Flowers for Algernon | Study Guide

Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon | Progress Report 10 | Summary

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Summary

Charlie Gordon describes how he found a way to make the bakery more efficient and earned a bonus and another raise. He says people at the bakery have changed, becoming hostile and afraid of him. He still hopes they will be his friends. He remembers the time Frank Reilly kicked his feet out from under him when he fell asleep standing up, and the time Gimpy tried to teach him how to form rolls. Gimpy offered to give him a brass disc on a chain if he could learn. Charlie says he tried very hard to follow Gimpy's movements, but he couldn't remember how to form the rolls quickly enough. He remembers feeling sad without knowing why. Gimpy gave him the chain anyway, and postoperative Charlie reflects on the kind act and wonders what Gimpy must think of him now.

Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur agree to let Charlie keep some of his reports private. He overhears an argument between the two men about the project. Nemur has arranged to present the lab's findings to the Welberg Foundation in six weeks. Strauss feels Nemur wants to share the findings too soon, but Nemur claims proudly, "I've checked and rechecked everything ... I feel sure nothing can go wrong now." Strauss reminds Nemur he is "not the only one with a reputation to consider." Charlie realizes he shouldn't be listening to their conversation. Charlie also spends time at Beekman College, wishing he was a student.

Charlie similarly remembers his parents fighting as his father tried to get his mother to acknowledge his intellectual disability. She had denied he was different, insisting that he would be able to learn and go to school. She screamed, "He's normal. He'll grow up like other people ... he'll go to college someday." Charlie recalls how, frightened by their argument, he soiled himself, knowing he would be punished. He finally remembers his parents' names, Rose and Matt, and recalls how his father left when Charlie's mother began to spank him.

Analysis

This report introduces the idea of intelligence as isolating. Rather than bringing him closer to his bakery coworkers, Charlie Gordon's growing intelligence drives them away, which "makes the job kind of lonely." They avoid him and make up excuses to avoid celebrating his raise. They even seem frightened of him. He says he no longer enjoys being at the bakery, a place he once considered his home.

Readers learn that Charlie's mother, Rose Gordon, was in denial about his intellectual disability before Norma's birth. The report gives painful evidence of Rose's abuse as well as her husband's unwillingness to protect his son from it.

The conversation Charlie overhears between Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur reveals their sizable egos. They argue about who made the more valuable contribution to the experiment, and they resort to name calling. Clearly, both are more concerned about the study, and their professional pride, than about Charlie, raising questions about how these men use their supposedly great intelligences.

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