Themes and messages
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky explores themes related to growing up and teenage experiences. In particular, the novel explores how people’s childhood experiences impact their personalities and behavior as adults. Charlie’s interest in this theme is related to his repressed memories of being sexually abused as a child by his Aunt Helen. Charlie’s story reminds us that we accept the love we think we deserve and conveys messages about the importance of participating in life.
The consequences of sexual abuse
Charlie is interested in people’s childhood experiences of sexual abuse and how these experiences impact their personalities and actions as adults. He is almost obsessed with this question, although we do not understand why until the end of the novel.
Charlie explains that his Aunt Helen was sexually abused as a child: “I will just say that my aunt Helen was molested. I hate that word. It was done by someone who was very close to her.” (p. 96). He then immediately reports that his Aunt Helen had problems with drinking, taking drugs, and abusive relationships. It is clear that Charlie believes these things are related.
In the epilogue, Charlie’s interest in how childhood experiences affect adult life is explained – he has been repressing his own memory of being sexually abused as a child by his Aunt Helen. However, the doctor helps Charlie ...