Saturday, March 16, 2013

Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon is written as a series of first person "progress reports" written by Charlie Gordon. Charlie is a hard-working, mentally retarded young man who wants to be smart. He is chosen to be the first person to undergo a radical new procedure that can help him gain and retain intelligence. The experiment had previously been performed successfully on mouse, Algernon, who was able to gain and retain intelligence.

In the course of the novel, Charlie grows from a "moron" to a "super-genius", before returning to his moronic state. During his super-genius state, he realizes the flaws in the science and knows that he will not retain his intelligence. He also struggles with emotional growth that falls behind his intellectual growth. By writing the novel in the form of first-person "progress reports" we can relate with Charlie and his struggles. We see him struggle with knowledge of his own imminent decline. (This is even more so as we see what happens to the mouse Algernon as he declines.) However, we also see the joy and happiness return to his life as the intelligence falters. The life as a super genius may appear nice, but this also creates more challenges, especially when emotional and social skills lag behind. You don't accomplish as much in the simple life, but at least you are happy.

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