Flowers for Algernon is a novel written by Daniel Keyes and first published in 1966. It was originally a short story and, in the year 2000, was adapted into a film of the same name.
There are no direct references to the time period in which the story takes place, but it’s safe to assume that the events take place around the time the novel was written; the mid-1960s. In this novel, there are two primary settings, the main character’s room, where he writes in his journal, and the hospital, where he undergoes surgery and various examinations. A secondary setting is a small, family operated business named Donner’s Bakery where Charlie, the protagonist, works as a janitor and delivery boy. As the story develops, much of the action takes place in Charlie's room and the bakery, but gradually shifts towards the hospital and hospital-like settings (the laboratory). As the novel comes to a close, reverse progression takes place and the story reverts back to Charlie’s room and the bakery. The events of the story take place in New York City, with a brief episode in Chicago. In summary, Charlie Gordon, a mentally handicapped thirty-two-year-old, is chosen by a team of doctors and scientists to be a guinea pig for an experimental surgery designed to increase one’s intelligence. Alice Kinnian, Charlie’s teacher at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults, recommended Charlie for the experiment because of his intense desire to learn. Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur, who are in charge of the experiment, suggested that, if possible, Charlie keep a journal and write a new entry every day. Flowers for Algernon is composed entirely of Charlie’s journal entries which he titles “progress reports”. At Donner’s Bakery, the other employees pick on him, but Charlie fails to understand that he’s the subject of the mockery and, instead, considers his co-workers friends. Charlie undergoes his surgery after a multitude of tests. The most prominent test being a maze-solving competition against a mouse named Algernon who has already had the surgery. At first, there isn’t a noticeable difference in Charlie’s intelligence, but Alice helps him and he gradually improves his spelling and grammar abilities. Charlie then begins to read voraciously, gaining knowledge of a plethora of subjects. Charlie begins to recover old memories of his family. As he becomes smarter, he becomes attracted to Alice, who wants to remain friends even though she feels the same way about him. Mr. Donner, the bakery owner, notices that Charlie no longer needs his charity, and decides to let him go. Charlie becomes increasingly more attracted to Alice, though he panics when the mood becomes too intimate. Professor Nemur takes Charlie and Algernon to a convention in Chicago where he they are exhibited. He then becomes angry at Nemur’s failure to recognize his humanity and returns to New York with Algernon. He gets an apartment where the scientists cannot find him. Charlie’s intelligence surpasses Nemur’s and he realizes that the professor’s hypothesis is wrong when he discovers the possibility that his newly found intellect may only be temporary. Charlie meets and becomes involved with Fay Lillman, his neighbor. He doesn’t tell her about his past and discovers that intimacy isn’t a problem this time around. Charlie eventually drifts away from Fay due to his decision to do his own scientific research. Algernon’s intelligence starts to decline and Charlie deduces that the same thing will happen to him. Charlie seeks closure by visiting his mother and sister before his intelligence regresses. It didn’t turn out too well after his mother tried to kill him with a butcher knife. Charlie discovers the flaw in the operation that caused Algernon’s and eventually Charlie’s own intelligence to vanish. As he experiences a period of average intelligence on his path back to retardation, Charlie has a brief, passionate relationship with Alice. When his regression is...
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