The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Tunnel Symbol Analysis

The Tunnel Symbol Icon

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

The The Perks of Being a Wallflower quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Tunnel. 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.
Epilogue Quotes

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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The Tunnel Symbol Timeline in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Tunnel 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
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...boy she’s forbidden to see. After 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... (full context)
Part 4
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...and his car keys. On his way to the dance club, Charlie drives through the tunnel thinking about how “glorious” it is. He describes it as entering a calm dream before... (full context)
Epilogue
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
...jokes to make him feel better. Patrick and Sam promise to drive Charlie through the tunnel once he’s released. Bill and his girlfriend visit Charlie and invite him to their wedding,... (full context)
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
...french fries together. Later, Sam and Patrick pick him up and drive Charlie through the tunnel. Patrick turns up the radio, and Charlie stands in the back of the truck with... (full context)