The Perks of Being a Wallflower The Perks of Being a Wallflower question


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Did Charlie have autism?
Nikki Nikki Apr 12, 2012 01:28PM
While reading the book I couldn't help but notice that Charlie (based on my knowledge of autism, which I must admit, is not extremely extensive) has some personality traits that could fall into the Autism Spectrum. He was intelligent, yet completely dense when it came to social situations. I can't remember if this is in reference to Asberger's Syndrome or not, but those who have it tend to not know how to display their emotions, but Charlie was very sensitive and cried a lot. I've heard that if you know one person with Autism, you know one person with autism. You cannot generalize your understanding of the disorder based on one person because the spectrum is so vast.

I was just curious if anyone else thought about this while they read the book, or if the author has said anything about it.

I would love to hear your thoughts!



Erin (last edited Apr 12, 2012 06:02PM ) Apr 12, 2012 05:56PM   5 votes
I'm a sixteen year old girl with Aspergers and I have to say I could relate to Charlie quite a lot. I tend to cry over situations that most people would find silly (admittedly, not as much as Charlie did). His awkwardness also reminded me a lot of myself. However, I'm not nearly as naive about things like sex and drugs as he is, but maybe that's because we live in two different decades. That being said, though, he was also a victim of sexual abuse...


Erin, thank you for your insight! and you bring up a good point. I had considered that his behavior may have been the result of his abuse. I just wonder what the author intended! Regardless, I thought Charlie was such a lovable character. :)


I think he was just socially awkward. He lost his aunt on his birthday when he was little, was molested, and his best friend committed suicide. His sister had an abusive boyfriend, got pregnant, and then he had to take her to an abortion clinic. How would you act if all that happen to you? I sure wouldn't know how to act after all that or what to think or how to feel.

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Dymond Moore yeah she got preggers and had charlie drive her to the clinic so her parents wouldnt find out
Aug 03, 2014 08:24PM

I don't think so. I assumed it was the result of what happened to him as a child; post traumatic disorder, things like that. He also could be naturally socially awkward; but I don't think it's the entire cause.


deleted member Dec 08, 2012 10:36PM   0 votes
I think it he just suffered from extreme shyness and social anxiety, mostly as a result of his experiences as a child.


I have read and re-read this book about twelve hundred times. While he may exhibit some symptoms of Autism/ Asperger's, it does not at all align with the plot, motive or drive of the story. Charlie is coming of age and making a pretty big leap into high school. I'm sure we all remember that first year; it is a huge transition. Charlie is entering into this Lion's den with an already tortured and tormented soul. To make matters worse, he cannot even get a handle on WHY he is so tormented, and he can't figure that out because he has displaced the "bad" feelings from his childhood. He equally HATES and LOVES his aunt and this is the worst position to be in as a prepubescent teen. I think this claim would be easier to validate without the abuse. Abuse causes a lot of emotional and mental issues. If the abuser is a family member, I mean how do you go on living with that? Who can you trust if you can't trust your family? I think these types of feelings and emotions caused Charlie to be very socially awkward and almost detached from reality sometimes. But he was an absolutely delightful character. This is one of my all time favorite books. pizza bones he he he


I noticed it, too. I wonder if it was the author's intentions.


I just thought he's weird or something.


I thought he was just odd, too.


I think maybe you'd feel differently if you read the book when you were around Charlie's age, as I assume is the author's intention.


Charlie is obviously not mentally healthy, and autism would make a lot of sense. Autism combined with repressed memories of his aunt molesting him as a child, along with the extensive amount of exposure to sexual, physical, and metal abuse he had at a young age would definitely make for a very strange and troubled person, which Charlie obviously is.


I think Charlie was an introvert and, if anything, agree with Huston up there above this post, that he was suffering from traumas. He had trust issues as a result. Also, the family dynamics being skewed toward the conforming extroverted child made him feel isolated. Further, Charlie also had the distinct brain wiring of a unique quality that I've heard described as 'creative.' Sir Ken Robinson's book about teaching creativity in schools is full of descriptions of outcasts who were later to become important subjects of art history books.


I just read the book and I would swear he has Asperger's Syndrome. As a parent with a child on the spectrum, there are many personality traits that Charlie displayed that led me to believe he is also on the spectrum. I have no idea if the author intended such, but it sure came across that way.


I definitely got Asperger's vibes from Charlie. My nephew has it, and Charlie reminds me strongly of what he would have been like if he went to high school in 1991 and not 2011. Honestly, that right there is what made me end up loving Charlie so much as a narrator. He was just so sweet and sincere to everyone.


I don't think it was Autism or Aspergers. He was mentally ill and had a breakdown. I think he had multiple issues simultaneously. (possibly depression, PTSD and some form of Social Anxiety/Emotional Disorder).


He was extremely intelligent and was mentally scarred from the molestation he experienced at the hand of his aunt. He probably had a lot of guilt because she went out driving in the snow to buy him a birthday present.


I agree, I personally thought whilst reading the book that his curious behavior was a result of both his sexual abuse as a child, and of a mental disability. Maybe either Autism or Aspergers. I also thought that maybe he suffered from a type of "post traumatic stress" disorder following his sexual abuse.


I am not an expert on the subject but I think, since I document myself a lot on Asperger Syndrom and gifted people, I can safely say that Charlie is not an Aspie.

He has, without any doubts, a lot of personality traits that falls into the austim spectrum but it does not mean he is.
As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the higher the IQ is, the more it will share particularities with autism.

A different way of seeing things leads to a different behaviour and feelings.


No, I really think he did not have autism. I think he just thought in a different way to other people and was very matter-of-fact with his words.


I don't think Charlie could be autistic. He's traumatized indirectly.


Does anyone know if the author said anything?


not at all. and that I tell you by being a psychologist!


I related to Charlie and because of the anxiety and social awkwardness and I never ever even thought of him being autistic at all. I'm not autistic and, as you said, if you know one person with autism, you know one person. I don't think Charlie show true autism, even though he may have a trait or too of an autistic person. Also listening to the DVD commentary with Stephen Chbosky I don't think he intended this take on Charlie.


I never considered that until my friend who had read the book pointed to that possibility and it certainly made the concept of the book a bit more interesting.


This was my theory throughout the book...but the end just sums it up :) and everything makes sense :)


I believe Nikki is absolutely correct. I just finished reading Perks of Being a Wallflower, and as a psychiatrist I have to say Charlie is definitely on the spectrum. Child abuse, loss, etc does not explain his level of social awkwardness and lack of "natural" connection to life events. Even the way he cries unexpectedly (and seems more child-like then a typical 15-16 yr old) is typical of those on the spectrum. I would be surprised (and disappointed) if nobody ever explored this with the author. Incidentally/coincidentally, I had just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time whose main character was an autistic spectrum boy (though this was confirmed for the reader) similar to (though more symptomatic) then Charlie.


To be honest, I think it is just a result of his childhood experiences, and through all of that grief he just became sensitive and awkward.


I often thought this throughout the book. I have only just finished it and although it was never made clear in the book whether he was autistic or not, I definitely got that feeling. Charlie kept saying that he knew something was wrong with him, but it was never addressed (besides the obvious trauma at the end.) It wasn't addressed at a deeper level and it wasn't shown by Charlie that he had discussed this with his therapist or doctor, so I wasn't sure. I searched this on google to try and find an answer and this discussion came up, which I have found very interesting. I agree with some people who have said that Bill telling Charlie he was 'special' might have been a hint to us, without openly saying so. I believe the author has left it open to interpretation, Autism is a very complex syndrome and had he openly said Charlie had it, he might have been opening himself to criticism that he didn't portray it correctly or something. I'm not sure, that is just what I think anyway. It was an amazing book and I wished I had read it when I was a little bit younger.


As a mother of a child on the spectrum, I finished the book feeling in my heart that Charlie was on the spectrum as well. When you see it, and live with it every day, it's just something that jumps out at you. No idea of the author's intent, but that was definitely my feeling.


It's odd reading over these comments that his Aunt Helen died in a car accident. The whole book I imagined she took her own life, and saw the molestation as the reason why once it was known that she molested Charlie (on top of her own past). I read and understood that she died in a car accident, but immediately forgot about it and went back to my idea until now. I will be reading it again. Any thoughts on who Charlie writes the letters to?


Yeah I kinda thought the same when reading it. And like yourself I'm not that knowledgeable about Autism but I did get that impression from Charlie when reading the novel.


This conversation cracks me up. His character perfectly described me and most of my close friends. There are a lot more "odd" people out there than you think.

It really depends on what your idea of normal is. I consider myself much more "normal" than a mom that puts her daughter in beauty pageants or hates on gay people.


I don't think it was a mental illness exactly, I think he was just scarred from his aunt's molesting him and his best friend committing suicide and all.

Altough, now that I think about it...that doesn't explain his innocence...I don't know...who cares...THIS IS AN AMAZING BOOK AND MARVELOUS MOVIE!


Charlie definitely doesn't have autism, he's just different. He's shy and he lacks social skills but I think he kind of understands people's feelings and society in general which autistic people don't.


i've read books with autistic protagonists before and they were very different. i just think he's VERY shy and socially anxious.


My friend and I both thought the same thing at first too but its hard to say really. I know a few people with Autism and it sounds very similar!


yeah, I reckon. bless him :( autism, asberges, or just very disturbed as a young child.


He did not have Autism, I know a lot of Autistic people, and Charlie definitely was not. He was just socially awkward, and had some emotional problems due to his past.


Leon (last edited Feb 15, 2013 07:06AM ) Feb 15, 2013 07:03AM   0 votes
No. Autistic people have trouble understanding concepts like sarcasm, irony, and idioms. They also adhere to routines. The Autistic Spectrum label means very little in society. That's why it's over-diagnosed. Anyone can be shy, awkward or have above-average intelligence, doesn't mean you're autistic ffs.


The odd behaviors you're seeing in charlie are probably the result of the abuse


I am pretty sure that Charlie has depression based on his wanting to be alone and away from people


I read this with my book club and we were going back and forth on this topic. I'd say we were split right down the middle-- he had Asperger's or he was just "different". I think he was definitely suffering through the repressed memory of his sexual abuse and maybe that did lead to something else. Very interesting to think about.


Definitely not. One of the definitive characteristics of autism is lack of empathy. Charlie was overflowing with empathy, so much so that it got in the way of his development.

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Helena One of the characteristics of ASD is lack of outward display of empathy, not a lack of empathy itself. Do your research before inflicting erroneous as ...more
Sep 21, 2014 10:21AM

I think he did have an ASD, among other problems. Although in 1991, few people knew what it was. That's probably why he was not diagnosed.


If Charlie had high functioning autism, he wouldn't care about making his friends happy...just himself. He also would be constantly invading their space which he didn't do, he respected their space when was told "To stay away". He was a just a victim of abuse and the results of that can make a person odd and flat and perhaps mimic autism.


Charlie was not autistic. He was depressed and has ptsd from what happened to him when he was little.


I like to think Charlie at least had Asperger Syndrome, if you feel like he fits on the Autism Spectrum. I say that because, as someone who has Asperger Syndrome, I could relate to a lot of Charlie's experiences. Of course this could also just been down to him being a socially awkward teenager or his traumatic childhood episode, but he honestly reminded me of myself in a lot of ways, especially when he was with his friends and things like house parties (basically, the wallflower).


I know many autistic people and Charlie was definitely not autistic. Aspergers, maybe. but not autism.


yeah I don't know if he had autism, but I'm pretty sure he had some sort of mental illness


i just thought he was weird and sensitive and didnt know what was going on tht much of just confuse


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