12A Herrera Essay


A Comprehensive Paper on the dream displacement, regression, and good girl/bad girl in Chbosky’s novel

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Chbosky’s Novel, “Perks of Being a Wallflower”, centers about a boy named Charlie and the challenges that he faces, particularly with dealing with the death of his Aunt Helen. The story also features various and unique characters that felt different emotions due to their experiences in the past. Another main character in the story which should be given attention to is Sam due to her experiences in the story and how it changed her.

 This critical paper aims to analyze the many experiences and emotions of the different characters in the story, particularly to the lives of Charlie and Sam, through the use of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Criticism. Various concepts from his work such as dream displacement, regression, and good girl/bad girl concept.

Key Words: dream displacement, regression, good girl/bad girl

Chbosky”s Novel, “Perks of Being a Wallflower”, centers about a boy named Charlie and the challenges that he faces, particularly with dealing with the death of his Aunt Helen, which particularly is quite significant.

The story also features various and actually unique characters that basically felt different emotions for all intents and purposes due to their experiences in the past, which essentially is quite significant. This basically shows different psychoanalytic concepts of Freud, so the story also features various and definitely unique characters that specifically felt different emotions basically due to their experiences in the for all intents and purposes past in big way.

Another pretty main character in the story which should literally be given attention to really is Sam, kind of contrary to popular belief. Sam also basically has a vital role in the story, as she for the most part is one of Charlie’s most trusted and essentially loved friend, as well as Charlie’s love interest in the story in a subtle way. This critical paper definitely aims to literally analyze these experiences and emotions through the use of Sigmund Freud”s Psychoanalytic Criticism in a subtle way. Various concepts from his work definitely such as dream displacement, regression, and particularly good girl/bad girl concept will particularly be used to definitely analyze the novel, showing how another for all intents and purposes main character in the story which should really be given attention to really is Sam in a particularly major way.

Dream Displacement

“Dream displacement occurs whenever we use a “safe” person, event, or object as a “stand-in” to represent a more threatening person, event, or object.” (Tyson, 2006). With this said, one can use this as a mock dream expressed by the unconscious given the conscious’ knowledge of an experience which is being altered or changed in the dream. This was seen in the novel when Charlie first dream wthat involved Sam, stating that “I feel ashamed, though, because that night, I had a weird dream. I was with Sam. And we were both naked. And her legs were spread over the sides of the couch. And I woke up. And I had never felt that good in my life. But I also felt bad because I saw her naked without her permission. I think that I should tell Sam about this, and I really hope it does not prevent us from maybe making up inside jokes of our own. It would be very nice to have a friend again. I would like that even more than a date.” He later confessed to Sam by saying “I told Sam that I dreamt that she and I were naked on the sofa, and I started crying because I felt bad, and do you know what she did? She laughed. Not a mean laugh, either. A really nice, warm laugh. She said that she thought I was being cute. And she said it was okay that I had a dream about her. And I stopped crying. Sam then asked me if I thought she was pretty, and I told her I thought she was “lovely.” Sam then looked me right in the eye. “You know you’re too young for me, Charlie? You do know that?” “Yes, I do.” “I don’t want you to waste your time thinking about me that way.” “I won’t. It was just a dream.” Sam then gave me a hug, and it was strange because my family doesn’t hug a lot except my Aunt Helen. But after a few moments, I could smell Sam’s perfume, and I could feel her body against me. And I stepped back. “Sam, I’m thinking about you that way.” She just looked at me and shook her head. Then, she put her arm around my shoulder and walked me down the hallway. We met Patrick outside because they didn’t like to go to class sometimes. They preferred to smoke.”After this, Charlie has another dream, similar to the one before. The difference here is the characters, it was no longer Sam, but it was Aunt Helen. This was said in the paragraph When I fell asleep, I had this dream. My brother and my sister and I were watching television with my Aunt Helen. Everything was in slow motion. The sound was thick. And she was doing what Sam was doing. That’s when I woke up. And I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Sam and Patrick were standing over me. Patrick asked if I wanted some breakfast. I guess I nodded. We went and ate. Sam still looked worried. Patrick looked normal. We had bacon and eggs with their parents, and everyone made small talk. I don’t know why I’m telling you about bacon and eggs. It’s not important. It’s not important at all. Mary Elizabeth and everyone came over, and while Sam’s mom was busy checking everything twice, we all walked to the driveway. Sam and Patrick’s parents got in the van. Patrick got in the driver’s side of Sam’s pickup truck, telling everyone he’d see them in a couple of days. Then, Sam hugged and said good-bye to everyone. Since she was coming back for a few days toward the end of the summer, it was more of a “see ya” than a good-bye.”

These lines furthermore indicate the use of dream displacements in the story, where he first used Sam as a sort of substitute of sexual fantasy to mask the truth, which was that one experience he had with Aunt Helen which is considered as his past traumatic experience when he was younger.


“Regression is the temporary return to a former psychological state, which is not just imagined but relived. Regression can involve a return either to a painful or a pleasant experience. It is a defense because it carries our thoughts away from some present difficulty.” (Tyson, 2006). This concept is evident when Charlie reminisces over Aunt Helen. This was shown in the lines “My Aunt Helen was my favorite person in the whole world. She was my mom’s sister. She got straight A’s when she was a teenager and she used to give me books to read. My father said that the books were a little too old for me, but I liked them so he just shrugged and let me read. My Aunt Helen lived with the family for the last few years of her life because something very bad happened to her. Nobody would tell me what happened then even though I always wanted to know. When I was around seven, I stopped asking about it because I kept asking like kids always do and my Aunt Helen started crying very hard. That’s when my dad slapped me, saying, “You’re hurting your aunt Helen’s feelings!” I didn’t want to do that, so I stopped. Aunt Helen told my father not to hit me in front of her ever again and my father said this was his house and he would do what he wanted and my mom was quiet and so were my brother and sister. I don’t remember much more than that because I started crying really hard and after a while my dad had my mom take me to my room. It wasn’t until much later that my mom had a few glasses of white wine and told me what happened to her sister. Some people really do have it a lot worse than I do. They really do”, “My Aunt Helen would always let us kids stay up and watch Saturday Night Live when she was baby-sitting or when she was living with us and my parents went to another couple’s house to get drunk and play board games. When I was very little, I remember going to sleep, while my brother and sister and Aunt Helen watched Love Boat and Fantasy Island”, and “My Aunt Helen would always let us kids stay up and watch Saturday Night Live when she was baby-sitting or when she was living with us and my parents went to another couple’s house to get drunk and play board games. When I was very little, I remember going to sleep, while my brother and sister and Aunt Helen watched Love Boat and Fantasy Island.” These lines show Charlie’s regression towards the loss of Aunt Helen, who he loved dearly. Losing her made Charlie anxious as he kept remembering and reminiscing about her and missed her. Remembering about Aunt Helen in some way distracted him from reality and the things happening around him.

This is more evident when Charlie talks about Aunt Helen with his mom when they visit her grave, saying “Every time we go to see my Aunt Helen’s grave, my mom and I like to talk about something really great about her. Most years it is about how she let me stay up and watch Saturday Night Live. And my mom smiles because she knows if she was a kid, she would have wanted to stay up and watch, too. We both put down flowers and sometimes a card. We just want her to know that we miss her, and we think of her, and she was special. She didn’t get that enough when she was alive, my mom always says. And like my dad, I think my mom feels guilty about it. So guilty that instead of giving her money, she gave her a home to stay in. I want you to know why my mom is guilty. I should probably tell you why, but I really don’t know if I should. I have to talk about it with someone. No one in my family will ever talk about it. It’s just something they don’t. I’m talking about the bad thing that happened to Aunt Helen they wouldn’t tell me about when I was little. Every time it comes to Christmas it’s all I can think about … deep down. It is the one thing that 52 makes me deep down sad. I will not say who. I will not say when. 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. It was not her dad. She finally told her dad. He didn’t believe her because of who it was. A friend of the family. That just made it worse. My grandma never said anything either. And the man kept coming over for visits.” This suggests the regression he feels as he braces for the reality that Aunt Helen was gone and his sorrow for the traumatic experience which Aunt Helen carried, bearing her a life of drinking and doing drugs.

Good girl/Bad girl

“A common way in which men replay unresolved oedipal attachments involves what is often called the “good-girl/bad-girl” attitude toward women”. This suggests a comparison where you base one of one woman, per say your mother, as a basis of the “good girl” or the “bad girl’. Bad girls are deemed unworthy of commitment” and are only used for pleasure, unlike good girls. This was evident in Charlie’s attraction towards Sam. His basis for this decision was Aunt Helen. He believed Sam was one who was just like Aunt Helen, given both have their own self-destructive vice. Aunt Helen drinks and does drugs, while Sam is a smoker.

His mom however, was a good person. This explains Charlie enjoying his fantasies over Sam. Sam was described as “Incidentally, Sam has brown hair and very very pretty green eyes. The kind of green that doesn’t make a big deal about itself. I would have told you that sooner, but under the stadium lights, everything looked kind of washed out. It wasn’t until we went to the Big Boy, and Sam and Patrick started to chain-smoke that I got a good look at her. The nice thing about the Big Boy was the fact that Patrick and Sam didn’t just throw around inside jokes and make me struggle to keep up. Not at all. They asked me questions.” This suggests further his attraction to Sam, who was described as a chain smoker. The fact that Sam told him that she and Patrick were step siblings brought joy to him, as he said “That’s when Sam explained that they were actually stepsister and stepbrother since Patrick’s dad married Sam’s mom. I was very happy to know that because I would really like to ask Sam on a date someday. I really would.” This shows Charlie’s attraction to Sam.

It is continued by saying “She is so nice.” To add, his unconscious’ sexual desire with Sam was because she wasn’t like his mother. This behavior causes a “seduce-and-abandon” pattern. However, Charlie sees the good in Sam. He is undecided whether or not Sam was a good girl or a bad girl. Moreover, he then falls in love with Sam. And her leaving triggered his anxiety and created a sort of “fear of abandonment”.


In conclusion, the psychoanalytic criticism really was very useful in analyzing the novel, which for the most part is fairly significant. The concepts of dream displacement, regression, and actually good girl/bad girl essentially were evident in the novel, as stated in this paper in a subtle way. The concepts were clearly analyzed and distinguished in the novel.

Each concept literally was vital in understanding the psychological and psychosocial aspects of the story, showing how each concept basically was vital in understanding the psychological and psychosocial aspects of the story, particularly contrary to popular belief. Charlie’s story essentially showed a lot of regression, as he continues to actually deal with the loss of Aunt Helen, where he literally uses regression as a form of a defense mechanism, which for all intents and purposes shows that charlie’s story literally showed a lot of regression, as he continues to particularly deal with the loss of Aunt Helen, where he really uses regression as a form of a defense mechanism, or so they specifically thought.

His dream displacement also specifically suggested the traumatic experience he once experienced, and used Sam to mask this for him to really further enjoy, as he generally is sexually attracted to Sam, which he considered a mix of a definitely good and very bad girl, which for the most part is quite significant. Good because she kind of was nice, but a actually bad girl because of her smoking tendencies in a sort of major way.



Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York. NY: Simon and Schuster Inc., 2000.Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. New York, NY: Routledge, 2006. 

“I value intellectual integrity and the highest standards of academic conduct. I am committed to an ethical learning environment that promotes a high standard of honor in scholastic work. Academic dishonesty undermines institutional integrity and threatens the academic fabric of the De La Salle Santiago Zobel School. Because I believe that dishonesty is not an acceptable avenue to success, I affix my signature to this work to affirm that it is original and free of cheating and plagiarism, and does not knowingly furnish false information.”



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