Dear friend, I found an old stack of letters the other day. Each was addressed the same way that this letter started and each ended with the phrase, “Love always, Charlie.” These letters, by Charlie, detail his first year as a freshman in the early nineties. Charlie is having a difficult time. He is a bit of an introvert and has suffered some significant personal losses recently, which have affected him. His best friend…well… his best friend took his own life. His favorite Aunt, the one who he felt understood him the most, she too, passed away.
Life for Charlie is not all bad. Charlie befriends Sam and Patrick, two seniors at his new school who are brother and sister. These two take him under their wing and Charlie feels something that he hasn’t felt in a long time, acceptance. He also starts to feel something new, something different. Charlie falls for Sam in a big way and he struggles constantly with these feelings for his friend.
Charlie doesn’t struggle with finding a place within this group of fast friends that come with Sam and Patrick. He defines his role within the larger group as being, more or less, a witness to the events that surround him rather than a participant. He is more than happy to just watch the group and when he watches he sees what no one else sees. His bystander attitude is what makes him part of the group. “(He) sees things. (He) keep(s) quiet about them. And (he) understand(s).” And thus are The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The world that Charlie lives in is very different than our own. In the early nineties, there were no cell-phones, no computers, no Facebook, at least not like there is today. Instead there are diners and mix-tapes. There are friends who stop by unannounced because they need someone to talk to; there is no texting to find out if someone is home or not. Experiences were shared in person, not over a screen, not with a thumbs-up button. Charlie lived in a time where personal interactions defined a relationship, if Charlie were born ten years later, would he have found the strength to find friends, real friends? Would he have written these letters? Or would he have just written a blog post while listening to the Smiths?
Charlie’s world is filled with people who care and love him in different ways. And the people around Charlie are going through their own struggles of understanding what love really is. Love is never something set in stone, it is something that grows and evolves and shifts. So if love is always in flux, then how do we accept the love that we think we deserve? Thanks Charlie. -MAS2015
The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Chbosky, Stephen
Student Choice book to present for ABR.