The tunnel into the city, though which Charlie, Patrick, and Sam often drive while listening to music, is a special place for them. Because it is a passage, the tunnel directly represents adolescence—the transition from the safe protection of family and childhood into the excitements of adulthood, which is represented by the city. While they’re driving through the tunnel, Charlie and his friends act conspicuously like adolescents: Sam, for example, stands up with the wind blowing her dress and lets out a “fun scream” once they emerge into the city. Sam’s joy in the tunnel echoes her broader joy in her adolescence—she participates in school, has deep friendships, and feels a broad range of emotions and passions. Charlie, on the other hand, is more subdued in the tunnel, which mirrors his preference for observing others embracing adolescence (without participating himself) and his emotional numbness. He describes driving through the tunnel in the calm and quiet, until “finally, just when you think you'll never get there, you see the opening right in front of you.” It isn’t until the very end of the novel that Charlie stands in the back of Sam’s truck and flies through the tunnel as Patrick and Sam drive, relishing in the freedom he feels living in the present moment. He doesn’t care about reaching downtown, but instead sees the tunnel as a destination itself—something, like adolescence, that he can enjoy along with his peers
The Tunnel Quotes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
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.