Free Study Guide: Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes|
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FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON: FREE LITERARY ANALYSIS
Charlie canít read some of his old progress reports. "I think I
wrote them but I donít remember so good." He has bought some books
from the drug store but he feels tired when he tries to read them. The
only books he likes are the ones, which show pictures of pretty girls.
But the feelings they arouse are "not nice," so he decides not
to buy them any more.
Alice comes to the door. They both weep, but Charlie still sends her
away "because I didnít want her to laff at me." He tells her
that he doesnít like her nor does he want to become smart. But he later
admits to himself that this is not true but, he had to say this so that
she would go away. Mrs. Mooney tells Charlie that, Alice has given her
some more money to look after him. Charlie does not like this and decides
to take up a job soon. He prays that, he doesnít forget, "how to
reed and rite."
Charlie goes back to Donner for his old job at the bakery. Donner is
very sad and employs him. Seeing him alone, a new worker, Meyer Klaus,
harasses him by twisting his arm. Charlie tries to free himself but is
unable to do so. He dirties his pants and cries with humiliation. Then
Joe comes to his rescue. When Charlie returns after cleaning himself in
the toilet, he overhears Frank, Joe and Gimpy talking among themselves
about asking Mr. Donner to fire Klaus. Charlie doesnít want that, because
he remembers that he had hated it when he was sacked from Donnerís. Gimpy
tells Charlie that he and the others will protect him if anyone bothers
him. Charlie muses, "It's good to have frends."
Charlie wanders into Aliceís class at the adult center. "I said hello Miss Kinnian Iím redy for my lessen today only I lossed the book we was using." She runs out crying and Charlie says to himself, "I reely pulled a Charlie Gordon that time." He leaves the class.
After this, he decides to leave for the Warren Home, as heís afraid of doing something embarrassing again. He doesnít want everyone to feel sorry for him. He plans to take a few books and practise hard saying, "may be Iíll even get a littel bit smarter than I was before the operashun without an operashun." He also takes with him a new "rabits foot and a luky penny and even a littel bit of that majic powder left and maybe they will help me."
He appeals to "Miss Kinnian" not to feel sorry for him as "Iím glad I got a second chanse in life like you said to be smart." "Now I know I had a family and I was a person just like everyone."
Even now, he hopes to get "a litel smarter" and remembers
the joy that he had felt on reading, "the blue book with the toren
cover." He remembers the man who tore the book as looking like him
but then he feels that it couldnít be him, as he had seen the man through
the window. He knows that he is the "first dumb person who found
out something important for sience," but he canít remember what it
was. He ends his progress report, saying goodbye to Miss Kinnian and Dr.
Strauss, telling them to ask Prof. Nemur not to be "such a grouch."
He also asks them to put some flowers on Algernonís grave.
Charlie has already accepted that he can only move downwards now. The suffering of Algernon has made that amply clear. Yet, the day to day agony, facing the petty irritants of a meaningless routine with nothing to hope for, is well documented in this chapter. He faces his return to a retarded state with dread and the attraction towards death is very strong. The "strange experience" he has on Straussí couch represents this. The longing to be released from earth, free "like a flying fish leaping out of the sea," but the claims of the "old Charlie Gordon" are too strong. The novel has constantly dwelt on this dichotomy into two selves that exists within Charlie Gordon. Now, the "genius" Charlie feels he has only borrowed the "retarded" Charlieís body and has to return it to him. That he is a person in his own right, in many ways a better human being than most, has been a continued message in the book.
The lab sessions document the agony of a person, who knows that his mind is failing, but is helpless to prevent it. The author reveals Charlieís pain with sensitivity, and makes it a universal experience. It could be any person with a mental or psychological condition, or Parkinsonís disease or simply the tragedy of old age. The continuing loneliness of the human being, made ever worse by a degeneration process, is chilling as is shown in the novel. The rest of the chapter shows the unavoidable severing of personal ties, with Fay, with Strauss and Burt and even the people at the bakery. The only bright spot is that when his powers are failing, Charlieís inhibitions with Alice are swept away. They finally unite sexually; a merging made more poignant by the knowledge that it can only be for a short while.
The form of the novel has come full circle, with the earlier jerky miss-spelt
sentences and words resurfacing, as Charlieís downslide progresses. Charlie
is transformed slowly and painfully from the lively, rebellious intellectual
to the old Charlie - always watching the lives of others from his window.
However, the idea that, having lived so fully, Charlie will again slide
into his old attitudes and life-style is less convincing. Earlier, he
had not known what possibility life could hold. Now, having experienced
them so vitally, could he resign himself so smoothly to perpetually living
at a sub-human level, peeping at naked women, reading picture books and
"girlie magazines?" Except for this possible weakness, the author
awakens an exceptional empathy in the reader for Charlie, always a victim
but struggling to the end for self-respect and acceptance from society.
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. 09 May 2017