aunt Helen, Sam
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 68-69
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I want to make sure that the first person you kiss loves you. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Sam (speaker)
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 3 Quotes

I feel like a big faker because I’ve been putting my life back together, and nobody knows.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker)
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
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I don't know what it was, and I know we didn't really accomplish

anything, but it felt great to sit there and talk about our place in things. It was like when Bill told me to “participate.” I went to the homecoming dance like I told you before, but this was much more fun. It was especially fun to think that people all over the world were having similar conversations in their equivalent of the Big Boy.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Sam, Patrick, Mary Elizabeth
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 105-106
Explanation and Analysis:
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I won't go into detail about the whole show, but I had the best time I ever had in my whole life. I'm not kidding. I got to pretend that I was singing, and I got to dance around, and I got to wear a “feather boa” in the grande finale, which I wouldn't have thought anything of because it's part of the show, but Patrick couldn't stop talking about it.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Patrick
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
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Just before she fell asleep, she said, "Well, if you're going to smoke, crack the window at least." Which made me start laughing again.

"Charlie, smoking. I can't believe it."

Which made me laugh harder, and I said, "I love you." And my sister said, "I love you, too. Just stop it with the laughing already."

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Charlie’s Sister
Page Number: 119-120
Explanation and Analysis:
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I could say that it was the wine or the beer that I chugged. I could also say that I had forgotten the time Mary Elizabeth asked me if I thought she was pretty. But I would be lying. The truth is that when Patrick dared me, I knew that if I kissed Mary Elizabeth, I would be lying to everyone. Including Sam. Including Patrick. Including Mary Elizabeth. And I just couldn't do it anymore. Even if it was part of a game.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Sam, Patrick, Mary Elizabeth
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 4 Quotes

“You ever think, Charlie, that our group is the same as any other group like the football team? And the only real difference between us is what we wear and why we wear it?”

“Yeah?” And there was this pause.

“Well, I think it's all bullshit.”

And he meant it. It was hard to see him mean it that much.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Patrick (speaker)
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
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So, he said “thanks” and hugged me again. And moved in to kiss me again. And I just let him. I don't know why. We stayed in his car for a long time.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Patrick
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Charlie. Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm not trying to make you feel uncomfortable. I just want you to know that you're very special . . . and the only reason I'm telling you is that I don't know if anyone else ever has.”

Related Characters: Bill (speaker), Charlie
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Charlie, don't you get it? I can't feel that. It's sweet and everything, but it's like you're not even there sometimes. It's great that you can listen and be a shoulder to someone, but what about when someone doesn't need a shoulder. What if they need the arms or something like that? You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things.”

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Charlie
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I can't do that anymore. I'm sorry,” I said.

“It's okay, Charlie. Just go to sleep,” Sam said.

But I wasn't talking to Sam anymore. I was talking to someone else. When I fell asleep, I had this dream. My brother and my sister and I were watching television with my Aunt Helen. Everything was in slow motion. The sound was thick. And she was doing what Sam was doing. That's when I woke up. And I didn't know what the hell was going on.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Sam (speaker), Aunt Helen
Page Number: 203-204
Explanation and Analysis:
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Epilogue Quotes

It's like if I blamed my aunt Helen, I would have to blame her dad for hitting her and the friend of the family that fooled around with her when she was little. And the person that fooled around with him. And God for not stopping all this and things that are much worse. And I did do that for a while, but then I just couldn't anymore. Because it wasn't going anywhere. Because it wasn't the point.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Aunt Helen, Charlie’s Grandfather
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:
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I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker)
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:
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But mostly, I was crying because I was suddenly very aware of the fact that it was me standing up in that tunnel with the wind over my face. Not caring if I saw downtown. Not even thinking about it. Because I was standing in the tunnel. And I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tunnel
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:
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Charlie Character Timeline in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The timeline below shows where the character Charlie appears in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
In a letter addressed to an anonymous “Friend,” Charlie explains that he is writing to this person because he heard that they “listen and... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
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Charlie is trying to figure out how he can be “both happy and sad.” He thinks... (full context)
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At the sessions with the school guidance counselors, Charlie gets the sense that the counselors are all afraid that Michael’s friends will kill themselves,... (full context)
Michael’s death makes Charlie wonder if he, too, has “problems at home,” although he concedes that other people “have... (full context)
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Charlie’s Aunt Helen, who used to give him books to read, was his favorite person in... (full context)
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In the next letter, Charlie writes that he doesn’t like high school, and a friend from 8th grade, Susan, has... (full context)
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Charlie doesn’t get in trouble for the fight, since another student told the principal that Charlie... (full context)
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In his Advanced English class, Charlie is assigned to read To Kill a Mockingbird, and he says he doesn't have much... (full context)
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Charlie’s English teacher asks Charlie to call him “Bill” outside of class, praises his reading and... (full context)
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Charlie feels bad for the boys who like his sister, claiming that she’s mean to them.... (full context)
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One night, Charlie’s sister is criticizing her boyfriend for not standing up for himself, and he hits her... (full context)
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Charlie’s second-favorite class is shop class, where one of his classmates is called “Nothing.” Charlie explains... (full context)
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On his first essay for Bill, Charlie gets a C for run-on sentences, and Bill suggests that Charlie work on increasing his... (full context)
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Another TV memory Charlie has is watching the last episode of M*A*S*H with his family. After the episode, Charlie... (full context)
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Charlie decides to go alone to the football game on Friday night, which is something he... (full context)
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After his dream, Charlie discovers what masturbation is and explains it to the reader, “just in case.” He tells... (full context)
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After Sam tells Patrick about Charlie’s crush on her, Patrick explains to Charlie how women are socialized to desire men who... (full context)
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Charlie’s parents forbid his sister from seeing her boyfriend again, but she argues that she loves... (full context)
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Charlie explains that his parents never hit their children. Many years ago, when his dad slapped... (full context)
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Charlie admits that he masturbates regularly now and intentionally never thinks of Sam while doing so.... (full context)
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With his new friends, Charlie tries to participate more, but he admits that he often spends his time thinking about... (full context)
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Charlie remembers the party he watched his brother throw when their parents were out of town.... (full context)
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...watching Dave, now a senior, score the winning touchdown in the game. In this moment, Charlie realizes that Dave raped his girlfriend. Charlie asks Sam if they should tell someone, but... (full context)
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After the homecoming dance, Charlie rides with Patrick and Sam in Sam’s pickup truck to a party, and as he... (full context)
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Describing more of the homecoming dance, Charlie explains that Patrick and Brad didn’t speak to each other, and he saw Brad dancing... (full context)
Part 2 
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Patrick explains to Charlie how he and Brad started seeing each other after fooling around at a party, and... (full context)
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...in secret except for parties with Patrick’s friends, who understand and keep quiet about it. Charlie asks Patrick if having to keep the relationship a secret makes him sad, and Patrick... (full context)
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Charlie continues making progress on his extra reading assignments for Bill and earns a B on... (full context)
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Charlie asks his sister why Sam might feel better about herself because an older boy likes... (full context)
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Charlie’s brother calls home on rare occasions, and his parents worry about him. Charlie hopes that... (full context)
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Charlie wishes he could be on a sports team, but, as he says, the sports he... (full context)
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When Charlie’s brother finally calls home, he tells his parents that he can’t make it home for... (full context)
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Charlie thinks about spending holidays with his mom’s family. His grandfather tends to offend most of... (full context)
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As Christmas approaches, Charlie and his friends participate in a Secret Santa exchange. Charlie gets Patrick and makes him... (full context)
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Patrick loves the mix tape, and Charlie suspects Patrick knows that Charlie is his Secret Santa. For his first gift, Charlie just... (full context)
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At the party, Charlie meets Sam and Patrick’s parents, whom he likes a lot. He says they don’t make... (full context)
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Sam and Patrick leave for Christmas, vacation and Charlie spends the day thinking about his memories of sledding. He walks to the sledding hill... (full context)
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On Christmas, Charlie is feeling more anxious, but he doesn’t want to tell his mom about it. Wishing... (full context)
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At dinner on Christmas Eve, Charlie and his mom and sister wait for his dad to return home after picking up... (full context)
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...his family opens presents and his dad really likes his copy of M*A*S*H, which makes Charlie happy. On the way to their dad’s family’s Christmas party, Charlie’s brother tells them about... (full context)
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At his grandma’s house, Charlie looks at old photographs and thinks about his family’s past. His grandmother’s first husband died... (full context)
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On the ride home, Charlie’s family visits Aunt Helen’s grave and Charlie thinks about her experiences. He writes that she... (full context)
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...makes a mix tape to celebrate his first time driving alone. For his first trip, Charlie drives to the cemetery to visit Aunt Helen, where he leaves a mix tape for... (full context)
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While at a New Year’s Eve party with his friends, Charlie takes LSD and then stands outside alone thinking about how everyone else has somebody except... (full context)
Part 3
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After writing his last letter, Charlie fell asleep outside in the snow where policemen found him and brought him to the... (full context)
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Several days later, Charlie is still experiencing some hallucinations, and he worries that they’ll never stop. He tells this... (full context)
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Charlie feels encouraged as he shares memories with his new psychiatrist, who has music magazines in... (full context)
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Charlie also has a good conversation with Bill about On the Road, during which Bill makes... (full context)
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After a Rocky Horror Picture Show performance, Mary Elizabeth asks Charlie to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Craig didn’t show up to play Rocky, so Charlie had... (full context)
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Sam gives Charlie some advice for dating Mary Elizabeth, but afterwards Charlie just thinks about how he wishes... (full context)
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After the dance, Charlie finds his sister crying in the basement. He keeps asking her what’s wrong, but she... (full context)
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Charlie waits for his sister at the clinic and starts thinking about how she’ll look after... (full context)
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After Charlie’s parents find out he’s dating Mary Elizabeth, Charlie’s dad has a conversation with him about... (full context)
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Although Charlie is feeling annoyed in his relationship with Mary Elizabeth, Sam thinks they’re great as a... (full context)
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Charlie starts feeling more resentful of Mary Elizabeth, even returning a gift she gave him before... (full context)
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After Rocky Horror Picture Show on Good Friday, Charlie and his friends go to an apartment to play truth or dare, and Charlie chooses... (full context)
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Nobody calls Charlie for the rest of Easter break, so he reads Hamlet and relates to the main... (full context)
Part 4
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When they start school again, Charlie looks at the people around them and wonders what their days are like. He thinks... (full context)
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While buying another stash of weed, Charlie hears about Brad’s dad catching Brad with Patrick. Brad’s dad beat him so badly that... (full context)
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When Brad returns to school on Monday, Charlie recognizes a change in him: he no longer has a bounce in his step, and... (full context)
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On Friday night, Charlie goes to Rocky Horror Picture Show to reunite with his friends. He and Mary Elizabeth... (full context)
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Charlie and Patrick begin spending a lot of time together, and Patrick smokes heavily and takes... (full context)
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Spending nearly every night with Patrick, Charlie explains how hard it is to see his friend hurt so much. Since he can’t... (full context)
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Charlie explains that Patrick always begins their nights excited and ends them looking sad. At one... (full context)
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During the last weeks of school, Charlie writes about everyone else’s upcoming plans like graduation and prom. He says that Bill is... (full context)
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Charlie enjoys The Fountainhead and admires the author for wanting to be a great writer even... (full context)
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...the fall: Patrick is going to University of Washington, Sam is going to Penn State, Charlie’s sister is going to Sarah Lawrence, and Mary Elizabeth is going to Berkeley. Seeing his... (full context)
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At the seniors’ last day of school, Charlie feels happy for everyone he loves because they are happy. His sister even allows him... (full context)
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Charlie deejays at the party, and everyone complements his skills with playing the right music at... (full context)
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After prom, Sam and Craig broke up. Charlie explains how nice everyone looked and how much fun they had there despite the bad... (full context)
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...Sam, she leaves crying. Peter and Craig start yelling at each other, and Patrick and Charlie prevent them from getting into a fight. While they drive Peter home, he tells them... (full context)
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During his lunch at Bill’s house with Bill and his girlfriend, Charlie describes their house as comfortable and filled with books. They listen to jazz music throughout... (full context)
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Charlie hugs both Bill and his girlfriend before he leaves their house, and on the way... (full context)
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On his last day of school, Charlie rides the bus home and says that he normally sits toward the middle of the... (full context)
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The next morning, Charlie’s family has a brunch to celebrate his sister’s graduation. Charlie’s grandfather immediately begins making racist... (full context)
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At her graduation party, Charlie’s sister opens her gifts. Her older brother promised to take her shopping for her college... (full context)
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At the dance club, Charlie dances with Sam, and when a slow song comes on they hold each other a... (full context)
The next day at school without his friends, Charlie feels lonely. One kid calls him “teacher’s pet” after Bill’s class, but Charlie says that... (full context)
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...week of preparations and farewell lunches, Sam has lunch with Craig to get closure, and Charlie explains that she feels sad, but a “hopeful kind of sad.” At the last party... (full context)
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As she packs, Sam turns to Charlie and asks why he didn’t ask her out after she broke up with Craig. He... (full context)
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That night Charlie has a dream that he is watching TV with his siblings and Aunt Helen, and... (full context)
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As he drives, Charlie hears songs that aren’t playing and sees TV shows that aren’t on. He says he’s... (full context)
Epilogue
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Charlie spends two months in the hospital after his family finds him naked, unresponsive, and looking... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Charlie’s family and friends visit him regularly, and his older brother even reads Charlie’s essay on... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
In the hospital, Charlie decides that he isn’t the way he is because of what happened with Aunt Helen.... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
When Charlie gets released from the hospital he goes to McDonald’s with his mom and they eat... (full context)