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Free Study Guide: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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FREE ONLINE NOTES: FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON BY DANIEL KEYES

Progris report 4 - Martch 6

Summary

The reader learns that more tests have been conducted on Charlie, when he says, "I had more crazy tests today in case they use me." He asks the lady, who gives him the test, to spell the name of the test, so that he can write it in his progress report. The lady tells him that these are Thematic Apperception Tests. The first test ‘looks easy because I could see the pictures.’ But the ‘nice lady’ tells Charlie he has to ‘make up story’s about the pepul in the pictures.’ He refuses, as that would be telling lies and he ‘always got hit’ when he told lies as a child. He offers to tell lots of stories about his sister Norma and his Uncle Herman, but she isn’t interested. Charlie becomes irritable about the tests. He reports -"She looked angry and took the pictures away. I don’t care. I guess I faled that test too." Then Burt Selden, the other research assistant, takes him to the lab, "Where they make spearamints. I thot that he ment like where they made the chooing gum but now I think its puzzles and games because that’s what we did." Once again he is at a loss-"it was all broke and the pieces coudnt fit in the holes." The mazes too confuse him utterly. Then Burt takes him to a place where ‘pepul’ in white coats are playing with animals ‘so I thot it was like a pet store but their wasn’t no customers.’ Then Burt introduces him to Algernon, a white mouse who can solve the maze ‘real good.’ Charlie guffaws at the idea of a mouse doing anything that is so difficult. He is therefore amazed to watch Algernon solving the maze with a triumphant squeak.

Then Burt suggests that Charlie should race Algernon. Both are given similar wooden mazes. Charlie has a pointer, which gives him a mild shock when he makes a mistake. Burt tries to hide the fact that he is keeping a record of the time each one is taking at the maze. Charlie races Algernon eleven times and the mouse wins every time. Ultimately, Charlie observes and learns from him. He concludes, "I dint know mice were so smart."

Notes


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.


Progris report 5 - Martch 6

Summary

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."

Notes

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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