Flowers for Algernon


An Analysis of Major Characters

Charlie Gordon

Charlie is the protagonist of the novel, and the story is told through his eyes. As the novel opens, Charlie’s writing reflects his IQ of 68. The changes in the quality and tone of Charlie’s progress reports reflect the changes in his intellectual and emotional transformation. We follow Charlie’s arc upwards to an IQ of 185, at the same time experiencing with him the challenges of painful recovered memories from childhood and a rapid emotional and psycho-sexual development. Then we watch Charlie intellectually regress once more to a low IQ state, but we can also see that he has gained a better understanding and a more rich emotional experience of the world that will stay with him regardless of his IQ.

Charlie is an extremely endearing character whose naïve way of seeing the world is apparent from the beginning. He is trusting of others and wants everyone to be his friend. He does not understand at first that some of his “friends” are laughing at him or taking advantage of him. After the surgery that increases his intelligence, Charlie has to come to terms with some of the harsh realities of the world and must deal with his newfound feelings of anger and resentment. As his intelligence skyrockets to genius level, Charlie for a time becomes rather self-absorbed and arrogant, and somewhat less likeable than he was before the surgery. However, his experiences and the complexity of his transformation make this understandable. Even during his most narcissistic stages, we can relate to Charlie and empathize with him. His recovered memories of severe childhood abuse are a window for self-understanding, and he navigates his experience with as much grace as can be expected. Throughout the novel, Charlie’s motivations are for friendship and helping others. As a genius, he is able to make a significant contribution to science, and it is this knowledge that gives him peace at the end of the novel.

Alice Kinnian

Alice Kinnian is a warm and...

Sign up to continue reading An Analysis of Major Characters >

Essays About Flowers for Algernon