Flowers for Algernon | Study Guide

Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon | Progress Report 1 | Summary

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Summary

In his first progress report, which he names "progris riport 1 martch 3," Charlie Gordon explains he is writing because Dr. Strauss has told him to record as many of his thoughts, memories, and experiences as possible. On the basis of this and subsequent reports, Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur will decide whether Charlie is a good candidate for their project. Miss Kinnian, Charlie's teacher at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults, has told him the doctors may be able to increase his intelligence, and Charlie hopes they can. Charlie says he agreed to write the reports but warned the doctors he cannot write or spell well; they told him to write just as he speaks. In the report, Charlie mentions his age, 32, and his job at Mr. Donner's bakery. When he can't think of more to write, he closes the report with "yrs truly."

Analysis

This first progress report introduces the novel's narrator and premise and invites readers into Charlie Gordon's world. The report gives ample evidence of Charlie's intellectual disability. Charlie's writing is rife with run-on sentences, and his spelling is mostly phonetic, like that of a child just learning to read, which suggests Charlie's limited intellectual and educational level. He includes the name of the school he attends, the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults, which he—rather poignantly—also misspells. Charlie's intellectual disability also is evident in his confusion about the experiment in which he may take part. He doesn't know why he needs to write the progress reports, although he knows it has something to do with Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur making him smart.

He signs the report "yrs truly Charlie Gordon," as if he is writing a letter.

The report gives glimpses of Charlie's personality, not just his limitations. Readers learn Charlie "wants to be smart" and is highly motivated; he works and attends school. Even though Charlie claims he "cant rite good," he writes the whole report until he "cant think anymor." He does his best, and that seems to be important to him.

Because Charlie is the narrator, readers learn only what he knows about the experiment: very little. In fact, it's not clear whether there is an experiment at all; perhaps it's just a study. Charlie refers to "Dr Strauss," and "if they can use me," but it's not clear how or why "they" plan to use him. Although the report leaves readers with more questions than answers, it immediately gives a strong sense of the narrator's mental state and his appealing nature and will to please.

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