The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Themes and Colors
Trauma, Abuse, and Mental Health Theme Icon
Relationships and Intimacy Theme Icon
Masculinity and Violence Theme Icon
Healing and Self-discovery through Literature and Writing Theme Icon
Adolescence and Transformation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

As a child, the novel’s protagonist Charlie was molested by his favorite aunt. Following this trauma, for much of his childhood and adolescence, Charlie repressed his traumatic memories, as he lacked a positive example of how to release his tension in a healthy way. Most of the people Charlie knows have also experienced trauma and abuse, including many members of his family and some of his friends. And many of the victims of abuse Charlie…

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Charlie’s experiences throughout his first year of high school re-shape his understanding of relationships and intimacy, transforming him from an emotionally numb and isolated boy to an affectionate young man with several healthy, intimate relationships. Charlie’s initial difficulty with intimacy springs from growing up in a household in which expressing affection was taboo, as well as from his childhood molestation at the hands of his beloved Aunt Helen. Because of this, Charlie has to…

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As he matures throughout his first year of high school, Charlie struggles to reconcile himself to others’ conceptions of what it means to be a man. He learns this mainly by seeing and imitating the behaviors of the men around him—social norms that instruct him in which characteristics are considered masculine. While some of the men in his life are kind, confident, and emotionally perceptive, others embody another type of masculinity—one characterized by aggression, sexual…

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By composing the novel as a series of letters written by Charlie, Chbosky emphasizes Charlie’s reliance on language to make sense of the world. Writing things down in letters to a stranger seems to give Charlie the ability to better examine and process his experiences. Charlie’s English teacher Bill recognizes his strong writing skills and encourages his love of reading and writing with extra assignments. As Charlie reads and reflects on the books Bill gives…

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In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Chbosky includes characters who had life-altering experiences in their young adulthood, like Charlie’s parents, to illustrate that the experiences of adolescence can be lingering and deeply impactful. The teenage characters in the novel have typical experiences like first dates and applying to college, but they also confront issues like accidental pregnancy, sexual assault, and suicide. Nearly every adolescent character in the story has undergone a significant…

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