Flowers for Algernon | Study Guide

Daniel Keyes

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Course Hero, "Flowers for Algernon Study Guide," May 24, 2017, accessed December 16, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Flowers-for-Algernon/.

Flowers for Algernon | Progress Report 4 | Summary

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Summary

In this report, which Charlie Gordon names "progris riport 4," he writes about more "crazy tests" he has taken. A woman administering the tests had asked him to make up stories about people in pictures. Charlie describes how he resisted doing what the woman asked, saying he would be lying—something for which he was punished as a child. He tells how the woman grew angry when Charlie didn't understand the purpose of the test, and how he laughed at the thought it could tell her about his personality.

Burt has taken Charlie to the psychology laboratory, where Charlie works on some puzzles and a maze. Charlie doesn't understand the concepts of experiments or mazes. Burt then introduces Charlie to Algernon, a white lab mouse that runs through a maze. Charlie perceives Algernon's intelligence. Burt has Charlie compete against Algernon to finish the maze, timing them both and using an electric shock when Charlie makes a wrong turn. Algernon beats Charlie at the maze 10 times. Charlie says he "dint know mice were so smart."

Analysis

Algernon's important connection to Charlie Gordon first becomes clear when Burt has the two compete to find their way through a maze. Algernon seems to have learned his way through the maze and completes it quickly, beating Charlie. Algernon's performance is the baseline against which Charlie's ability is measured.

This report again shows Charlie's lack of understanding about the experiment; he even misunderstands the word itself, confusing it with "spearmint." He also is unfamiliar with the concept of a maze; he thinks it's called "amazed." His lack of understanding, along with Burt's use of electric shocks, calls into question the experiment's ethics.

Charlie reveals he was punished for making up stories as a child; he refuses to tell the female test administrator stories about the people in her pictures because "when I was a kid I made lies and I always got hit." This is the reader's first glimpse of the abuse Charlie suffered as a child.

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