Free Study Guide: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes|
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FREE ONLINE NOTES: FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON BY DANIEL KEYES
The chapter takes the reader further into Charlie’s progress as a research subject. Algernon, the white mouse, is central to the novel, as he is Charlie’s ‘alter ego.’ This symbolic parallel is rich in meaning. It shows Charlie as currently inferior to Algernon in ability, but very willing to learn from him. Not only are the readers aware of this parallel, but it is clear in Charlie’s mind as well. Algernon is the mouse on whom the experimental surgery has already been carried out. Charlie is the future subject of the same surgery. The bond between the two, on which the title is based, begins from this point.
So far the ‘men in white coats,’ seem distant and sinister while Charlie’s
humble status is inferior even to that of the mouse! Only Charlie’s unwitting
humor and lively curiosity lightens the atmosphere.
Charlie is informed that his sister Norma has agreed to the experimental operation. He is delighted. Then he overhears an argument between Nemur and Strauss. Nemur is worried about possible negative effects, and whether the dramatic rise in Charlie’s I.Q will harm him. Strauss argues that Charlie’s motivation is very strong, in spite of his current low I.Q, that it is similar to Algernon’s, and also that his rare enthusiasm makes him a good subject. This confuses Charlie who knows Algernon’s "motor-vation is the chees they put in his box. But it can’t be only that because I dint have no chees this week."
Strauss and Burt manage to quell Nemur’s doubts, and he finally agrees.
Charlie is so happy, he jumps up and shakes Nemur’s hand, thus startling
him. Nemur decides to take him into his confidence. He warns Charlie that
this is the first time such an experiment is being conducted on a human
subject. It could fail completely, or succeed temporarily and leave him
worse than what he is now. It may even end in his having to live permanently
at the state-run Warren Home for the mentally retarded. Charlie responds
with great optimism - he is thrilled at this ‘second chanse’ and the idea
of "making a grate contribyushun to sience."
The till now faceless men in white coats are revealed in the flesh here. The irony of explaining the dangers to Charlie when he hasn’t the capacity to grasp the consequences is sharp. The story now clearly moves into the realm of science fiction with the idea of a person with an I.Q of 68, being seen as the raw material for a ‘new intellectual superman.’ The ominous significance of the risks being taken with Charlie’s life is hinted at, but the researchers are shown to be open about it.
The mysterious Miss Kinnian is mentioned but not yet brought into the action.
Above all, Charlie’s tremendous enthusiasm stands out. These otherwise
drab chapters are made appealing by Charlie’s unintentional humor.
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. 09 May 2017