Flowers for Algernon

Author: Daniel Keyes


Charlie Gordon is a 32 year old man, with the mind-set of a five year old boy. He wants nothing more than to be accepted. When called upon to undergo an experimental operation, that should raise his low IQ of 68, he does not hesitate to comply. The procedure has never been tried on a human before only on their test mouse, Algernon. Charlie is joyous as the operation takes effect. He begins to become more intelligent and can hold a conversation with people, but as time passes he is eventually smarter than anyone he knows. People begin to dislike him and he becomes obsessed with gaining knowledge his friend Alice tells him,"But these days I can't talk to you. All I do is listen and nod my head and pretend I understand all about cultural variants, and neo-Boulean mathematics, and post symbolic logic,"(Keyes 124). Will being smart be worth losing all his friends or will Charlie change his ways?

Character Analysis

Before the operation Charlie is a mentally slow, but lively and charismatic child-like man. Post operation Charlie becomes and unrelatable genius. He has a higher IQ than all of his friends and wants to have indepth conversations on physics and economics. They can't match his mental capacity which leads Charlie to feeling bored and irritated. His emotional maturity does not grow with his intelligence and he struggles to understand his and other's feelings. The operation helps him recall memories of his family. He then sees how unfairly his mother treated him. Charlie goes to check on his baby sister when she started crying and says,"One time when they were in the kitchen and I was in my bed she was crying. I got up to pick her up and hold to get quiet the way mom does. But then mom came in yelling and took her away. And she slapped me so hard I fell on the bed,"(Keyes 38). She had treated him that way because he was slow and thought he was trying to hurt her.


One of Charlie's obstacles is being mentally retarded. It prevents him from having true friends, being able to support himself on his own, and living a normal life which is his biggest conflict. Before his operation Charlie says,"I dont care so much about beeing famus. I just want to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of friends who like me,"(Keyes 13). This problem is temoporarily fixed when Charlie first begins to grow smarter. He can now talk to people and becomes good friends with his teacher, Alice. At the bakery they let him work the mixer which makes him feel needed and useful. When he peaks in his intelligence he is right back to where he started, lonely and misunderstood. But it is now worse because he sees and understands that people ignore him and make fun of him. In order to help change this Charlie goes out and explores the city, along the way meeting new people and learning how to interact.


The message in Flowers for Algernon is that when we really want something we overlook the bad things we do in order to get it. There was nothing Charlie wanted more than to understand and be able to communicate with people. When the opportunity to be able to do that came up, he jumped on it. At first Charlie was appreciative for what the doctors did for him, but as time passed his want to be smarter increased. Alice, a close friend, tells him,"I wanted you to be intelligent. I wanted to help you and share with you- and now you've shut me out of your life,"(Keyes 124). Charlie then realizes how absorbed he was in learning new things that he began to push everyone away. This shows that just because you really want something in the end it might not be worth what you have to lose to get it.

Textual Evidence

The most impactful part of this book is when Charlie's mom argues to send Charlie away to a special school,"Put him away. Send him to the Warren State Home... all you do is talk, talk, and you don't do anything. I don't want him here another day. Now--tonight,"(Keyes 184). She wants to send Charlie away because she is embarassed that he is slow and doesn't want him to ruin the family.

Book Review

4/5 Stars

Daniel Keyes did an exceptional job at developing characters, Separating the book by progress reports helped the reader see how Charlie changed throughout the book and really understand how he thinks. Making his progress reports poorly written towards the beginning and then exponentially more complex after the operation showed how the operation affected Charlie. I did not like how the story seemed to abruptly end and how Charlie ended up lonely. I would reccomend this book to other because it is very emotional and powerul. You get attached to the characters and feel what they feel.

Author Daniel Keyes to the right


Multi-Media Sources

english project: Mental Health Treatment 1930's
Treatment of Mentally Retarded in 1900's

This shows how people that were retarded would be discriminated against around the time period Flowers for Algernon was written

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Charly Movie Review

"Charly" is a film adaptation of the book



Works Cited

Ebert, Roger. "Charly Movie Review & Film Summary (1968) | Roger Ebert." Reviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2016.

Goodreads. Daniel Keyes (Author of Flowers for Algernon). Digital image. Daniel Keyes. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.

Goodreads. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.

Keyes, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966. Print.

Kwan, Michelle. "Treatment of Mentally Retarded People in the 1920's and 1930's." Prezi. N.p., 11 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 May 2016.

Lizcoleee. "English Project: Mental Health Treatment 1930's." YouTube. YouTube, 13 May 2015. Web. 13 May 2016.

McMillen, Francis, and James Kane. Institutional Memory. Digital image. Institutional Memory The Records of St. Elizabeths Hospital at the National Archives. N.p., 2010. Web. 12 May 2016.