Flowers for Algernon | Study Guide

Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon | Progress Report 12 | Summary

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Summary

Charlie Gordon neglects to send Professor Nemur his reports for two weeks, even though he is now being paid for his work by the Welberg Foundation. Because Charlie's intelligence has increased so much, Dr. Strauss asks him to speak and write more simply so people can understand him. In his report Charlie notes, "Ironic to find myself on the other side of the intellectual fence." He remembers when his sister, Norma, got a good grade in school and wanted a dog but did not want to share it with Charlie. Nor did she want to play with Charlie, despite their father's commands. When their father said there would be no dog, Norma told Charlie she hated him. Later, Charlie overheard Norma tell a friend that Charlie wasn't her brother. The adult Charlie says he wished Norma had played with him and wants her to know he never meant to hurt her. He views his younger self through an imaginary window and sees "little Charlie Gordon—fourteen or fifteen—looking out ... through the window of his house."

Charlie visits Alice Kinnian, who tells him he has changed into a different person; she says he makes her feel "dull-witted" and his company "undermine[s] [her] self-confidence." He realizes his feelings for her have changed back to gratitude, and his increased intelligence make him "just as far away from Alice" as he was before the surgery.

He feels oddly compelled to "prowl" the city alone at night and meets a woman in the park who offers to have sex with him. He becomes angry when she reveals she is pregnant. She screams when he grabs her shoulder, and he runs and hides as men look for him. Later, he realizes the woman reminded him of his mother when she was pregnant with his sister and began giving him less attention. He also realizes that part of him wanted the men to find him and punish him.

Analysis

Charlie Gordon's increasing intelligence isolates him from Alice Kinnian, his biggest source of support. Next to his superior intellect, she feels insecure and questions her own intelligence. She decides not to attend a conference with Charlie and the scientists, telling him she needs to "hang on to [her] splintering ego." In an example of situational irony, Alice is as distant from Charlie now as she had been when his IQ was much lower than hers.

As Charlie's intelligence increases, his personality changes. He is no longer committed to working hard in the study and also has different feelings about Alice. He feels merely "gratitude and responsibility" toward her. His restless prowling is also new.

The author contrasts the two women, Alice and the woman in the park, and how Charlie perceives them. Alice cares selflessly for Charlie and knows his story, while the woman in the park wants something from Charlie and knows nothing about him. Charlie has had strong feelings for Alice, which led to his sexual anxiety. With the strange woman in the park, Charlie feels confident he can "be normal like other men."

Daniel Keyes uses the symbol of a window to represent separation. Charlie views himself in his memory as through a window. Although he sometimes wonders if the image of Charlie in the window is a reflection, the boy in the window is his previous self, strangely different and recognizable at the same time. The window shows the separation between Charlie's postoperative self and his childhood preoperative self.

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