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Flowers for Algernon | Study Guide

Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon | Progress Report 2 | Summary



In his second report, which Charlie Gordon labels "progris riport 2-martch 4," Charlie is afraid he failed a test and Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur may decide not to use him in their experiment. He describes a "raw shock" test administered by Burt in the psychology department. Charlie writes that he was worried the test would hurt because Burt wore a white coat and told Charlie to relax; this reminded Charlie of past doctors and dentists who had caused Charlie pain. He was also anxious about the test because he had failed tests at school and spilled ink.

In the test, Burt held up a series of white cards with ink spilled on them and asked Charlie what pictures he could see. Charlie writes that he did not see any pictures, only spilled ink, although he tried his best.


This progress report shows Charlie Gordon's fear of failure, which is based on past experiences. Presented with the inkblot test, Charlie says, "I saw the spilld ink and I was really skared" because "when I was a kid I always faled tests in school and I spilld ink to." As he attempts to provide the answers Burt requests, Charlie says, "I got skared of faling the test." The report begins and ends with Charlie's expressions of fear.

Rorschach tests, more commonly known as inkblot tests, were a popular tool in psychoanalysis in the 1960s. They were used to make psychological diagnoses and to measure personality and cognition. In a Rorschach test, patients are asked to describe what they see in a series of 10 cards with bilaterally symmetrical inkblots. Charlie's inability to associate the shapes with anything seems to frustrate Burt, who explains the test several times to Charlie before "his pencel" breaks and the testing ends.

This report introduces readers to Burt, who Charlie describes as "a nice man." He is patient and encouraging, tells Charlie to relax, and smiles at him. He speaks slowly and carefully explains the test to Charlie several times. Burt's role at the college and in the experiment are not clear from this report; readers know only as much about him as Charlie does. He will become more important later in Charlie's developing story.

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