Flowers For Algernon Essay Examples

”Flowers for Algernon,” written in 1966 by Daniel Keyes, has rightly become one of the most well-known fantasy novels in world literature. Originally written as a short story, the story of Charlie Gordon—the main character of the book—had later been rewritten in the form of a novel, which helped the author to fully disclose personalities of the main characters and make the plot complete. The novel is written in the form of laboratory reports, written by Charlie on his own behalf.

Charlie Gordon is a mentally-disabled 32 year-old cleaner in a bakery. His IQ rate is 68, and because of this, he had a difficult childhood (and as he later realized, his entire life). His mother, who desperately wanted him to be as smart as regular kids, regularly beat him whenever he did not meet her expectations, or when he displayed any interest in his younger sister. Finally, Charlie’s father, in order to save him from ever increasing assaults, was forced to take the boy away from home, and left him in the care of Mr. Donner—a bakery owner.

Workers in the bakery laugh at Charlie and bully him because of his low intelligence, but he did not understand it, and thought that they were laughing at him because they like him. He attends the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults—his dream is to become smarter, which, in his understanding, meant to be able to read and write. Once he got the chance, because of his exceptional will to study, his teacher Alice recommends Charlie to undergo an experimental brain surgery conducted by doctor Strauss and professor Nemur: two outstanding scientists who invented a way to make people smarter through surgery.

The operation is successful, and although for the first couple of days Charlie does not notice any differences, in fact he gets smarter day by day, at incredible rates. He regularly participates in laboratory tests involving Algernon—a smart mouse who had undergone the same surgery; whereas before the operation, Charlie was not able to even complete it, as the time goes on, he defeats Algernon, showing gradually increasing results.

Charlie’s intelligence keeps growing even after it reached the level of a regular individual. He remembers a lot of painful details from his childhood; realizes that what he considered a friendly attitude was actually bullying and humiliation; discovering this, he realizes that people are not so smart as he believed they were. Charlie falls in love with Alice, but realizes that he cannot be with her. He reads a lot, attends university, and soon discoveres that he is smarter than professors, whom he admired and almost worshiped.

At the same time, he faces the feeling that professor Nemur and doctor Strauss do not recognize his humanity and self-sufficiency; Charlie sees that they treat him as their creation, refusing to admit that the previous, mentally-retarded Charlie Gordon was also a human individual. Nemur and Strauss take Charlie to New York to a conference for which they plan to introduce him and Algernon as proofs of their scientific theory. Charlie, however, escapes from the conference, taking Algernon with him, and hides in a rented apartment. There he meets a girl, Fay; after several dates, they have sex, and start a relationship. At the same time, Charlie continues his studies, and keeps remembering different horrible events from his past. However, in the end, he realizes that Fay is interrupting him from his research, so he decides to return to the lab.

There he learns that the results of the brain surgery he had undergone are reversible; moreover, the patients degrade at horrific rates, and end up in a mental condition even worse than before the operation. Fearing the regression, Charlie, however, accepts these facts, and aims all his intellectual power (by this time, he is undoubtedly the most intelligent person on Earth, with the IQ rate of 185) at studying this effect, which he has called “the effect of Gordon-Algernon,” because Algernon has fully suffered this effect and died. Charlie buried him near the lab.

Gradually the negative changes become more and more obvious. Charlie forgets names and events, and understanding the meaning of books he enjoyed reading so recently has now become impossible for him. Desperate, he starts a relationship with Alice, but not for long—the degradation of his personality makes living with him complicated, and although for some time, he remains at the intellectual level of an average person, Alice is finally forced to leave.

Charlie ends up as a completely degraded person. At first, he returns to Donner’s bakery, and then decides to go to a mental asylum. In his last report, in a P.S. he asked those who were going to read it to put flowers on Algernon’s grave.

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At first “Flowers for Algernon” was written as a short science fiction story in 1959. Its author, an American writer Daniel Keyes, received one of science fiction’s highest honors, the Hugo Award, for the best story that year. After a successful television adaptation, The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon,  Keyes decided to extend “Flowers for Algernon” to the size of a full-length novel in 1966. The novel brings Daniel Keyes another highest honor in the world of science fiction – Nebula Award as a prize for the best novel of the year.

Flowers for Algernon remains the highest point of Daniel Keyes’s career as his most popular and most acclaimed work. The creature of Daniel Keyes highlights the fact that intelligence and knowledge does not always bring much happiness to a person’s life.

Algernon is just the name of the mouse who was the first target for the experiment that triples the one’s IQ. The main character, a mentally retarded man called Charlie Gordon, has a dream to become wise and just as intelligent as his mother wanted him to. Becoming intelligent is Charlie’s most important desire! He follows his dream and in order to become smarter he agrees for the life-making opportunity – the experimental operation makes him much smarter, almost a genius.

In fact, the operation itself was not an evil act, rather it was a well deserved glimpse at the life of an intellectual adult. He was precisely chosen by the Dr. Strauss, Dr. Nemur, and recommended by his teacher, Miss Kinnian as Charlie was the most suitable volunteer for this experiment.

As the story tells, higher IQ does not bring Charlie happiness. First of all, Charlie’s change confuses all of his co-workers as he now understands that everyone is laughing at him because he is fully and stupid, not because he is a friend of theirs. After inventing the way to make the machines at the bakery work quicker, Mr. Donner gives him a fifty dollars as a bonus and a ten dollar raise in his salary (Keyes 43). However, it only makes the relationship with colleagues more complicated. Secondly, his family, especially mother, cannot understand what has happened. Smart Charlie scares her a lot, and lack of attention and understanding from the mother’s side scare Charlie. As the result, the main character runs away from his home where his own mother points the knife at him.

After becoming a bit smarter Charlie can finally understand religion and politics and loves go to the library frequently, reading everything he can get his hands on. His only friend is a mouse called Algernon, who was the first target for this unique experiment. Charlie lets Algernon free. He scoops Algernon into his pocket and gets on a plane away from the laboratory (Keyes 79)

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The novel is written in a very unusual and specific first-person narration so that readers follow Charlie precisely, especially his progress and thoughts. This way of narration keeps the reader closer to the character, and makes Charlie both more personalized and likeable character. The Flowers for Algernon starts with a very simple and grammatically incorrect text. During the experiment the reader can see that the writing becomes more correct and complex, Charlie starts using smart words and, what is more important, starts thinking in a different way. It also gives insight into what Charlie is thinking, which is remarkably important in a story that is concerned with the mind. (Cline 12)

The issue of increased intelligence is shown as a disease that makes a simple man suffer. Charlie lost all his happiness, even a mouse Algernon dies. The author may have tried to show how mankind is trying to improve everything in its life, but looses the most important, the happiness of our life (Bhattacharya 394-395). As the result of the experiment, the main character feels even worse than from the beginning. Finally, in a postscript of his last report in the novel, Charlie writes: “P.S. please if you get a chance put some flowers on Algernon’s grave in the back yard.” (Keyes 112)


Works cited:
Cline, Brent Walter. “”You’Re Not The Same Kind Of Human Being”: The Evolution Of Pity To Horror In Daniel Keyes’ Flowers For Algernon”. DSQ 32.4 (2012): n. pag. Web.
Bhattacharya, Ananyo. “In Retrospect: Flowers For Algernon”. Nature 536.7617 (2016): 394-395. Web.
Keyes, Daniel. Flowers For Algernon. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966. Print.

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