In Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower,” Charlie seems to have some social skill issues, and seems clueless to the norms of teenage interaction.

Is there any evidence, either from the book or from comments made by the author, that Charlie has Asperger’s or any other form of autism?

2 Answers 2


It is possible but very unlikely.

According to this interview the author, Stephen Chbosky, based the character of Charlie on himself, and some of the plot on his own teenage years in Pittsburgh.

SM: How did your personal experiences translate into the film?

SC: There were certain years I remembered very well. I remember in 7th grade, I was painfully shy and didn’t venture out of my shell very often, even though I desperately wanted to ... Charlie was just an expression of how I felt deep in my heart – observing everyone and everything and really just wanting everyone to be happy.

I can find no mention of any of these diagnoses applying to Chboksy himself, so if he based Charlie's character on his own, it would seem vastly unlikely that he intended to portray Charlie as being on the autistic spectrum.

It is also worth noting that, while Charlie has some social issues, he is also empathic and sensitive to the emotions of others. For example, his appreciation that Patrick's romantic moves toward him are motivated by being on the rebound from his relationship with Brad. Also, note in the quote above that Chbosky claims Charlie is "observing" everyone and wants them to be "happy." These are, if anything, the opposite of what one except to observe of someone on the spectrum.


I find the other answer highly unknowledgeable and completely wrong. I am in my 30's and have high functioning autism. Charlie is just like me. He is definitely on the spectrum. High functioning means he is very intelligent and therefore we are able to learn behaviours.

A lot of high functioning autistic people have a gift that many cannot understand. For example, he said to the psychiatrist it's everyone else's pain he feels and sees and he wants it to stop. It feels so extreme, so intense, like fire rolling all over your soul, and all you want to do is make that other person happy and take their pain away because it physically hurts us so much.

When I hug some friends I say they feel like marshmallows, when I hug a certain person it feels like barbed wire I hate it. I can feel another person's pain and fears across the room and it's suffocating, like superman experiences. It's exhausting. It has a lot to do with the emotions from the other person that we are feeling. Yes, sometimes we cannot differentiate what it means, but most of the time we can, and it is real, so real.

Watching this film was like watching my own life in another person. Please don't tell people it's unlikely he's on the spectrum, just look at the modern day movies of Sherlock Holmes. He is 100% high functioning autistic and look at all of the accurate and emotional observations he makes, yet goes home and breaks down. That is because we use all our energy to appear 'normal' during the day, but when we go home it's our safe place and we can let down our guards.

Just because low functioning autistic people cannot differentiate between emotions, doesn't mean that high functioning Aspies can't. Autism is a variation of social and sensory issues, the key word being variation.

  • Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. I hope you are aware that this site is about literature, not about psychology. The question at hand is meant to be answered from a literary point of view, i.e. based on evidence from the novel, rather than psychology or personal experience. Could you please revise your contribution to turn it into an answer to the question?
    – Tsundoku
    Jul 5, 2019 at 21:05
  • 2
    @ChristopheStrobbe I appreciate that lamme shouldn’t really use an answer to comment on Matt’s answer. But lamme addresses empathetic expression within the autistic spectrum by referencing their own experience. Matt Thrower addressed this aspect with no references whatsoever. Should your criticism not equally apply to his answer? Where is it laid down that only evidence from the work in question is relevant to an answer? Personal experience is absolutely relevant to answering literary questions. scientificamerican.com/article/…
    – Spagirl
    Jul 6, 2019 at 8:01
  • @Spagirl "Matt Thrower addressed this aspect with no references whatsoever". He quotes an interview with Chbosky. Isn't that a reference?
    – Tsundoku
    Jul 6, 2019 at 18:55
  • @ChristopheStrobbe I know it isn't the correct use of the SE format but it seems relevant to me. I quoted the author's own experience but it's possible he was simply never diagnosed. This answer would also seem relevant to the concluding paragraph in my answer, which makes an unreferenced claim.
    – Matt Thrower
    Jul 8, 2019 at 13:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.