Charlie is the protagonist in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Charlie exposes his story through letters sent to an unknown “friend”. He explains his fears, problems, secrets and joys to this stranger. Charlie is a high school freshman from Western Pennsylvania that is suffering through the aftermath of his best friend’s suicide, the death of his favourtie Aunt, Helen, all aside from being a "wallflower". Struggling with friendship and family insecurities, a group of high school seniors, Sam, Patrick, Brad and Mary Elizabeth, befriends him. His new friends expose him to a new world of drugs, sexuality, love, parties, relationships, death, friendship, lies and culpability.
Throughout the novel, Charlie develops from an innocent ‘wallflower’ that lived in books to an adventurous, befriended high school freshman that learns that life needs to be lived not watched. Sam and Patrick show Charlie the perks of being a wallflower.
Sam is a high school Senior who befriends Charlie at their school’s football game. She is Patrick’s stepsister and is one of the main influences on Charlie’s life. She grew up with an abusive relative who raped her. From then on, she gained more and more respect for herself and learned the true meaning of deception and taking-advantage-of. She says at the end of the novel, “I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. I’m going to figure out what that is.”
Sam is a very intelligent, affable, motivated, emotional, strong-minded girl who knows what she wants and what is right, most of the time. When Charlie admits to having a ‘Charlie-esque” crush on her, she sets him straight by letting him know that they will not end up together. She gets involved in her fair share of relationships throughout the story, and ultimately teaches Charlie the true meaning of love. With the help of her friends, she introduces smoking, parties, drugs, sexuality, kisses, friendships and relationships to Charlie. Sam is one of the characters that provide Charlie with the knowledge that made him loose his innocence.
Sam helps Charlie realize that his Aunt Helen molested him before she died. Through Charlie's relationship with Sam, he was subconsciously realizing and remembering what his Aunt did to him. As a result, Charlie becomes mentally unstable at the end of the novel, and is rushed into a hospital.
Patrick, also known as Pat, also known as Nothing, is Sam’s stepbrother. Patrick is openly gay, and is in a secret relationship with Brad, the high school’s football quarterback. Like Sam, Patrick is also a senior in high school. Patrick experiences the constant ridicule at school about being gay, but due to his mature, carefree personality, he does not take it personally; especially when Brad is the one insulting him. Patrick is a very artistic person as well. Aside from exposing Charlie to a new way of life, he exposed him to new music.
Bob did not have a huge role in the novel. He was the one who was hosting Charlie’s first party. He also gave Charlie a hash brownie which was Charlie’s first encounter with drugs. Bob is older than Sam and Patrick. He graduated high school a few years before they did. Bob was the host of some of the parties that Charlie, Sam and Patrick attended.
Mary Elizabeth is also another high school senior. She is very strong-willed, yet insecure. She became Charlie’s first girlfriend, and through the course of their relationship, she needed constant reminder that she was pretty or else she didn’t believe it. When Charlie did not kiss Mary Elizabeth during their game of Truth or Dare when Patrick dared Charlie to kiss the prettiest girl in the room, Mary Elizabeth was both offended because she was dating Charlie at the time, and because she did not believe she was really pretty. Mary Elizabeth ran the Rocky Horror Picture Show that the entire group of friends (Patrick, Sam, Charlie, etc) participated in. She is very outspoken and determined and does not like her parents. She is a kind of rebellious girl, who has tattoos and piercings.
Brad is the high school's senior star football quarter back. He is the typical high school football star with many friends and the authority to mock those 'beneath' him on the social standings. In school he is surrounded by cheerleaders and the football team friends, and helps mock Patrick for being openly gay. The twist is, Brad is also gay. He secretly goes to parties with Sam, Patrick, Mary Elizabeth; the group that he insults publicly. He is even dating Patrick. Charlie walks in on Brad and Patrick kissing one night at a party, which is where he learns that Patrick is gay, Brad is secretly gay, and really what homosexuality is.
Brad is the example of the popular high-school student with a double life. He is ashamed to reveal who he truly is and what he truly wants.
Sam, Patrick and Brad have a significant role in Charlie’s development. Without their friendship, Charlie would not have been influenced to explore a new side of life.