Free Study Guide: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes|
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FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON: FREE LITERARY CRITICISM / ANALYSIS
Charlie wanders about at night, aimlessly. He first stands on the streets,
looking "at faces." Once, a policeman takes him home when he
is lost. Another time, a pimp cheats him of ten dollars.
One morning, Charlie walks home to find Alice asleep there. She refuses
all attempts to put her off, and insists that she has come, "because
thereís still time. And I want to spend it with you." Charlie says
thereís only enough time for him to spend with himself. She refuses to
pity him, saying that, the future "was no secret" and intellectually,
he is at her level now. She reaches out determinedly and this time the
psychological barriers donít go up. Charlie loves her "with more
than my body." He feels he has "unwound the string she had given
me, and found my way out of the labyrinth to where she was." This
sexual experience is not simple - "it was being lifted off the earth,
outside fear and torment, being part of something greater than myself.
... We merged to re-create and perpetuate the human spirit." It reminds
him of the Ďstrange visioní he had experienced during his therapy with
Strauss. He finds a kind of comfort in knowing that what they have, "is
more than most people find in a lifetime."
Alice and Charlie go to a concert, but he finds he canít pay attention
for long. Aliceís presence is a "bad thing" because it makes
him feel that he should fight his fate, "freeze" himself at
this level, and not lose her.
Alice tells Charlie he has blank spells when he lies around for days
and doesnít know her. He knows it is inevitable, but he canít help wondering
if he can fight the regression, fight against becoming like all those
at the Warren Home, like Charlie Gordon as he was. Charlie is in torment
as he thinks about all this.
Charlie wants to look up some reference in his Report on the "Algernon-Gordon
Effect" and discovers that, he canít even understand the report any
more. He is suffering and is angry at everything. Aliceís attempts to
care for him and keep his home clean enrage him. The more she humors him,
the wilder he gets remembering how the staff at the Warren home patiently
humored the inmates. Charlie however is repentant when Alice weeps.
Charlieís physical activity is getting affected. He blames Alice and
prefers to think that her rearrangements are to blame. She responds with
patience and pity and this irritates him further. The only thing he enjoys
now is the T.V, which he watches all day and night. It is the "window"
through which he is doomed to watch life, always as the observer. He is
disgusted at giving in to drugging himself, "with this dishonest
stuff thatís aimed at the child in me. Especially me, because the child
in me is reclaiming my mind." Yet, he wants to forget everything
that has happened to him as well. On finding a German research paper he
had used in his work, he is shattered to find that he can no longer read
German. All the languages he had learnt have been wiped clean from his
After a constant struggle over the deliberate mess he had made of his
apartment, Alice and Charlie have a final rave. Alice charges him with
"wallowing in his own filth and self-pity," of mindlessly watching
T.V and of snarling at people. She tells him that he was loved and respected
more when he was retarded, and had a sense of humor. Charlie finds it
increasingly hard to understand what she is saying. He accuses her of
pushing him as his mother used to, and asks to be left alone now that
he is "falling apart." Alice breaks down, then packs her bags
Charlie canít type any more. He broods over what Alice has said and
decides that, if he keeps learning new things while forgetting old ones,
he may not sink so fast. He starts reading feverishly at the library,
hoping "to keep moving upward, no matter what happened." Strauss
comes to see him. Charlie says that he can look after himself, and when
he feels he canít, heíll board a train for the Warren Home. Fay now avoids
him, she seems afraid of him. Only Mrs. Mooney, the landlady, visits him
with hot food. Charlie is sure that Strauss or Alice must have asked her
to do so.
Charlie reads, irrespective of the fact, whether or not he can understand.
He reads "Don Quixote" and has a constant feeling that he knew
the meaning behind the windmills, the castles and the dragons, but he
canít remember. He watches people from his window, and lies in bed most
of the time. He now finds it difficult to write the progress reports.
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