The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Music Symbol Icon

Like books, the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower use music to foster connections between friends. In particular, music symbolizes shared experiences and feelings, good or bad, that cannot be expressed in words: when Charlie hears one particular song for the first time, he refuses to describe it for the reader because he can’t—one needs to listen to the song to understand it. Music influences the characters in this book in three primary ways: mix tapes, records, and the radio. Sharing songs and the experience of enjoying music together creates a sense of understanding between the listeners. Like giving books, there is also a strong pattern of gifting music to others in this novel, and music usually functions as a way of communicating affection, understanding, and friendship. For his first Secret Santa gift, for example, Charlie makes a carefully selected mix tape for Patrick, and later, when Patrick is struggling through depression, he listens to Charlie’s tape. This shows that the tape comforts him, since he can feel the affection and care that Charlie put into the music selection. In perhaps the most memorable scene in the story, Charlie rides through the tunnel with Patrick and Sam listening to a song on the radio that provides the perfect soundtrack to “driving to your first real party, and you're sitting in the middle seat of a pickup with two nice people when it starts to rain.” The experience punctuated by the perfect song makes Charlie feel “infinite” and demonstrates music’s powerful abilities to connect people and capture experiences in a way that words just can’t.

Music Quotes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The The Perks of Being a Wallflower quotes below all refer to the symbol of Music. 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

I feel infinite.

Related Characters: Charlie (speaker), Sam, Patrick
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2  Quotes

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Music Symbol Timeline in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The timeline below shows where the symbol Music appears in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
...tapes from one boy in particular, but she gives them to Charlie, who loves the music. His favorite song on the tape is “Asleep” by the Smiths. He tells his sister... (full context)
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...in Sam’s pickup truck to a party, and as he sits between them listening to music on the radio, Charlie says that he feels “infinite.” Charlie is warmly welcomed at the... (full context)
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...the dance, Patrick, Sam, and Charlie drive through the tunnel towards downtown while listing to music. Sam stands in the back of the truck flying through the tunnel with the wind... (full context)
Part 2 
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...Secret Santa exchange. Charlie gets Patrick and makes him a mix tape with carefully selected music. As he collects the songs, he experiences an “amazing feeling” thinking about many other people... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...helps him calm down. His family has dinner together and they give him birthday gifts: music from his sister and dad, a signed football poster from his brother, and books from... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...about how all the books he’s read have been read by other people and the music he likes has also been heard by other people and that makes him feel connected.... (full context)
Part 3
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
Charlie feels encouraged as he shares memories with his new psychiatrist, who has music magazines in his waiting room. In conversation with his friends, he ties something he read... (full context)
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...him a Billie Holiday record, and they go back to her house to listen to music. They drink brandy next to the fireplace, and Mary Elizabeth tells Charlie that one day... (full context)
Part 4
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
Charlie deejays at the party, and everyone complements his skills with playing the right music at the right moment. He considers deejaying to make money for college, though his brother... (full context)
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
...explains how nice everyone looked and how much fun they had there despite the bad music. Charlie’s sister and Patrick both told him that the school-organized after party was great and... (full context)
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
...girlfriend, Charlie describes their house as comfortable and filled with books. They listen to jazz music throughout lunch. After chatting for a while, Bill thanks Charlie for the wonderful experience he... (full context)