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Free Study Guide: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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Progress Report 8 (Continued)


March 28

Charlie wonders what good it does to get smart in his sleep, when what he wants is to get smart when he’s awake! But Strauss explains about his having two minds, the conscious and the sub-conscious and how "one don’t tell the other what its doing." Charlie looks up the words in the dictionary, but can’t understand the entry there.

He reports that he has a headache. He has got it because of a party at Halloran’s Bar. Joe Carp and Frank Reilly from the bakery had invited Charlie to the party. They had plied him with whisky, and he had danced on the bar with a lampshade on his head. He remembers Joe asking him to show the girls how he mops the toilets. Charlie had obliged and told them proudly how Donner and Miss Kinnian had praised him and told him to take pride in his work. Everyone laughs uproariously at this, and Joe asks if he is making out with Miss Kinnian. Charlie does not understand what he means. Charlie is very happy and says, "we have some good times but I can’t wait to be smart like my best frends Joe Carp and Frank Reilly."

The party ends for Charlie when they send him out "to see if it was raining." He is lost in the unfamiliar streets and is brought home, bruised and sore, by a "nice poleecman." That night, he dreams about the time when he had gone to a department store with his parents and had got lost. Charlie was terrified, until a man had consoled him and given him a lollypop. Next day, Joe laughs at his bruises. Charlie decides not to drink whisky anymore.

March 29

Charlie he beats Algernon eight times in a row and therefore he is very excited. He is sure, "I must be getting smarter to beat a smart mouse like Algernon. But I don’t feel smarter." He feels sorry about beating Algernon and asks Burt if he can feed him. Burt refuses to give him permission. Burt also tells him that Algernon is so smart that he has to solve a problem with a lock that changes every time he goes in to eat, so that he has to learn something new whenever he wants to eat. That makes Charlie sad-"How would Burt like to have to pass a test every time he wants to eat."

Strauss tells Charlie he must sleep well and gives him sleeping pills because he is very excited. He says the greatest change will come about when he is asleep. Charlie’s memory connects this with his Uncle Hermann sleeping at their house when he stopped getting work as a house painter. He had got too old to climb ladders. Charlie remembers saying he wanted to be a house painter like Hermann. His sister Norma had mocked him, saying that he was going to be the artist in the family. He remembers his father slapping Norma for saying this. "I always feeled bad when Norma got slapped for being mean to me. When I got smart, I’ll go visit her."

March 30

Miss Kinnian begins to coach Charlie to cope with his increasing intelligence. She says that she has great confidence in him. She says at worst he will have the increased intelligence only for a short time, but he will still have done something for retarded people everywhere. They begin reading ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ which Charlie finds very difficult. He feels very sorry for Robinson because he is all alone. He hopes he’ll find a friend soon.

March 31

Charlie is taught new words by Miss Kinnian. The irrationality of English spellings troubles Charlie. Miss Kinnian tells him not to worry, as "spelling is not suppose to make sence."


Charlie’s directness and positive attitude to all around him, is seen in all his observations about people. He now moves away from the restricted world of the bakery. The carefree college students and their incessant arguments about subjects completely alien to him fascinate him. Upto this point, the last word in ‘smartness’ to him was represented by Joe Carp and Frank Reilly, his loutish ‘friends.’ Now the larger world begins to open up before him. Charlie soaks it all in wide-eyed, and without any of the ‘ego problems’ which plague the others around him. He is astounded that anyone could laugh at Prof. Nemur. In his experience people only ever laughed at him because he was less than ‘smart.’ Even then he has no grudge against the Carps and Reillys or against the childhood cruelty of his sister, Norma.

However, Charlie’s personality is shown to be gradually altering after the operation. First, he is inevitably disappointed that he has not transformed instantly after the operation. Then there is anger at being pressurized by Nemur and Strauss, and frustration at being less than a mouse! Gradually, he begins to question the decisions made for him-the boring tests, the intrusive "T.V" and the contests with Algernon. His unconscious critical comments on the English language are very apt.

Another new feature is his emerging memories of his family. So far, they are brief flashes set off by associations with something in his present experience. Memories of his mother, which are more central to his life and more traumatic, have still not surfaced.

Charlie’s awareness of Algernon’s situation grows everyday. He enjoys holding the mouse. He feels sorry and angry that Algernon is fed only after he solves some problems. The earlier anger at being beaten by a mere mouse now grows into a bond of kinship, when he realizes that Algernon too has been experimented upon. Charlie is puzzled when Burt and his associates try to conceal from the students, his reason for being at the lab. But he is still only absorbing impressions and is not yet able to draw conclusions from them.

Of the others described, Strauss, Donner, Miss Kinnian are portrayed as sympathetic. In this sense, Strauss differs from Nemur. Of the people at the bakery, Joe and Frank represent the most backward and insensitive attitude that some have towards a physically or mentally disabled person. Only Gimpy, himself lame, protects Charlie from their crude practical jokes. Miss Kinnian now begins to change from the vaguely maternal image - "she looks younger than I remembered her," Charlie says. Nemur is the only one in the research team who seems to see Charlie as an experimental object. Both Strauss and Burt are very patient with Charlie’s anxieties and frustrations.

The first person narrative suits the theme perfectly. Its low key humor, pathos, and bare reporting style reflect the still underdeveloped intellect of the narrator. It also permits the author to avoid technical explanations about the experiments, and allows the reader to form independent conclusions about people and events without interference from an omniscient author.

The bare early reports are slowly expanding along with the narrator’s increasing awareness and power of expression.

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