Flowers for Algernon | Study Guide

Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon | Quotes


Miss Kinnian says maybe they can make me smart. I want to be smart.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 1

In his first progress report, Charlie Gordon expresses his hope that experimental surgery will increase his intelligence. His teacher, Alice Kinnian, says it might.


I dint know mice were so smart.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 4

Charlie Gordon is impressed that the lab mouse, Algernon, can finish a maze before he can. Charlie is not yet aware that Algernon has already had experimental surgery to improve his intelligence.


I just want to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of frends.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 6

Charlie Gordon thinks becoming more intelligent will gain him friends, acceptance, and love. This makes his postoperative isolation all the more poignant.


I never new before that I was dumber than a mouse.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 8

As Charlie Gordon's intelligence increases, he becomes aware of the implications of being compared to Algernon. He realizes that a mouse beating him meant the mouse had superior intelligence. He is still not aware that Algernon was the first successful result of the intelligence-increasing experiment.


He really pulled a Charlie Gordon that time.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 8

"Pulling a Charlie Gordon" is a catchphrase used by Charlie Gordon's coworkers at the bakery to describe a stupid mistake. They use it when Ernie lost a cake, for example. Charlie does not understand that they are making fun of him whenever they said this. When his intelligence declines drastically at the end of the novel, he uses the phrase when he realizes he went back to Alice Kinnian's class, although he is no longer a student. A bitter pathos comes to the reader from hearing this phrase again at that point.


I never knew ... that [they] liked to have me around ... to make fun of me.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 9

As Charlie Gordon's intelligence increases, he gains the ability to correctly interpret the words and actions of people around him, and he understands that his coworkers at the bakery were not really his friends. He recognizes that they enjoyed making fun of him. No wonder Alice Kinnian could not explain this to him without tears.


I was a person before the operation. In case you forgot.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 11

Talking to Professor Nemur, Charlie Gordon expresses his resentment that Nemur treated him more like an object than like a human being before Charlie underwent surgery. Nemur, despite his ego, seems incapable of considering someone with a low IQ a real human being.


I never stopped wanting to be ... the smart boy ... so that she would love me.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 13

Charlie Gordon realizes his desire to be smart comes from a need for his mother's love and acceptance. As a child he knew she wanted him to be smart, and he felt her withdrawal and disapproval especially after his sister proved to be the child his mother always wanted. He understands that he really wanted to be smart so that he could be the person his mother wanted him to be, so that he could finally please her and she would love him.


In spite of the operation Charlie was still with me.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 14

Charlie Gordon disassociates with his preoperative self, seeing his younger self through windows and in mirrors, watching him. The sexual anxieties of the younger Charlie prevent postoperative Charlie from being able to have functioning sex, and he realizes that his past self is still with him.


I will have lived a thousand normal lives by what I may add to others.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 16

Charlie Gordon decides to use his intelligence to discover the flaw in the experiment with the hopes that the knowledge he adds to the study in increasing intelligence can help others like him.


Intelligence ... that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 16

Charlie Gordon tells people at Professor Nemur's cocktail party that in some ways he was better off before the operation, because he had friend before. He has found his increased intellectual abilities have isolated him from everyone. Without love, his intelligence is worthless. It has not gained him what he hoped it would: friends, love, and acceptance.


My own mental deterioration will be quite rapid.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 16

When Charlie Gordon finds the flaw in the experiment, he realizes that his intelligence will decrease as rapidly as it had increased. He understands his fate, and the tragedy of the novel is revealed.


What we have ... is more than most people find in a lifetime.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 16

Charlie Gordon finally sleeps with Alice Kinnian, the only woman he has ever loved. Both are aware of how little time they have together because Charlie is rapidly losing his intelligence; this makes their relationship all the more precious and poignant.


Now I know I had a family and I was a person just like evryone.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 17

Charlie Gordon, now back at his preoperative intelligence level, reflects on what he has gained through the experience: he remembers his past and his family, and he recognizes that he is a person of value. Although he now has lost his intelligence, he holds on to his personhood.


Please ... put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.

Charlie Gordon, Progress Report 17

These are Charlie Gordon's last words in his final report before he goes to live out his final days at the Warren State Home. It is fitting that his final thoughts are a remembrance of Algernon, whose life paralleled his own in so many ways and whose fate he is about to share.

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