Free Study Guide: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes|
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FREE BOOK SUMMARY: FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON BY DANIEL KEYES
Burt, a doctoral student at the college, conducts Charlie’s first test.
Charlie is afraid that he has failed it and won’t be ‘used.’ The lab and
the white coat make him feel Burt could be a doctor, except that he doesn’t
tell Charlie "to open my mouth and say ah!" Burt’s repeated
suggestions that he should relax only gets him "skared becos, it
always means its gonna hert." For the test, Burt shows Charlie a
lot of white cards with red and black ink splattered on them. Burt explains
it’s a ‘raw shok test’ (Rorschach Inkblot test) and asks Charlie to describe
what he sees in the inkblots. Charlie tries desperately hard but is unable
to visualize anything but an ‘inkblot.’ He is sure he has failed the test
when Burt’s frustration makes him break his pencil-point. Charlie feels
that, even his ‘luky rabbit’s foot’ hasn’t helped.
Charlie’s fear of the unknown and his ‘normal’ expectations of pain
and bad treatment from those around him, are underlined by this chapter.
He clings to ‘lucky’ objects for comfort in a hostile world. The reader
gets a graphic picture of the experience in the lab, and the subject’s
keen desire to please and win approval. It is a re-creation of every individual’s
childhood horror story of a visit to a doctor. Charlie tries hard, putting
on and off his reading glasses, trying to pump the researcher for hints,
but failing. He is shown to be like a child in some ways, but he does
not have the ability to imagine and fantasize, like a normal child. In
spite of his anxiety, Charlie’s determination to continue and ‘get smart’
Charlie is very worried about failing the test, and assures Dr. Strauss and Nemur that he hadn’t spilt any ink on the cards. They tell him it doesn’t matter and Charlie hopes that, ‘maybe they will still use me.’ They say he was highly recommended by Miss Kinnian as her ‘bestest pupil.’ They probe into his reasons for learning and he says, "all my life I wanted to be smart and not dumb and all my life, my mom always told me to try and lern, just like Miss Kinnian tells me, but its very hard to be smart and even when I lern something at Miss Kinnian’s class, --- I forget a lot."
Prof. Nemur warns Charlie that they have experimented only on animals so far, and are not sure of the effects on human beings. Charlie replies, "I don’t even care if it herts or anything because I’m strong and I will work hard." They inquire about his family, as they require their permission to operate on him. Charlie says he hasn’t seen his parents or his sister Norma for a long time, but he thinks they lived in Brooklyn.
The report ends with Charlie hoping that he won’t need to write many
more, as he has to cut down his sleep in order to write it, and this makes
him very tired for work the next morning. He has begun to make mistakes
at the bakery and as a result Gimpy, his surly friend, has been angry
with him. Charlie hopes that he will surprise Gimpy when he becomes ‘smart.’
This report shows the researchers trying to delve into the mind of Charlie Gordon. His single-minded desire to be ‘smart’ is shown in contrast to his severe limitations in the capacity to express himself. The other characters are gradually introduced. So far, the researchers appear as faceless men in white coats. Miss Kinnian is seen as a kindly, maternal figure and a source of hope and encouragement to Charlie.
There is a brief reference to his family, which has obviously broken off ties
with him. The only is his Uncle Herman. But unfortunately, he is now dead.
Charlie’s loneliness and his traumatic past are just beginning to surface
in these passing references. The ‘guinea pig’ aspect is underlined by
his finding the reports tiring, and the strain affecting his work at the
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. 09 May 2017