Free Study Guide: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes|
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FREE PLOT NOTES: FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON
Fay’s lifestyle makes it hard for Charlie to work, but he tries to work on a "linguistic analysis of Urdu verb forms.’ He has also compelled a piano concerto, which he dedicates to Fay. Charlie admires the dedication of other researchers, but feels they are "studying more and more about less and less."
Alice calls to ask him when he will return to the Beckman lab and he
tells her that he will do so after completing his current projects. On
one of his binges with Fay, Charlie’s old persona reappears and does a
tap dance on the stage of a club. Fay thinks he is a wonderful comedian
with his "moron act." Algernon behaves erratically again, frightening
Fay has developed a habit of feeding Algernon who is quite friendly with her. One day, as she tries to pick him up, he bites her thumb. He then hurries back into the maze. At this point, they also discover that he has injured Minnie. As they try to rescue her from the cage, Algernon resists violently.
Algernon calms down but Charlie notices that his actions are restless
and confused. Instead of carefully determining his directions, he moves
about hurriedly and seems out of control. It is because of this that,
he often crashes into barriers. This gets Charlie worried and he decides
to take Algernon back to Nemur’s lab.
This chapter shows Charlie’s struggle to "grow up" normally, especially in emotional and sexual terms. He also explores the intelligence he has got after the operation. His escape from the convention gives him the chance to control his life to some extent, and take stock of what he has. The realization he has at the convention that, the experiment on him might still fail, gives him a sense of urgency and maturity. His mind reveals to him the traumatic events of his past, like his mother’s ultimate and complete rejection of him. He wants to meet his family desperately and prove to them that he has gone beyond their wildest dreams! But, in the moving and sad scene with the father, Charlie cannot confront him. He is afraid that, as with other past relationships, this one too, will fail. Thus, his desperate need for warmth and love remains unsatisfied. He loves Alice but can’t resolve his old problems with her. When Fay enters his life, she succeeds, to a certain extent, in freeing him from all the taboos that he is imprisoned within. Fay is a non-conformist, a strong character outside the framework of his childhood conditioning by his mother. She has rejected all the conventions, but is warm and generous and "just what he needs." It is a one-sided relationship in which Charlie’s essence, his past, is unknown to her.
Charlie’s life has changed so dramatically that he is unsure about who he is. He cannot resolve the difference between the ‘old Charlie Gordon,’ who was only an observer of life and barely tolerated by others, and his new self. It is only when he accepts that these two selves are part of who he is, is he able to move on. Thus he gets involved with Fay. He also starts a study on the operation done on him and Algernon, and it's effects.
This chapter documents his struggle to adapt to his new life, and to take responsible decisions for himself.
It also brings out the contrast between his mother and Fay, and Alice and Fay. His mother is almost the main antagonist in his life. But she is also shown to have been under great pressure. Her hysteria, her egoism, and her final cruel rejection are repeatedly revealed. Both Alice and Fay accept him, but they are very different. Alice has been a sort of kindly maternal figure to the old Charlie. The new Charlie is attracted to her sexually but can’t banish the old Charlie’s feelings for her completely. Also, Alice is a more conventional woman and falls within the category of those who were taboo for the old Charlie. Fay is unknown to the old Charlie and she also is unconventional. The old taboo therefore does not apply to her. Perhaps too, the relationship with her is less intense, hence doesn’t make for soul-searching for Charlie.
Another line of development in the chapter is that of Charlie’s work. He is
shown initially, as just enjoying his new intelligence and dabbling in
all kinds of reading. After the convention, when the seriousness of his
own condition is brought home to him, he decides to escape with Algernon.
Then he experiments with Algernon’s mazes, never using food as a reward.
When he works with his "alter ego," the mouse, knowing that
their situations are parallel, his work is convincing. Yet, when he is
said to work on a piano concerto on "the pair production nuclear
photo effect for exploratory work in biophysics," or on "linguistic
analysis of Urdu verb forms, or the "Hindu Journal of Psychopathology,"
it sounds like gibberish. This is the weakest area of the novel - it’s
claims to belong to the genre of science fiction. Whenever the author
strays into a technical area, he seems to be quite ill at ease. Charlie’s
constant movement from one area of work to another could suggest his restlessness
and insecurity about his future. But, the superficial references to that
work are not convincing.
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. 09 May 2017