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Chelsea H. Mercado

Frank Lloyd Tiongson

English 11

20 August 2015

Book Report on Flowers for Algernon

According to Science Fiction & fantasy Writers of America, Daniel Keyes was an

American author who wrote different literary texts and one of them is a short story entitled

“Flowers for Algernonwhich he is best known for (“In Memoriam”). Langer said that Keyes

once became a professor at different universities but an occurrence with a developmentally

disabled student was an unforgettable event that sparked the idea on creating the character,

Charlie. Charlie Gordon was an early 30’s mentally retarded adult who had undergone an

operation to become more intelligent. His operation was the first to be done in human beings

after a successful one that was made with a white mouse named Algernon.

The short story became popular and even received the Hugo Award for Best Short Story

on the year 1960, according from an article from BBC. Keyes then made the story into a full-

length novel for readers to know more about Charlie Gordon’s story. With the style of how

Keyes wrote the story, it became widely popular and even received different praises. “Flowers

for Algernon” was said to be a part of science fiction genre which is Keyes’ forte but Keyes

seemed to have been exploring the world of writing science fiction a far too well for he kind of

mixed it up with some realistic characters and situations. Although Keyes may have twisted the

science fiction character of the novel, it was still a part of the genre because of other futuristic

scientific studies for the operation that Charlie had undergone.


The novel was written in a form where the character, Charlie, itself wrote the contents of

the book in a form of progress reports for the purpose of monitoring his thinking and to know if

the operation worked. For me, this manner of writing the novel was a brilliant idea of Daniel

Keyes so we, the readers, can better connect with the character. It started off where Charlie kept

on writing misspelled words and grammatical mistakes ‘til he eventually became smart. With

how Keyes wrote the book, I can understand Charlie better because I know how he feels. I can

connect with him easily and I can really say that I became sympathetic for the character.

As I read the novel, I had different emotions and/or reactions that were going on. I felt

confuse, sad, mad, and even enraged with the fact that Charlie didn’t have a clue on how to

handle life and like how he was new to knowing things and why the world even worked in such

way. The novel really hit me at the heart pretty well because it made me think more about life

and how to handle things. With Charlie’s experience, it made me so sad to think that there are a

lot of people like him.

I felt so much connection maybe because I, myself know someone who’s called as a

special child. My 12-year old cousin is a mentally challenged child. He is really close to me and

we all treat him well. Some days, it is difficult to deal with how my cousin acts because

sometimes, he doesn’t understand why we are doing this and that to tell him what’s wrong or

right. As I was reading the novel, I guiltily thought of my cousin and asked myself if he also

thinks the way Charlie does, then I hypothesized that maybe he does. I know that my cousin too

wants to be smarter and I know that he wants to be like the normal kids.

My cousin, day by day, tries to learn different things. One night he kept on repeating a

tagalog word to memorise it and he asks me if it’s correct of not. I know that he keeps on trying

hard to learn different things and to keep up with other people. My cousin later asked me if I can


lay right beside him so he could sleep well, then of course I said yes then he kissed me at my

forehead as a thank you.

Like Charlie, my cousin still wants to have that attention from other people. He still

wants to have friends even though it means he’s being laughed at because he doesn’t know why

people are even laughing. Every person needs someone to care for them even if they’re mentally

challenged or not. The story of Charlie meant so much more to me because of my cousin.

For me, Charlie Gordon is somewhat a hero because he gave his all to achieve different

things and he is even an inspiration to many. Charlie wanted to become more intelligent because

he wanted to have more friends and just to impress Alice Kinnian, his teacher at Beekman

College Center for Retarded Adults. What I have seen in his story is that Charlie just wanted to

seek love and affection that he never had from his family.

Charlie had a very tough life as a child and this made my heart shred into pieces. His

story was, for me, too much to handle because of how heartbreaking it was on how his mother,

Rose, treated him. Rose cannot accept the fact that her son is mentally retarded and it is difficult

to find a cure. Meanwhile, his sister whose name is Norma, did not give Charlie what his parents

wanted, for someone to play with. Norma didn’t even want Charlie for a brother because she said

things weren’t fair and people have been making fun of her. Matt, Charlie’s father, couldn’t even

defend his own son from his wife. Rose eventually made Matt take Charlie away from their


As a 17-year old girl who have had been well-raised in a well-functioning family, I felt

really lucky and blessed because I what God has given me in my life. The more it made me feel

bad that there were times that it came to a point that I just wanted to give up and stop trying to


study because I felt like it was hopeless. I don’t even know how I would handle life if I were in

Charlie’s shoes; maybe Charlie would even do a better job than me.

By the time Charlie’s IQ grew higher and higher, there he knew how and why life

worked in such manner. At that point, I was actually happy that he became smarter because that

was what he always wanted but then, it also made me feel bad because he then knew the reality

of life and how things unravelled from the past. How Charlie used his intelligence made me feel

so small about myself. I felt like I wasn’t really using my gift of knowing pretty well but then I

realized that Charlie hastened on learning things because he knew that he’ll only have the ability

to be intelligent temporarily.

This is where I found Charlie as an inspiration. How Charlie dealt with his situation even

before the operation, how he was brave enough to undergo with the operation and how

determined he was to become a much more intelligent person. Charlie did not waste what he was

given to him, and he knew he was doing science and even the world a favour upon participating

on the operation.

There are different themes/motifs, symbols and ideas you can get from what Keyes

wrotefrom understanding the mentally disabled to valuing life. Characters which are usually

around Charlie are the people who encounter conflicts because they do not get to understand

Charlie so well. Like the part of Alice Kinnian, Charlie wanted to have a deeper relationship with

her but there were barriers that were very challenging for them to overcome. Being in love with

Charlie was not an easy thing for Alice because of his situation.

As Charlie became intellectually smart, a lot of people became very intimidated and felt

inferior upon Charlie. In this part, I can see the social conflict or even how people treat mentally

disabled people. Before Charlies operation, I have observed that people felt so superior upon


Charlie and didnt even care about his feelings. But as Charlie became smart, they didnt like

him anymore because they felt small. I am really disgusted by this type of attitude because it

shows that they cant seem to be even proud for Charlie and just felt bad for them. Selfishness

was also seen from other characters like Professor Nemur, Fay, and different others.

Another problem that I observed in the novel was Charlies difficulty to separate his

intellectual thinking with his emotions. Even though a lot of characters have had shown negative

attitudes after his operation, Charlie is also one of them. He became arrogant and cold to other

people and he forgot to think about how others may feel towards his words and actions. For

instance, he just spent his time away from the people who loves him without even letting them

feel his presence. It was unfair of him, most importantly for Alice because she was the one who

took care of him before the operation. Charlie became so obsessed with his intelligence that he

seemed to forget about other things like the people around whopeople who cared for him.

The last problem Ive observed with Charlie was that since he just recently had his IQ

higher, he then remembered a lot of memories. Thus, made him trapped from the past and not

live whats in the future.

I made a conclusion that Charlie became trapped with his past and not live his life

properly because as he unravelled what happened with him, he then had to understand why those

happened and to correct things that he wanted to. Charlie havent lived his life after the operation

properly because all that had mattered to him from that time was to find his family and to let

them see that he has changedthat he is normal like the other kids.

All along, even with his high IQ, Charlie was still this lost and scared little boy that

creeps during his present life. Charlie sees that the old Charlie still hasnt gone away even if he

became smart. This made him feel even more trapped and theres no escape from his past life.


I can say that there were a lot of symbols present in this novel but the most important one

for me is Algernon, the white mouse. First of all, without Algernon, the operation on Charlie

would not have happened and there really wouldnt be a story. For me, Algernon can be a lot of

things but the first thing that I thought about him is that he is Charlies guiding light. Algernon

was the one to show Charlie how to finish the maze and Algernon even became a good

companion of Charlie when they left Chicago. The mouse have been useful because with it,

Charlie knew what his fate might be, where his IQ will deteriorate as fast as how it increased like

Algernons. This was like a warning for Charlie, and without Algernon Charlie wouldnt have

done the things he wanted before he lost his intelligence.

Another thing that could resemble Algernon is how Charlie is towards the scientists, like

Professor Nemur and Professor Strauss. Charlies professors may have forgotten that he too is

another human being and not just a scientific experiment. Like Algernon, Charlie felt trapped

and freedom-deprived. Charlie felt like being a cage, trapped, and forced to do things the

scientists say that he didnt even want. This also becomes relevant on the part where Charlie was

itching to let Algernon out of his cage during their conference in Chicago, and then he eventually


Another symbol that was relevant in the novel was a window, where Charlie usually

keeps on looking through especially as a child. Being away from all other kids as a child and not

having freedom out of the house was the root cause of having a window as a symbol. Charlie felt

so isolated from others and the windows which he peers through every time he looks at

something outside which seems so out of reach, seemed like a barrier for him from his happiness

and others. For me, the window may symbolize as Charlies mentally disability which ceased

him to live a normal life like the others.


The end of the novel was the heaviest part of all. Being attached to Charlie all throughout

the book and getting to understand him better with his past and what he wants, it was difficult for

me to accept that Charlie lost his intelligence. It broke my heart when Algernon died because I

knew where Charlies path was going. It even made me feel worse when Charlie decided to go to

Warren State Home and Training School because that was the part of his acceptance for his

future. The novel ended somewhat like a cliff-hanger because it really did not finish Charlies

story but we all know that hell end up like Algernon.

We never really knew what happened to him if he really did go to Warren Home or did

something else happen to him. The last note of Charlie was very touching where he asked for the

reader to leave flowers by Algernons grave. That was a very significant part for me because

maybe it meant to leave flowers by his grave too and he never really knew it already because he

forgot what happened despite the deterioration of his IQ.

What I have learned from Flowers for Algernonis that I should never take my life for

granted, especially my gift of knowledge. A lot other people are unfortunate on not having even

just an average IQ, just like my cousin. For me, these people are whom we should treat very

importantly because it is also difficult to read their minds despite their mental disability. These

people still are human beings and they can still feel.

The most important lesson that I have learned is that knowledge is nothing when you

dont have the love and affection that you have been looking for your whole life to live. For me,

having my family and friends around me is the best gift that God has given me and Im thankful

for that.

This novel doesnt just focus on a specific value to learn in life but it has broad topics to

learn from. Daniel Keyes may have changed someone or other peoples lives, including mine,


with this book. I can say that if you put your heart and mind with Charlie Gordon in this literary

text, you can make your tomorrow even better because of what youll learn with him.


Literature Cited

“Flowers for Algernon writer Daniel Keyes dies at 86. BBC News - Entertainment &











“In Memoriam – Daniel Keyes 1927-2014.” Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of

America. 17 June 2014. Web. 20 July 2015 <http://www.sfwa.org/2014/06/memoriam-daniel-


Langer, Emily. “Daniel Keyes, author of the classic book ‘Flowers for Algernon,’ dies at

86.” The Washington Post. 18 June 2015. Web. 20 July 2015.