Flowers For Algernon

A Startling Human Experiment

Book Summary

Charlie Gordon is a mentally handicapped person who gets an operation which is supposed to raise his intelligence level. Afterwards, he falls in love with Alice, his teacher. Charlie made his friends at the bakery feel inferior because he's smarter than them so they booted him. Charlie remembers when his mother, Rose, decided to have his father send him away. Charlie goes to Chicago to the science convention during which he releases Algernon, a rat who had a similar operation done on him, from his cage. Charlie then meets Fay, who is a party girl, at his apartment and they have an affair. Then he goes to visit his father at his barbershop but his father does not recognize him and so he decides not to tell him. Charlie finds out the old Charlie is actually not gone after all and lives in his mind and does not want him to love Alice. After this revelation, he overcomes the old Charlie by sleeping with Fay or so he thinks. Algernon starts to act weird (starts to act aggressive and is uncooperative) and then Charlie visits the Warren State Home which is a place that takes in mentally handicapped people. A while afterwards, Algernon died. Charlie went to Dr. Nemur's cocktail party and makes a fool out of himself. A short while later, he finds the flaw in the experiment. The flaw in the experiment was that Charlie's intelligence was decreasing at a rate proportional to how fast it increased. After finding the flaw in the experiment he visits his mother. While visiting his mother, Rose, Charlie finds out that his sister, Norma, only hated him because the kids left her out for being his sister. After visiting his mother, the symptoms of the "Algernon- Gordon Effect" start to take their toll. After the symptoms start to take effect, Charlie starts to become mentally handicapped again. Alice and Charlie's relationship deteriorates and Alice says to Charlie "There's more to it than just having a high IQ.(pg 209.) What she meant by this was even though Charlie was really smart, he lacked social skills. Shortly afterwards, Charlie becomes mentally handicapped again.
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Charlie faces a character vs self conflict. After the operation, Charlie goes from a likeable, retarded person to an unlikeable person who's oblivious to how he makes others feel. As Nemur put it, "This Experiment was calculated to raise your intelligence, not to make you popular. We had no control over what happened to your personality, and you've developed from a likable retarded young man into an arrogant, self-centered bastard."
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Character Analysis

Charlie is extremely smart after the operation. Also, He’s oblivious to how he makes others feel. He’s cheating on Alice with Fay even though he really loves Alice and not Fay. His friends are Frank, Burt, Nemur, Alice, Fay, Strauss, Gimpy, Mr. Donner, Joe, and Fanny. His family is Rose, Norma, and Matt Gordon.

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The theme is that being smart doesn’t get you everything. After becoming very smart, Charlie lacks social skills and is oblivious to how he makes others feel. The theme as Alice put it is "There's more to it than just having a high IQ."(pg 209.)

Textual Evidence

The most powerful part of the book was at the end when Charlie and Alice were arguing about him not picking up the trash. This is the most powerful part of the book because during this scene, Alice not only gives a beautiful and concise summary of how Charlie has changed, but also gave the biggest theme of the book. Alice says to Charlie, “Neither do I, but you lost something you had before. You had a smile.” Charlie interrupts her, “An empty, stupid smile.” “No, but a warm, real smile because you wanted people to like you.” “And they played tricks on me, and laughed at me.” Yes, but even though you didn’t understand why they were laughing, you sensed that if they could laugh at you they would like you. And you wanted them to like you. You acted like a child and you even laughed at yourself along with them."

Book Review

I would give this book five stars because Flowers For Algernon provides relatable characters who the antagonist can bounce off of and character development. It provides a perspective for the situation on autism. Flowers For Algernon features literary devices such as foreshadowing and symbolism. Not to mention that the story is very original.

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