Flowers for Algernon | Study Guide

Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon | Progress Report 15 | Summary

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Summary

Charlie Gordon reports he has returned Algernon to Burt and has begun to work on the project at Beekman. Burt confirms Algernon's cognitive decline, and Charlie asks to be given Algernon's body after he dies; he does not want the mouse to be just incinerated like other lab animals.

Charlie feels a sense of urgency about finding the experiment's flaw. In his report he writes, "If I was going to find the answers for myself, I had to get to work immediately." Professor Nemur tells him the foundation can't send him back to the bakery or let him live independently if the experiment fails, because the failure could have unforeseen effects on his personality. They plan to send him to the Warren State Home if necessary. Charlie asks to visit the home while he is "still in enough control to do something about it." He reflects on how his choices, like the paths in a maze, have led him to become who he is, in all his complexity. He reads many psychology textbooks on a wide range of topics, from animal psychology to personality to psychometrics.

Analysis

Readers see how Charlie Gordon and Professor Nemur's relationship has changed. Nemur no longer controls the project alone; nor does he control Charlie. Charlie, in turn, has a real sense of agency now, creating his own role independent of Nemur. He is relieved not to have to answer to Nemur, because that would only slow him down. Nemur accepts Charlie's new role in the project, but he's skeptical that Charlie can accomplish what he cannot. However, he realizes the project's success or failure depends on whether Charlie finds the error, so he gives Charlie whatever he wants. In a case of role reversal, Nemur now depends on Charlie to help him meet his goals, just as Charlie depended on Nemur in the past.

Daniel Keyes explores the role of choice in personality. Charlie says life is like a maze leading to death. By understanding the path he has taken and peering at where it may lead, he can better understand "who [he] is becoming." The choices people make help determine not only what they do and where they end up but also who they are, changing their personality. The place of choice in the development of personality is what sets Charlie apart from his peers. He chooses to work hard, to participate in the experiment, and the author shows just how dramatically his personality changes as a result.

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