What does The Perks of Being a Wallflower teach us about life? 

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One of my favorite messages in this novel is the importance of inclusivity and celebrating diversity. When we make space for everyone's experiences and voices and see people as their authentic selves, everyone grows and learns. On the other hand, when we exclude people and judge others for their differences, we inflict pain.

Charlie feels that his depression makes him an outsider when he enters high school. His behaving like a wallflower and his alienation from others, however, only exacerbate those feelings. When Patrick and Sam become Charlie's friends, Charlie feels he can be himself with them. Even though his life doesn't suddenly become perfect because he has friends, their presence helps him navigate tough situations, like grappling with his repressed memories of his Aunt Helen's abuse.

When we judge people because we perceive they are different than the norm, we cause suffering. For example, when Brad's father discovers that Brad is in a relationship with Patrick, Brad begins to be embarrassed about the fact that he is gay to the point of mocking Patrick in public. The football team helps Brad gang up against Patrick, not knowing that someone on their team (Brad) has been in a closeted relationship because of his own insecurities. Luckily, Patrick has friends who help him mourn the end of this relationship. Brad, on the other hand, who has no one he can be his true self with, continues to repress his sexuality, desperately searching for connection with strangers while hiding the fact that he is gay from those closest to him.

One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou is, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." The Perks of Being a Wallflower is all about creating a safe space where people can be their true selves and the consequences of not having that space on both an individual and communal level. It's better to accept the truth than hate a facade.

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One of the most important lessons in The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that even during the darkest moments, human beings are capable of finding love.  

Charlie is immersed in emotional darkness.  Suppressing the memories of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his aunt, struggling with his friend's suicide, and experiencing the overall difficulty intrinsic to adolescence are all elements in Charlie's life that represent the darkest of moments.  These events can block hope in the future.  It becomes very difficult to see a bright future when the present is shrouded in such sadness and hurt.

However, the book teaches us that life has a restorative capacity within it.  Charlie concludes his bildungsroman with the idea that "Even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there."  Charlie's words remind us that the human spirit is essentially an optimistic one.  He seeks to make his life better.  While there will be struggle and pain, he is not closing off the redemption that is a part of human identity.  The book teaches us to not embody the sum total of what hurts us, but rather embrace the possibilities of what can be.

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