Flowers For Algernon, Daniel Keyes

By Patsy Asamoah-Addo

Summary

Flowers For Algernon showcases a look into how life is with a disability. Charlie is in his mid 30s and was born with a very low IQ. Algernon is a lab mouse. Charlie was chosen by a group of scientists to undergo an experimental surgery to make him and Algernon smarter. They make him keep a journal and write "Progress Reports" about everything that happens on a certain day. As Charlie becomes smarter, he realizes that he is deeply attracted to Alice, and though she shares the same feelings with him, she insists on "keeping it professional". Charlie starts to grow closer to Alice after being fired from the bakery. The workers didn't appreciate the sudden change in him and Donner realized that Charlie no longer needed his charity, so he let him go.

The scientists in charge of this experiment, Dr.Strauss and Professor Nemur, take Charlie and Algernon to a science convention in Chicago. Charlie has become very frustrated with Nemur due to his neglect to recognize that Charlie is a human being, too. After wreaking havoc at the convention, he frees Algernon and goes back to New York, when he realizes that Nemur's hypothesis had an error and that the rise in intelligence and IQ will only be temporary. After finding the error, he calls this the "Algernon-Gordon Effect" and after a while, he slowly goes back to his old self. He returns to the bakery for a little bit and shows up to Alice's class for retarded adults, which she was upset by. Returning to his lower IQ may have caused him to forget about any romantic relations he had with Alice or anyone.

Charlie decides to break away from everyone in his life and he checks himself into a home for disabled adults. At the end of the book, he writes, "please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard" (Keyes 311)

Character Analysis

Charlie Gordon is the main protagonist of Flowers For Algernon. He is thirty years old and lives in New York City. He has a sister named, Norma, who hated him, and his mother, Rose, who would beat and abuse him as a child, because he wasn't normal. In the beginning of the novel, he works at Donner's Bakery as a delivery boy. Charlie undergoes an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence. His IQ gradually gets higher and higher, and he becomes a genius. He sometimes has to go through obstacles in his own life while he overcomes his emotions and his struggle to have a maturity to match his intelligence.

Conflict/Resolution (Character vs Self) (Character vs Society) (Character vs Nature)

Charlie goes through many obstacles in this novel. The biggest one is trying to overcome his emotions. Especially when he becomes smarter. Before the surgery, Charlie was very warmhearted and kind, but once his intelligence started to increase, he became bitter, cold and arrogant. Despite his mental level, he still had a hard time addressing and understanding his feelings toward Alice, whom he had loved very much. Especially when he becomes smarter, he begins to have flashbacks of his mother beating him and flashbacks like that would always frighten him whenever he was with Alice. In one of his progress reports, he wrote,"Why does a memory like that from childhood remain with me so strongly, and why does it frighten me now? Is it because of my feelings for Alice?" (Keyes 85) Though, after a while, they begin to fight a lot and start to drift apart. Which is when he realizes that he no longer loves her.

Theme

A theme I thought of for this novel is "Don't change yourself for the satisfaction of others". In the beginning of the book Charlie writes,"I dont care so much about beeing famus. I just want to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of frends who like me." (Keyes 13 ). All Charlie wanted was to be accepted and to fit in, so he desperately wanted to change the only thing unique about him. Becoming smart gave him more problems and obstacles to face. People no longer wanted anything to do with him once he became smart.

Textual Evidence

My favorite quote from this novel is, "Its easy to have frends if you let pepul laff at you. Im going to have lots of frends where I go" (Keyes 311). This quote actually made me a little sad. He was in the disability home when he wrote this. Along with his farewells to everyone in his life after he decides to leave everyone in his life and everyone he knew. This quote could mean a bunch of different things and that's why I like it. It's as though Charlie is beginning a new life, or becoming a new man. And he's going to make new friends.

Book Review

I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5. I liked the book a lot and the message it conveyed. Though the beginning was long, and drawn- out in my opinion, it was worth it once you got towards the end. I liked the fact that you could easily see how Charlie's intelligence changed through the journal entries and progress reports, and I like the fact that the mouse has a significant role in the book.

Citations

Photos


  • "Flowers for Algernon (Charlie)." (2000). Rotten Tomatoes, 20 Feb. 2000. Web. 13 May 2016
  • Liddle, Madhulika. "Charly (1968)." Dustedoff. N.p., 21 Sept. 2013. Web. 13 May 2016.

  • Hiltz, Allison. "Classics Club #8 - Flowers for Algernon." The Book Wheel. N.p., 03 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 May 2016.

Video


  • Www.tcm.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2016.
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