Free Study Guide: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes|
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FREE CHAPTER SUMMARY: FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON
Charlie wants permission from either Nemur or Strauss before inviting
Miss Kinnian, so he visits the campus. Here, he overhears a heated argument
between the two. Nemur has agreed to present a paper on their experiment
with Charlie at a convention in Chicago. Strauss objects to this idea
as he feels that it is too early. Charlie overhears them hurling abuses
and criticisms at each other. He suddenly realizes he has no right to
listen, as "they might not have cared when I was too feeble-minded
to know what was going on, but now that I could understand they wouldn’t
want me to hear it." He therefore leaves the campus. Their quarrel
upsets him as, for the first time, he sees them as, "not gods or
even heroes but just two men worried about getting something out of their
Charlie finds himself getting more and more attracted towards the intense
literary and intellectual discussions between students at the university
luncheonette. He is shocked and then excited by their debates on the existence
of God. He soon becomes deeply involved in reading a lot of literature
and he describes this as, "feeding a hunger that can’t be satisfied."
His identifying with the students rekindles an old memory, and he dreams of a scene between his mother and his teacher at P.S. 13, his first school. His mother tries to scratch the teacher when she advises the family to send Charlie to a special school. He remembers that he was six years old then and his sister Norma was not been born. His mother, a tense, talkative woman, "was always fluttering, like a big, white bird-around my father, and he too heavy and tired to escape her pecking." She screams at his father, refusing to accept Charlie’s condition - "He’s not a dummy. He’s normal. He’ll be just like everyone else." His father objects to her "driving him as if he were an animal that could learn to do tricks." The loud voices frighten Charlie who takes refuge in a game with his bunch of beads. His mother flings them away, commanding him to play with his alphabet blocks. His mother’s sudden outburst scares him and by looking at him his mother realizes that he has to go to the toilet. She asks him to go the toilet alone but Charlie is too petrified to move and therefore spoils his clothes. She goes towards him to hit him and Charlie turns to his father for comfort. Unable to influence her, Charlie remembers his father walking out of the apartment.
Now, Charlie suddenly recalls that their names were Rose and Matt. Even
in the dream, he is unable to see their faces clearly. It has been a long
The progress Charlie makes after the operation is shown almost imperceptibly. The device of a first person narrator is very effective in this novel. It allows him to depict Charlie’s thoughts and condition without the distancing or patronizing attitude that an omniscient narrator might have had. It also underlines the huge difference between the original Charlie and his persona after the operation.
Three major developments are seen in this chapter. One is the disappointment of the post-operation Charlie’s hopes, of the deepening his friendship and of shared enjoyment with his "mates" at the bakery. The earlier "dumb" Charlie had believed them to be his friends and had been happy in their company. Now he is increasingly isolated from Frank, Joe and even Gimpy, his protector in earlier days. At another level, the reader is shown that even the earlier ‘friendship’ was more in Charlie’s mind. Joe, Frank, and others had treated him sometimes with tolerance and at the others times, with a gleeful spite.
The second important development is Charlie’s slowly revealed memories of his home life, which appear mostly in his dreams. The dominant figure is that of his mother. Her fanatical determination that Charlie should be "normal," makes her the center of his youthful fear and discomfort. She is seen as a bird of prey pecking at his gentle father.
The third important element is Charlie’s new perspective of Nemur and Strauss, the two experimental scientists. Earlier Charlie was shown as accepting them as agents of hope in his life. There was irony in the depiction of their puppet-master attitudes, but the irony was not in Charlie’s mind. After the operation he looks at them analytically, they are not ‘Gods’ any more, and in their confusion and egotism, lies Charlie’s insecurity.
The readers also notice that, the Progress Reports become longer and more
complex, with the increasing intelligence and complexity of Charlie’s
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. 09 May 2017