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Flowers for Algernon

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The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. T The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance--until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?


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The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. T The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance--until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

30 review for Flowers for Algernon

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    I am finding it hard to put into words the vast range of emotions I experienced whilst reading this little tale of hope, perseverance, truth and humanity. When it comes to science fiction, I would hesitate before declaring myself a fan, simply because there's only a certain amount of aliens, spaceships and intergalactic battles I can take before I start to become distracted. A good action scene on a distant planet only takes my enjoyment so far and the books I have enjoyed most from this genre t I am finding it hard to put into words the vast range of emotions I experienced whilst reading this little tale of hope, perseverance, truth and humanity. When it comes to science fiction, I would hesitate before declaring myself a fan, simply because there's only a certain amount of aliens, spaceships and intergalactic battles I can take before I start to become distracted. A good action scene on a distant planet only takes my enjoyment so far and the books I have enjoyed most from this genre tend to be the softer, more humanity-focused stories. I'm a huge fan of science fiction that doesn't seem too far away, something that I could imagine lingering just around the corner after a few more scientific experiments - and that's how I feel about Flowers for Algernon, I can imagine it as a possibility and that makes it all the more meaningful for me. This story is about Charlie Gordon who with an IQ of 68 can only hope to sweep the floors at the bakery... well, that is until he is invited to participate in an experiment previously only tested on animals. The experiment is an operation that will gradually make him a genius and allow him to become the person he's always longed to be. But, as with Adam and Eve in the genesis story we all know, intelligence comes with a price. Charlie learns that the people he's known for years are not what he'd always thought, where he once associated laughter with friendship, he soon learns that it is mockery. Stephen Fry once said that intelligence is almost entirely about the strength of your memory - and Charlie Gordon finds that out the hard way. Memories that had been forgotten come flooding back, bringing pain with them. Flowers for Algernon looks at so many different things: mental disabilities, human nature, intelligence and love. It made me feel sad, angry, frustrated and hopeful, it made me shake my head at people's behaviour and it made me incredibly thankful for so many things - I know how cliche that sounds but it's true. Even though Charlie's intelligence grows to beyond that of a normal human, he is emotionally still very much a child and has to learn the things other people learned long ago. He doesn't understand what is happening when his body becomes sexually responsive to a woman and he often doesn't understand why people say one thing but mean something completely different. The abuse he has endured because of his disabilities runs back through the years to his first public school and even his own mother. This is a very sad story that made me think about so many things and the ending just about broke my heart.

  2. 3 out of 5

    Wil Wheaton

    Heartbreaking and beautiful. Required reading, as far as I am concerned.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Pouting Always

    Wow I'm so glad I finally read it. I had only read passages of it before but it was totally with sitting and reading the whole thing through. I don't even know what to say I can't stop crying because of how things are for Charlie and I guess I just wish that they way he was treated wasnt so close to reality. Also it's kind of painful to have to question things like intimacy vs intelligence and self actualization which are brought up so poignantly in the book. I don't even know if anything I'm sa Wow I'm so glad I finally read it. I had only read passages of it before but it was totally with sitting and reading the whole thing through. I don't even know what to say I can't stop crying because of how things are for Charlie and I guess I just wish that they way he was treated wasnt so close to reality. Also it's kind of painful to have to question things like intimacy vs intelligence and self actualization which are brought up so poignantly in the book. I don't even know if anything I'm saying is making any sense but the book really got to me and now I need to be alone to cry and consolidate myself with it and the new ideas it has made me consider.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I first read this book in 8th grade, in my english class. I remembered enjoying it, being fascinated in how the author painted the picture that I really was reading Charlie's journal by use of spelling, grammar and punctuation related to the level Charlie was at when writing the entries. What I didn't know at the time was the people who created the text book I used felt it was okay to chop whole chapters out of the middle of the book. They felt pulling out whole sections was okay in the name of I first read this book in 8th grade, in my english class. I remembered enjoying it, being fascinated in how the author painted the picture that I really was reading Charlie's journal by use of spelling, grammar and punctuation related to the level Charlie was at when writing the entries. What I didn't know at the time was the people who created the text book I used felt it was okay to chop whole chapters out of the middle of the book. They felt pulling out whole sections was okay in the name of protecting children from "bad" concepts like sex, alcohol, and violence. They didn't consider that perhaps leaving the story intact and waiting for the children to mature before handing them this story was a better route. I discovered this injustice when I was in a used bookstore, and remembered this story I read in class I enjoyed, so I dug up a copy and bought it. When I got home, I jumped right in and started to reread it, only to get a shock in the middle of the book where suddenly there were whole chapters about this neighbor Charlie gets involved with that I didn't remember. When I reread the book more recently, there were more things that I realized would have been chopped out of a version intended for 8th grade students to read, and I just hadn't noticed as much the first time reading the complete copy because they were tucked in with the more mundane things towards the beginning of Charlies developments. All ranting aside, I find this book to be a fascinating look at human nature, personality and development. It's well written, and does a good job placing you into Charlie's head as he goes up and down through this experiment. If you read it in school like I first did, do yourself a favor and buy or borrow a complete copy of the book to read. The lessons learned by all characters in the book certainly give you lots of think about your own behavior and that of others. EDIT: There have been a few comments pointing out that the story was a short story first, likely the version I read in my school textbook, that was later expanded into the novel. I only wanted to add this note to my review, as it seems some people comment without reading the other comments left, so I'm seeing both comments informing me of this fact and comments of outrage that the book was censored.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adina

    I read this 2 years ago, before I started writing more detailed reviews. I am not planning to modify my thoughts from back then but I want to add my father's thoughts. I gifted this book to him last Christmas and he finally got to read it. He was as deeply moved by this magnificent heart wrenching novel as I was and he felt the need to send me a message when he finished to tell how impressed he was. It was the first time he sent me an emotional message about a book so with his permission, I will I read this 2 years ago, before I started writing more detailed reviews. I am not planning to modify my thoughts from back then but I want to add my father's thoughts. I gifted this book to him last Christmas and he finally got to read it. He was as deeply moved by this magnificent heart wrenching novel as I was and he felt the need to send me a message when he finished to tell how impressed he was. It was the first time he sent me an emotional message about a book so with his permission, I will paste here most of his words: "Intelligence, a gift or a course? Yes, I finished the book and I am overwhelmed by many thoughts. Flowers for Algernon is one of those books that after you read you realize how much you would have lost if you hadn't read it. We can think of Charlie or of each of us who, as he does, we accumulate and then we loose what we got through hard work. However, as he, we need to know that it wasn't for nothing. Knowledge, accumulation, though, happiness, sadness, they all come from learning, books, from the ones around us. Intelligence might be a gift but it still has a price which we have to pay." There is more but that is a private daddy-daughter talk. I love sharing my love of books with my dad and I am emotional each time he loves one of the books i recommend. Read Flowers for Algernon! It is amazing, words cannot describe it. My original review: This book is extraordinary, one of my favorites. It is a fast read but is is very powerful and heartbreaking. I read it in the plane and I felt a little embarrassed when I started to weep at the end of the book. Even though I was expecting the ending the way it is written still broke my heart. I loved the way the book is written, as journal entries of an adult retard which is the subject of an experiment that makes him smart (a lot smarter). The writing at first is very childish but as the narrator changes so does the writing. Very clever. One of the things that I found to be most powerful was the way the narrator changed his view of others after becoming more intelligent and the way others changed their attitude towards him. I believe this should be read by everybody. Highly recommended.

  6. 3 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    When Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man, undergoes an experiment to increase his intelligence, his life changes in ways he never imagined. But will the intelligence increase be permanent. I first became aware of Flowers for Algernon when it was mentioned in an episode of Newsradio. I forgot about it until that episode of The Simpsons inspired by it, when it was discovered Homer had a crayon lodged in his brain. I'd mostly forgotten about it again until it popped up for ninety-nine cents in o When Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man, undergoes an experiment to increase his intelligence, his life changes in ways he never imagined. But will the intelligence increase be permanent. I first became aware of Flowers for Algernon when it was mentioned in an episode of Newsradio. I forgot about it until that episode of The Simpsons inspired by it, when it was discovered Homer had a crayon lodged in his brain. I'd mostly forgotten about it again until it popped up for ninety-nine cents in one of my BookGorilla emails. Flowers for Algernon is one of those stories I wish I would have read years earlier. It's simply marvelous. It's about the nature of intelligence and how intelligence can be divisive. It's a very emotional book. Personally, this was a very powerful book for me. For a lot of my time in school, I was way ahead of the curve and didn't really click with other kids. As Charlie's intelligence grew, eventually surpassing even the scientists that experimented on him, his feelings of isolation increased and I felt a lot of kinship toward Charlie. His difficulties fitting in were the cherry on top of the loneliness sundae. As Charlie's intelligence grew and he comprehended things from his past, it was hard not to feel sorry for him. Once he starts sliding backward, the book keeps getting more and more sad. Keyes doesn't mind kicking you in the emotional junk, that's for sure. I love the way the book is written in periodic progress reports from Charlie. It's perfect vehicle to show his increase in intelligence and eventual decline. There were man-tears shed over the course of the book. I had to set the book down a few times to keep from sobbing in my cube. Flowers for Algernon is one of those rare science fiction novels that transcends the genre. Five out of five stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Raeleen Lemay

    what a great read! I sort of feel like it was too simple, but still an enjoyable enough book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dana Ilie

    While this is clearly speculative fiction, the point of Flowers for Algernon isn't the technology that lets Charlie become more intelligent but rather how people react to him, both before and afterwards, as his perceptions of the world change. This is, in part, a sharp rebuke of the way that the mentally retarded are treated, but there are also interesting explorations of identity, friendship, and the results of revisiting one's past. There are several wonderfully memorable characters, particula While this is clearly speculative fiction, the point of Flowers for Algernon isn't the technology that lets Charlie become more intelligent but rather how people react to him, both before and afterwards, as his perceptions of the world change. This is, in part, a sharp rebuke of the way that the mentally retarded are treated, but there are also interesting explorations of identity, friendship, and the results of revisiting one's past. There are several wonderfully memorable characters, particularly the free-living artist living next door. The journal technique is quite effective in bringing the reader into the story and conveying Charlie's intelligence level, using spelling and grammar as superficial clues and the sophistication of Charlie's observations as a deeper clue to his current intelligence level. Over the course of the book, the writing slowly becomes more sophisticated, in tune with the underlying thoughts. I liked the balance between first-person immediacy and thoughtful retrospective that the format of a journal entry at the end of each day or two provides. The reader's growing ability to understand Charlie and Charlie's attempts to understand himself touch on the exploration of alienness and human reactions to it that underpin so many great science fiction stories. Highly recommended.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Omg!!!!! I can't even!! Mel 🖤🐾🐺

  10. 3 out of 5

    Simon

    This has to be one of my favourite sub-genres; psychological science fiction. This is up there with the likes of A Scanner Darkly and More Than Human. These are the sort of SF books that I would recommend to those who look down on the genre. This book explores such themes as the nature of intelligence, the effects of intelligence on the way you see others and the world around you, as well as social attitudes towards people with mental problems. The narrative structure is a series of progress repo This has to be one of my favourite sub-genres; psychological science fiction. This is up there with the likes of A Scanner Darkly and More Than Human. These are the sort of SF books that I would recommend to those who look down on the genre. This book explores such themes as the nature of intelligence, the effects of intelligence on the way you see others and the world around you, as well as social attitudes towards people with mental problems. The narrative structure is a series of progress reports, written by the protagonist, detailing his experiences throughout his period of experimental treatment. Thus we have a simple but clever way of portraying the changes in his perception and mental abilities which I don't think would have been as effective had it been written in the third person. One of the fascinating things about this story is seeing the way the attitudes of others towards him changed as he became more intelligent (not always for the better) and the way his view of others changed as he surpassed them. This has certainly changed the way I think about people with mental problems. A great example of how SF can give a writer tools for examining people and society that other genres lack.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Captivating and heartbreaking. Daniel Keyes 1958 novel about an intellectually disabled man who, through an experimental medical procedure, gains genius level IQ is a classic of science fiction. Charlie Gordon began attending classes at night for “retarded adults” so that he could learn to read and to “be like other people”. With the assistance of his night school teacher, he is interviewed by scientists and is accepted into the experimental program. At the laboratory he meets Algernon, a mouse who Captivating and heartbreaking. Daniel Keyes 1958 novel about an intellectually disabled man who, through an experimental medical procedure, gains genius level IQ is a classic of science fiction. Charlie Gordon began attending classes at night for “retarded adults” so that he could learn to read and to “be like other people”. With the assistance of his night school teacher, he is interviewed by scientists and is accepted into the experimental program. At the laboratory he meets Algernon, a mouse who has undergone a similar treatment and who can traverse a series of mazes faster than Charlie. Once through the procedure, Charlie first becomes able to out pace Algernon in the maze game and then advances far beyond what the researchers thought possible. But intellectual advancement is not the same as emotional and social development and Charlie runs into problems as his life is turned upside down by the changes. His family and social interactions undergo significant transformations. Charlie is not the same person as he was before. Keyes’ conflict develops when Algernon begins to show signs of reversals and the question becomes: will Charlie also lose that which he has gained? Presented as a series of “progress reports” written by Charlie to document and chronicle his perceptions during the months long experiment, the reader is taken on a journey through Charlie’s unfortunate past, the amazingly rapid intellectual improvements and the sad terrors of what may come. Told with empathy and compassion, Keyes explores what it means to be human and what is most important. A book that everyone should read.

  12. 3 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Flowers for Algernon is a wonderful book about how raw intelligence can be both a gift and a curse. The protagonist, Charlie Gordon, has his IQ increased via a surgical procedure from that of a barely functional mentally retarded person to superhuman intelligence and writes the book in first person based on his experience. The procedure was first tried on lab mouse Algernon who the protagonist befriends and who is a litmus test of what he experiences. The maturity of the writing improves as he b Flowers for Algernon is a wonderful book about how raw intelligence can be both a gift and a curse. The protagonist, Charlie Gordon, has his IQ increased via a surgical procedure from that of a barely functional mentally retarded person to superhuman intelligence and writes the book in first person based on his experience. The procedure was first tried on lab mouse Algernon who the protagonist befriends and who is a litmus test of what he experiences. The maturity of the writing improves as he becomes smarter and smarter. However, (spoiler alert but then why would anyone read a book that left the story there?), things are not all rosy and Algernon has a sudden precipitous drop in IQ and dies in considerable confusion and pain. Now, can Charlie discover a cure and maintain the enhanced smarts? Does he want to? Is he condemned to go full circle and lose all his self-awareness? These questions are tackled throughout the book and make for great reading. This theme has since been addressed in sci fi (I read "Understand" by Ted Chiang this week on the same idea), but Keyes' treatment of it is both moving and insightful and a great read. Nota bene: At WebSummit in Lisbon this week, Bryan Johnson spoke of his new venture (after the $1B sale of Braintree to PayPal some years back) about bringing this kind of cognitive enhancement into the real world, but based on Charlie's experience, this terrorized rather than excited me. How do you feel about this inevitable new field of neuroscience? Let me know in the comments.

  13. 3 out of 5

    James

    Book Review 4 out of 5 stars to Flowers for Algernon, a classic novella written in 1966 by Daniel Keyes, often read in high school as standard curriculum in America. A few shorter versions of the story exist, as well as film or TV adaptions for those who want to compare the literary art with the visual. I enjoyed this book when I read it the first time and even returned to reading the shorter version during a college English course. If you're not familiar with it, it's the story of Charlie, w Book Review 4 out of 5 stars to Flowers for Algernon, a classic novella written in 1966 by Daniel Keyes, often read in high school as standard curriculum in America. A few shorter versions of the story exist, as well as film or TV adaptions for those who want to compare the literary art with the visual. I enjoyed this book when I read it the first time and even returned to reading the shorter version during a college English course. If you're not familiar with it, it's the story of Charlie, who at the time when this was written, may have been called "mentally slow." If this took place in current times, it'd be a very different approach to both telling the story and to trying to help Charlie. So the book must be read and interpreted based on it being written nearly 50 years earlier. Charlie takes his time understanding everything around him, but at his core, you immediately see that he's a good guy. He loves a pet mouse named Algernon. They both go through a similar experiment and their intelligence begins growing, but then Algernon becomes very sick. No spoilers here, so you'll have to read it to see what happens to the mouse and to Charlie. The book for me was a great story to immerse yourself in from an emotional stance and a philosophical stance. People are different. Some are smart. Some are not smart. But there's a purpose for everyone. How far do we take medicine to help everyone? If everyone continues to get smarter, will we run out of supplies and space? If we don't help those who need it, will they become the less fortunate asked to do the harder manual work because they cannot think as well as others? All of these are questions which plague your mind as you read... as they did readers 50 years ago. I believe it's books like these that helped shape who America is today -- some great things came out of it, but also, some hurtful and potentially dangerous things came out of it. Though the intentions are not to divide people into segments and groups, that's what ends up happening. That said, the author and the story are to me, simply trying to tell a perspective, and then conversation and education help navigate that middle line of how to move forward. When you think about the mouse, you have love, guilt, fear, pain. When you see Charlie, you wonder... what happens to the future of our race? It's a great comparison and contrast to difference aspects of life and humanity. I'd like to read this again now that it's been over 20 years... just to see if I feel any differently. But I definitely think it's something people who enjoy reading should give a chance to. It's a broad sweep of what people think should be done to help others, as opposed to what the right decision is for the good of that individual. About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

  14. 3 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    I first came across Flowers For Algernon as a short story in a science fiction anthology many years ago. It seemed an enjoyably poignant and perceptive slight tale. By 1966 the author Daniel Keyes had developed his story into this full length novel, the joint winner of the year's Nebula award for the best Science Fiction novel. It was the high point of Daniel Keyes’s career. As well as nonfiction he has written several other science fiction books which explore the workings of the mind. But the c I first came across Flowers For Algernon as a short story in a science fiction anthology many years ago. It seemed an enjoyably poignant and perceptive slight tale. By 1966 the author Daniel Keyes had developed his story into this full length novel, the joint winner of the year's Nebula award for the best Science Fiction novel. It was the high point of Daniel Keyes’s career. As well as nonfiction he has written several other science fiction books which explore the workings of the mind. But the classic Flowers for Algernon has sold more than five million copies, and has never been out of print since its original publication. Daniel Keyes's science fiction stories were intermittently published during the 1950s, before he became a fiction editor at Marvel Science Fiction. He also worked as a high school teacher for developmentally disabled adults. These two experiences resulted in the masterpiece, Flowers for Algernon. Daniel Keyes said that the idea for the story struck him while he waited for an elevated train to take him from Brooklyn to New York University in 1945. In his 1999 memoir, he wrote, "I thought: My education is driving a wedge between me and the people I love. And then I wondered: 'What would happen if it were possible to increase a person's intelligence?'" The best speculative stories start from a simple idea: "What if?" This is such a story. It has no need for alien worlds, galactic swashbucklers, bug-eyed monsters or complicated spaceship technology. This is not the world of hard Sci Fi, focusing on science and the inhuman aspects of other worlds. Like all classic science fiction, it seems to transcend the limitations of the genre. It explores universal human themes such as the nature of intelligence, the nature of emotion, and how the two interact with each other. Even the intelligence-enhancing surgery is not detailed, except for brief mentions of the workings of the brain, and the rare genetic condition phenylketonuria, to add authenticity to the enhanced intellectual capabilities of the narrator. The story is told from the point of view of a thirty-two-year-old man, who has been assessed as having an IQ of 68. The narrator, Charlie Gordon, works at Donner’s Bakery in New York City as a janitor and delivery boy. He writes that he, "reely wantd to lern I wantid it more even then pepul who are smarter even then me … all my life I wantid to be smart and not dumb". His teacher Alice Kinnian, who works at the "Beekman College Centre for Retarded Adults", recognises his strong motivation and desire to learn. She has put him forward as a potential candidate to undergo experimental surgery designed to boost his intelligence. A team of University researchers have already performed the experiment successfully on the lab mouse Algernon. Charlie has a number of tests, including a comparison with Algernon to indicate how quickly he can solve a maze. This part of the book sets the tone for the gentle humour which is to follow. Charlie reports the tests with perfect childlike clarity and literal incomprehension. He has no imagination; no ability to invent. The directors of the experiment, Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur, agree that Charlie is a good choice, and ask Charlie to keep a journal, “Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on.” The entire narrative of Flowers for Algernon is composed of this series of “progress reports” which Charlie writes in his diary. Charlie is excited and optimistic, despite the scientists' caution, "You know Charlie we are not shure how this experamint will werk on pepul because we only tried it up to now on animils." At this point the reader realises that not only we will be able to anticipate Charlie's progress by watching Algernon's burgeoning intelligence, but we will be able to deduce it by the content and linguistic competence of Charlie's journal. It is a brilliantly inspired device on the part of Daniel Keyes. Charlie's teacher Alice continues to help him improve his spelling and grammar, and he determinedly reads adult books, filling his brain with knowledge from a wide range of academic fields. His progress is slow at first, but his comprehension accelerates as he devours his reading, delighting in his new-found knowledge and understanding, "This is beauty, love, and truth all rolled into one. This is joy." The story follows both the events in the laboratory, and events in Charlie's personal life. It becomes clear that the owner of the bakery is being kind to Charlie in keeping him in work, and that it has really been an act of charity. His co-workers however frequently make fun of and mock him. Charlie, on the other hand, has always viewed them as his true friends. The realisation that what he thought of as shared jokes are taunts, and that he is a laughing stock, is very hurtful to him. We feel his pain through his faithful record, "I never knew before that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me around just to make fun of me. Now I know what they mean when they say 'to pull a Charlie Gordon'. I'm ashamed." as he begins to realise the truth of the psychiatrist Dr. Strauss's observation, "The more intelligent you get the more problems you'll have Charlie." Charlie continues to work hard at the bakery, (view spoiler)[even inventing a process to improve productivity. But the surgery on him is a secret. And because his emotional development cannot keep pace with his astonishing mental feats, he does not realise that he is now alienated from the other workers, Frank and Joe, and Gimpy, the head baker, who has a club foot. They cannot understand the changes and are disturbed by the sudden change in him. They begin to fear him. Charlie on the other hand is learning all the time and pleased at his new challenges in interacting with other people. One event produces a moral dilemma, which he attempts to solve, but which eventually leads to him losing his job. (hide spoiler)] "Before, they had laughed at me, despising me for my ignorance and dullness; now, they hated me for my knowledge and understanding." Perplexed, Charlie approaches the scientists to help him, and the advice from each reflects their differing world views. Alice recognises that he needs to develop and experience moral quandries for himself, and tells him to trust his heart. This is an everyday moral dilemma, but one which has no easy or right answer. "What's right? Ironic that all my intelligence doesn't help me solve a problem like this." There are many layers to Charlie Gordon. As he develops, his personality changes. Thrilled at first to learn, he begins to be alternately angry and embarrassed when he remembers what he sees as his earlier foolish self. He also begins to remember his early childhood, and we learn all about his parents, Rose and Matt Gordon.(view spoiler)[ His father had been a barber's shop supply salesman, who hated both his job and his life. His mother's overriding concern was to "Be smart" and keep up appearances. Charlie remembers that he had a sister, who was considered to be a replacement for him, and named Norma because it sounded like “normal.” These sections where he gradually recovers lost memories of his childhood are very moving. As Charlie and the reader learns more, we begin to realise that Charlie's childhood was not the happy dream that he had envisaged. (hide spoiler)] All the flashbacks are interspersed with the narrative, so that the stories of Charlie’s present and past intertwine and reflect upon each other, adding to both Charlie's and the reader's understanding of the current situation. As his brain becomes more incisive, Charlie learns sarcasm, suspicion, and resentment. His faith in the people around him begins to crumble, "Now I understand that one of the reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you've believed in all your life aren't true, and that nothing is what it appears to be." "I'm confused. I don't know what I know any more." (view spoiler)[The one person he trusts is Alice, but whenever Charlie contemplates becoming intimate, he feels as if the old Charlie is watching him. Distracted, he panics and his mind dissociates. Charlie is confused about the origin of this, but the reader understands that it is a deep-seated memory of Rose punishing and beating him for any slight sexual impulses, resulting in the shame he still feels. (hide spoiler)] Charlie's feeling of his "other self" becomes stronger as the novel proceeds, continually resurfacing at crucial points, in the form of the old Charlie, perceived as a separate entity existing outside of himself. In this and other ways, the past persists in the present. For instance, he remembers long ago watching through a window in his apartment, as other children played. Later, with his enhanced intelligence, he feels as if the old Charlie is watching him through a window. The window seems to represent an emotional distance: a barrier to normal society, which the mentally disabled Charlie cannot cross. Later, he is just as distanced from his former self as the children he used to watch playing had been. Once he sees the other Charlie face-to-face in a mirror, a glimpse of his other self: a very frightening experience. Delighted with Charlie's progress, Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur take both Charlie and Algernon to a scientific convention in Chicago. But Charlie has reservations, "How different they seem now. And how foolish I was ever to have thought that professors were intellectual giants. They're people - and afraid the rest of the world will find out." "I'm not an inanimate object ... I'm a person ... I was a person before the operation. In case you forgot." Dr. Strauss has always been concerned with his psychological health, but Charlie feels that Nemur treats him like just another lab animal. It is transparently clear that Charlie’s scientific knowledge has advanced beyond Professor Nemur’s. (view spoiler)[In desperation, viewing the convention as his only chance for freedom, Charlie causes havoc, freeing Algernon from his cage while they are both on stage. He catches Algernon and flees back to New York with Algernon, intent on getting his own apartment, where the scientists cannot find him. He feels a kinship with Aldernon, and realises that Algernon is a good predictor of his own future. The reader sees that Algernon, locked in a cage and forced to run through mazes at the scientists’ whim, parallels Charlie’s status for the scientists. His "cage" may be symbolic, but he is no less trapped. Like Algernon, he is allowed no dignity and no individuality. When he frees Algernon from his cage and decides to abandon the laboratory, the reader cheers, and recognises that this is the beginning of Charlie's emotional independence. In his new life, Charlie has realised that Professor Nemur’s hypothesis contains an error. He now knows that it is very likely that his intelligence gain will only be temporary, and works on a possible solution. He forms a liaison with his neighbour, Fay Lillman, who is an attractive, free-living bohemian artist. Charlie does not tell Fay anything about his past, and although he is still in love with Alice, he has a sexual relationship with Fay, by ignoring his "other self". Charlie realises that he has an unsatisfied longing to meet his parents and sister, and manages to track them down. He remembers that his mother sent him away, but wants to make contact, come to terms with, and see if he can somehow resolve these issues. He has already begun to fear a regression to his previous level of intelligence, and has developed a sensitivity to the idea of things being left too late. "It's astonishing how my power of recall is developing. I cannot control it completely, but sometimes when I'm busy reading or working on a problem, I get a feeling of intense clarity. I know it's some kind of subconsious warning system." He is surprised to find that Norma still lives with Rose, and that Norma neither hates him, nor is the vicious person he had expected her to be, but on the contrary is overjoyed to see him, having believed that Charlie had died at the Warren State Home a long time ago. However Rose's overwhelming desire to be what she perceives as normal, and her denial of reality, has now developed into dementia. Sometimes she thinks Charlie is a stranger, sometimes, like Norma, she is proud of his recent accomplishments. At other times the old irrational fear returns, and she once again thinks that he has come back to molest Norma. In a harrowing episode Rose tries to kill Charlie with a butcher's knife: another reminder of the past's pervasive influence on the present. It helps Charlie to understand the multilayered facts of human psychology, but despite Norma's pleas, he feels he has to retreat from their lives. Charlie tracks his father down, and discovers that Matt, now freed from Rose's irrational fantasies, has realised his dream of owning his own little barber's shop. But there is an inner sadness about Matt. Charlie comes very close to revealing who he is, but again realises that he can do nothing for his family, "I wasn't his son. That was another Charlie. Intelligence and knowledge had changed me and he would resent me - as the others from the bakery resented me - because my growth had diminished him." When Algernon eventually dies, Charlie worries that he too is doomed. His behaviour becomes erratic, and he feels that there is nothing left for him but his work for the research laboratory. Charlie becomes totally committed to his work, to the point of obsession. He does succeed in finding the error in Nemur’s hypothesis, poignantly naming it the “Algernon-Gordon Effect”. Of course it also confirms to both him and us, that despite the operation, his intelligence will fade as quickly as it has come. Alice's feelings of guilt at her part in Charlie's situation mean that she desperately wants to care for him, and they do have a brief liaison, but as Charlie regresses further, he sends her away. Eventually he returns to his old job at the bakery, where everyone now knows his story. They are kind to him and welcome him back. Charlie's journal for the final parts of the story mirrors his crumbling intellect. He regresses to an earlier time when he used to attend Alice’s night school classes for the mentally disabled, and he upsets her by showing up, as the "old Charlie", having completely forgotten their romantic relationship. Having planned for this time, he cuts himself off from all those who know and care for him, and voluntarily goes into the Warren State Home for disabled adults, knowing that his end is near. (hide spoiler)] Because Flowers For Algernon is essentially about the human condition, it is a timeless tale, touching upon many different ethical and moral themes. As such it can be seen as a moral fable about society’s mistreatment of the mentally disabled. Charlie's story reveals that all the attitudes towards his early self were rooted in feelings of superiority. Some were cruel, some were kind; but nearly all were condescending. "The best of them have been smug and patronising - using me to make themselves superior and secure in their own limitations. Anyone can feel intelligent beside a moron." Because Charlie was regarded as an intellectual inferior, an assumption was made consequent on that: that this made him less of a human being. Yet even here there are nuances. In one episode Charlie takes people to task for making fun of a mentally disabled boy in a restaurant. But later, horrified by the blank faces of the mentally disabled people he encounters when visiting the Warren Street home, he displays the same feelings. Is this because he does not want to accept that he was once like them and may soon be like them again? Or is it a latent tendency he has inherited from his mother? How much does society demand that we conform to its ideas of normality? There is much in the book which explores the apparent conflict between the intellect and the emotion. The early Charlie is trusting and friendly with a good heart. But as his intelligence increases he becomes distant and detached, and sometimes arrogant. At one point he even says that his genius has erased his love for Alice. Because Charlie is the subject of an experiment, he has aptly internalised a lot of science's methodology, and eventually his knowledge surpasses Professor Nemur’s. But Professor Nemur is not a good role model for Charlie. These two factors have made Charlie view the "scientific method" as being the only way to approach life, and he approaches his emotional problems in a scientific manner. The two emotional extremes are represented by Professor Nemur and Charlie's free-spirited neighbour Fay. Professor Nemur is highly intelligent, but lacks any humour or friends. Dr. Strauss is more empathic - but it is Fay who is an embodiment of the opposite extreme. She is ruled entirely by her feelings, acting both foolishly and illogically. Alice however represents human warmth and kindness. She never believes that a disability makes anyone a lesser human, but takes genuine satisfaction from helping people. She also greatly admires Charlie’s strong desire and motivation to learn, encouraging him to integrate both his intellect and his emotion. Charlie employs the scientific method throughout his intelligence-boosted phase. It is all he has seen, and becomes his guiding principle. But when he becomes aware that in order to further his research, he is manipulating other people - especially Alice - and treating them like laboratory rats, he begins to deplore what he is doing. His highest level of emotional development is when he becomes aware of the dangers of dehumanisation which accompany the scientific pursuit of knowledge. Twinned with this is his determination to go on living as long as he can, keeping on with his progress reports, in order to pass on his unique knowledge to humanity. His miraculous experience has given him a new perspective on life. Flowers For Algernon dates from 1959, as an acclaimed short story in a magazine, winning the Hugo award for best short story a year later. It has been successfully adapted for television in both 1961 and 2000. In 1968 the film "Charly", won an Oscar, and its star an Academy Award. It was even adapted as a Broadway musical in 1978. To expand a short story into a masterly novel such as this does not often succeed. Far too often the reader can see the "cracks" and realise which parts have been artificially padded out. Flowers For Algernon's popularity alone proves that this is not the case here. Daniel Keyes has taken his promising initial idea, and developed it into a perfectly balanced and satisfying novel. The best science fiction has the potential to explore various philosophical ideas to do with ethics and responsibility. The author has chosen this scenario to explore the extremes of human nature, by imagining an altered version of the world, peopled with realistic characters, in a realistic environment. His genius lies in creating a work which appeals both to the people who are usually indifferent to science fiction, and also to those who love it. The blurb on the cover of my copy says, "The story of a young man's quest for intelligence and knowledge. Charlie Gordon will break your heart." How true that is. The story of Charlie Gordon did indeed break my heart. Please ... please ... don't let me forget how to reed and rite. PS please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.

  15. 3 out of 5

    Candi

    "The walls between people are thin here, and if I listen quietly, I hear what is going on. Greenwich Village is like that too. Not just being close - because I don't feel it in a crowded elevator or on the subway during the rush - but on a hot night when everyone is out walking, or sitting in the theater, there is a rustling, and for a moment I brush against someone and sense the connection between the branch and trunk and the deep root. At such moments my flesh is thin and tight, and the unbear "The walls between people are thin here, and if I listen quietly, I hear what is going on. Greenwich Village is like that too. Not just being close - because I don't feel it in a crowded elevator or on the subway during the rush - but on a hot night when everyone is out walking, or sitting in the theater, there is a rustling, and for a moment I brush against someone and sense the connection between the branch and trunk and the deep root. At such moments my flesh is thin and tight, and the unbearable hunger to be part of it drives me out to search in the dark corners and blind alleys of the night." This book is absolutely a must-read! I've had it on my list to read for quite some time, not because I thought it would be fantastic, but because I thought to myself that here is a book almost everyone has read and somehow I have not. Well, having finished this masterpiece, I have to say wow! - Flowers for Algernon is truly incredible. So thought-provoking and almost emotionally overwhelming, I really felt this novel speaking to me about love, humanity, and our purpose and place in the world. Categorized as "young adult" and "science fiction", Flowers for Algernon is most certainly not just for the young adult and is not a science fiction novel in the typical sense (no space travel or otherworldly beings in these pages), but is instead a novel that goes just outside the box of realistic fiction. It goes just beyond the boundaries of what we have accomplished in science and medicine. Charlie Gordon is a young man with an I.Q. of 68. He works in a bakery doing custodial work while taking classes to learn to read and write. He is a happy person, feels he has many friends, and is also driven to please people and to make himself smarter. Having been cast aside by his family, most notably his mother, much of Charlie's thoughts and actions throughout the book are a result of how he was treated and rebuked as a child and his desire to be viewed as a "normal" individual. In fact, much of this book causes the reader to think that each and every one of us has the right to be regarded with dignity and respect no matter what our deficiencies or differences. When given the opportunity to increase his intelligence by a procedure previously tried only in animals, Charlie jumps at this rare chance. Feeling confident in their positive results with a mouse named Algernon, the experts are prepared to make the first step with this experimental surgery in humans and agree that Charlie is an ideal candidate. "Dr. Strauss said I had something that was very good. He said I had a good motor-vation. I never even knowed I had that. I felt good when he said not everbody with an eye-Q of 68 had that thing like I had it. I dont know what it is or where I got it but he said Algernon had it too." Here, too, we can see Charlie's need to satisfy his family, even now that they are no longer a part of his life: "If the operashun werks and I get smart mabye Ill be abel to find my mom and dad and sister and show them. Boy woud they be serprised to see me smart just like them and my sister." Following a successful surgery, Charlie indeed becomes smarter; he eventually surpasses the very individuals that achieved this medical and scientific accomplishment. But, with intelligence Charlie is confronted with hidden and often painful memories, an awareness of true human behavior and a struggle with the desire to rid himself of a feeling of loneliness. "Intelligence is one of the greatest human gifts. But all too often a search for knowledge drives out the search for love." Charlie shifts from being a humble, mentally handicapped young man with many friends (though some of these friends had in fact been laughing at him) to a brilliant man whose intelligence and attitude of superiority isolates him from those friends. He is tormented by emotional and sexual immaturity despite his genius I.Q. As the novel is written in diary format, the reader is privy to Charlie's innermost thoughts throughout his journey and I was completely consumed by Charlie's emotions. I felt hopeful, joyful, enlightened, angry, confused and heartbroken right along with Charlie… I cried. Charlie begins to understand something very vital about human nature: "I could see how important physical love was... The universe was exploding, each particle away from the next, hurtling us into dark and lonely space, eternally tearing us away from each other - child out of the womb, friend away from friend, moving from each other, each through his own pathway toward the goal-box of solitary death. But this was the counterweight, the act of binding and holding. As when men to keep from being swept overboard in the storm clutch at each other's hands to resist being torn apart, so our bodies fused a link in the human chain that kept us from being swept into nothing." I felt just as enraged as Charlie when he realized that prior to his surgery, he was not even considered a human being by some of the scientists to whom he owed his new-found intelligence. Professor Nemur termed his prior existence as being "nature's mistake" and went further to say that "Charlie Gordon did not really exist before this experiment." Here, Charlie turned a corner and a sudden realization prompted him to dissociate himself from the other scientists and immerse himself in his own research to predict the final outcome of this experiment on both Algernon and himself. Is artificially-induced intelligence a permanent state? What can Charlie contribute to this field and does he have time? Flowers for Algernon is a beautiful and poignant story. Daniel Keyes effectively teaches us about the issue of living with a disability as well as parenting a child with a disability, love, respect, and the essential need for human connection and affection. If you have not yet read this book, I highly recommend that you take a moment and move this one up to the top of your list!

  16. 3 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    I first read Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon in junior high school. At the time, I had no idea it was such a groundbreaking novel. Reading it again many years later, I'm not surprised that it is powerful, but I am surprised at just how complete the story is. There were parts of the story that stuck with me all these years: Charlie's belief that his life would be better if he were somehow more intelligent and the heartache of his return to his former condition. It's difficult to verbalize why I first read Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon in junior high school. At the time, I had no idea it was such a groundbreaking novel. Reading it again many years later, I'm not surprised that it is powerful, but I am surprised at just how complete the story is. There were parts of the story that stuck with me all these years: Charlie's belief that his life would be better if he were somehow more intelligent and the heartache of his return to his former condition. It's difficult to verbalize why this regression should be so heartbreaking. Wasn't Charlie able to experience a life which somehow existed beyond his abilities (sort of like Lt. Barclay in Star Trek the Next Generation's Nth Degree episode)? Even if his newfound intelligence didn't last long, how long do any of us get to live at our full potential? Charlie's reclaiming of memories and relationships he forms after gaining intelligence make Charlie feel like a real character who, in spite of the odds, we are rooting for.

  17. 3 out of 5

    Cassy

    This book was hidden in plain sight. Meaning I was surprised to realize the majority of my Goodreads friends had already read a book that I had never heard of before. Correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect it was a requisite high school read for many. One reviewer mentioned the abridged version he read in school had trimmed all the sexual bits. What a shame! I may have arrived late, but at least that meant I was introduced to the raw version. The investigation of a 32 year old man struggling fo This book was hidden in plain sight. Meaning I was surprised to realize the majority of my Goodreads friends had already read a book that I had never heard of before. Correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect it was a requisite high school read for many. One reviewer mentioned the abridged version he read in school had trimmed all the sexual bits. What a shame! I may have arrived late, but at least that meant I was introduced to the raw version. The investigation of a 32 year old man struggling for the first time in his life to connect physically to women was insightful and decidedly unsexy. Also illuminating was how the character couldn’t escape his loneliness. At both extremes of his intellectual abilities, from retarded (to use the term from the book) to genius, he was alienated from those around him – albeit for different reasons that broke my heart nonetheless. This exploration of a socially inept genius really resonated with me. I have met some smart people during my schooling and tangentially through my husband’s. And I would go as far as to call a few of them potential geniuses. And some of them are weird. One guy in particular stands out. Let’s call him Cheddar. Whenever my colleagues heard he was going to apply for a certain scholarship, we would all groan, because it meant we didn’t have a chance. We could compete amongst ourselves and some outsiders, but not Cheddar. He won everything. (I will proudly interject that just once I won a scholarship for which he also applied. Well, we both won it. They couldn’t decide between his analytical prowess and my whimsy. So they scrounged additional money to offer us both the scholarship. I thought about being offended that they labeled me the “artsy one,” but I decided to just take the money and run.) For a long time, I gaped at Cheddar’s ease with numbers, graphs, equations, charts, rules, schemas. But looking back, I can see that he was, to a degree, socially challenged. Holding hands wasn’t relaxed and comforting. Holding hands was an experiment on the most efficient way to interlock fingers with a fellow homo sapiens. He was incapable of keeping small secrets. Chitchatting with him could be difficult. When you stripped away his little group of loveable but dorky cohorts, he was vulnerable and hard pressed to communicate with the rest of world that doesn’t speak in binary. Why, oh why, did I want to date him so badly? Keyes gave me an inside peek into how it might be for Cheddar and his fellow cheeses. How annoying it must be for them to constantly have to dumb it down enough to talk to the regular folk. (Also coming to mind right now is Sheldon Cooper from the television show, “The Big Bang Theory.”) So, there is a lot of truth in how Keyes portrayed this, dare I say, downside to being super-intelligent. And Keyes didn’t stop there. He jammed many other profound topics into this short book: *the treatment of mentally disabled, *the wasting away of brilliance due to addiction, *the follies of arrogance, *people's confusion when others transform, and *ethics of tampering with someone’s brain. And despite all that, the book remains very readable and emotionally resonant. It won’t take you long to read this one, but it will take you a while to process it.

  18. 3 out of 5

    Manny

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It's funny how things often come in pairs. Braveheart and Rob Roy. Armageddon and Deep Impact. Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont. And quite often, the better one of the pair isn't the one that ends up becoming famous. Flowers for Algernon's twin is Thomas Disch's Camp Concentration . Both novels were published within a few months of each other. Both are first-person narratives, presented as a series of diary entries written by the main character. Both address the same question: suppose a medical pr It's funny how things often come in pairs. Braveheart and Rob Roy. Armageddon and Deep Impact. Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont. And quite often, the better one of the pair isn't the one that ends up becoming famous. Flowers for Algernon's twin is Thomas Disch's Camp Concentration . Both novels were published within a few months of each other. Both are first-person narratives, presented as a series of diary entries written by the main character. Both address the same question: suppose a medical procedure were invented that could make people much, much smarter. What would happen? Now given the rules of the game, how are you going to present the narrator getting smarter? Keyes picked the obvious solution: in this book, Charlie Gordon starts off real dumb. You read the early entries in his dirie, and he rites like thiss. hees ilitrate and he dont even no wot it means. but hes a good guy with a big hart. Charlie is given the procedure, and he starts getting smarter. Of course, it's technically quite easy for Keyes to show his vocabulary, grammar and spelling improving, and the way he gains more insight into his situation. The trickiest thing in the book is the romance. Charlie's always had a crush on the nice teacher at his evening class, but he's never been able to do a thing about it. Now he's able to put the moves on her. But as he gets more and more intelligent, he finds he's outgrown her. He meets a brilliant woman artist and starts up a new relationship with her. At the apex of his trajectory, Charlie is a world-class scientist. He turns his intelligence on himself and learns that his brilliance is only temporary. Soon, he will lose all his new powers. He will inexorably descend the curve again, and before long he will be as dumb as he was at the beginning. Shortly after that, he will die. He dispassionately presents all these discoveries in a scientific paper. Not long after, the decline begins. He can no longer read the things he's just written. His relationship with the artist is over. The most heart-rending scene is when he's returned to his old level: forgetful and confused, he goes back to his evening class and sees the nice teacher again, not even remembering their brief affair. She runs out of the room weeping, and he can't quite figure out why. In the last diary entry, he half-understands that he is a few days from death, and leaves instructions to the person who finds the diary. Keyes has a clear plan in mind and succeeds well in what he sets out to do. The book is quite well known, got made into a movie, and has even ended up on school reading lists. But Disch wanted to try something much riskier. His hero starts out, not just normal, but already pretty smart. Moreover, he's a writer, though admittedly not a very successful one. Now what would you get when you took a smart writer and made him enormously smarter? How would you depict that through the medium of his own writing? It's obviously impossible, and Camp Concentration has indeed never become famous. Of the few people that look at it, most remain deeply unimpressed; Not, who read it last week on my recommendation (sorry, Not!) found it pretentious and boring. But somehow I prefer Disch's ambitious failure to Keyes's easy success. Keyes engages my emotions, but Disch manages to hit me somewhere deeper down. Perhaps it's a more interesting kind of tragedy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    On Intelligence Are there any qualities that should make a man consider himself superior from other humans? In medieval times, a physically strong man would consider himself superior to physically weaker one. A rich person would look down upon a poor person. And a more attractive person would consider himself to one who wasn't - and those with physical handicaps like a hunchback, blind or deaf would be made to face prejudice. A lot of it is still true but now I think at least now the best of m On Intelligence Are there any qualities that should make a man consider himself superior from other humans? In medieval times, a physically strong man would consider himself superior to physically weaker one. A rich person would look down upon a poor person. And a more attractive person would consider himself to one who wasn't - and those with physical handicaps like a hunchback, blind or deaf would be made to face prejudice. A lot of it is still true but now I think at least now the best of minds don't think that physical strength, good looks or wealth don't make a person superior and that these qualities are largely things one is born with - gifts from God, chance or nature according to your belief. But it isn't so with intelligence (actually 'intelligence' as the word is popularly used - to mean logical intelligence and good memory; there are other forms of intelligence - read about them here; needless to say I am dumb in all of them) - we still think intelligence as something hard earned rather than a gift. Schools still rank children in terms of their supposed intelligence and no one complains about it creating inferiority complex that it might breed in children, the way many parents would if children were ranked according to their looks. Hannah Arendt in one of her books talked about Germans who seemed to regret the loss of geniuses (like Einstein for example) more than the other millions who died at the concentration camp. Another far less strong example is those thousands of Indian fans who think that crimes of some of the actors should be forgiven because of their genius in acting. Personally, I don't think being intelligent makes a person superior. It does, however, create a superiority complex. All it does like many other qualities is to make a person better qualified for some jobs. And I'm tired of people who think it is the only quality that matters. One keeps hearing these self-claimed intellectuals complain about others whom they consider less intelligent (what they real mean is less knowledgeable) of themselves getting jobs at their expense on account of their good looks and interaction skills (which are often qualities that jobs need more than mere knowledge). Now think, our schools exams, at least in India, measure only three qualities - memory and ability to logic and linguistic skills. There are several other forms of intelligence that are simply ignored. If an Einstein failed exams in this kind of system. What chance did Charlie Gorden have? It did, however, earn him a hard life. There is, of course, somewhere talk IQ tests which measure the very same three qualities and so he has a low IQ. Don't you think he would have a higher IQ if some other qualities were also included in tests? Maybe, it isn't the students who are failing. Maybe it is a failure of examiners. Charlie wish to be more intelligent was result of her mother's wishing so much the same thing, and her mother tried to force him to study too much because she lived in a society where intelligence is thought of result of hard work rather than a gift. This book has proved thoughts on a lot of other themes but I will focus only on one more. On Lab rats Where I live, there is a saying that one should be kind be to bezuban (the ones who can't speak - a word used for animals) because their reproaches are the first to be heard in the netherworld. And so using animals for experiments which will only benefit humans doesn't suit to me. But then what are the alternatives? because progress inScience has done a lot of good. what are our alternatives?Using humans? One alternative I know from Friends is that they offer money to people who will volunteer to take experimental drugs, but I think of it as nothing but economic slavery. That there have been times in history when humans were forced to act as subjects of experiments is hardly a secret. And that has been especially so in case of mentally retarded people. Many governments in past have considered sterilizing them forcefully. At least, Nazis for one had actually done it. And the subject is more tricky than you think. I think a lot of abuse is done to them - and the underdogs of the society in general in name of their own good. And so, diseased animals are killed so that their fellow animals won't catch the disease. Women are asked not to go out in open for their own safety. Nazis decided to give a 'merciful death' to all mental patients and called it Euthanasia. And even if one doesn't believe in paradise, there are other reasons to be warned as this was really stepping on a slippery slope down the hill of morality - because it was this very technique of mass assassination that was later used for Final Solution in concentration camps

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brian Yahn

    More than anything else, Flowers for Algernon is thought provoking. It's also sad when it needs to be, enjoyable for the most part, and often comical. Although it casts a gloomy aspect over the meaning of life, it's somehow still uplifting and motivational. It makes you think about, if you know the end--that you're going to die--is there really a point to carrying on? And even with conditions as extraordinary as Charlie Gordon's, Daniel Keyes, explores that question vividly--through this expertly More than anything else, Flowers for Algernon is thought provoking. It's also sad when it needs to be, enjoyable for the most part, and often comical. Although it casts a gloomy aspect over the meaning of life, it's somehow still uplifting and motivational. It makes you think about, if you know the end--that you're going to die--is there really a point to carrying on? And even with conditions as extraordinary as Charlie Gordon's, Daniel Keyes, explores that question vividly--through this expertly written narrative.

  21. 4 out of 5

    İntellecta

    Zeki olmanın avantajlarının ve dezavantajlarının ütopik bir senaryoda ele alındığı dokunaklı, hatta dramatik denebilecek harika bir kitap. Yazar etik, bilim gibi konuları ve hatta kendi hayatımızı sorgulamaya teşvik ediyor.

  22. 3 out of 5

    Vanessa

    A powerfully sad heartbreaking story about a simple minded man with a significantly low I.Q who undergoes a scientific experiment to enhance his intelligence. Charlie Gordon becomes the human guinea pig. The procedure goes well and he becomes exceptionally bright, during this brief time many lessons are learnt, although he becomes a genius in terms of I.Q he learns he is still emotionally stunted, he can't always manage his emotions in a rational way and many discoveries with regressions into hi A powerfully sad heartbreaking story about a simple minded man with a significantly low I.Q who undergoes a scientific experiment to enhance his intelligence. Charlie Gordon becomes the human guinea pig. The procedure goes well and he becomes exceptionally bright, during this brief time many lessons are learnt, although he becomes a genius in terms of I.Q he learns he is still emotionally stunted, he can't always manage his emotions in a rational way and many discoveries with regressions into his painful past come to light causing Charlie to reevaluate the decision of taking part in the experiment, just as he makes some progress forward in his personal relationships things take a downward turn and the tables reverse again. His new awareness and heightened knowledge becomes it's own curse. This is much more than a scientific medical experiment for Charlie but a life changing examination of his future, past and present. The fact that society treated people like Charlie in such a hostile and degrading manner made me feel ashamed about the way we devalued people with lower intellect. It's the nature of the superiority complex, which shows up so evidently in Charlie's case, in so many more ways than one. I was often overcome with extreme emotions during the reading of this novel and I could go on and on about the merits of this book. What I know is that once I started this book I couldn't stop reading it even though my eyes were constantly tearing up. So thought provoking with lot's to ponder over, it's definitely a book that will stay with me for a long time.

  23. 3 out of 5

    Anne

    There is nothing specific in this book that dates it -- it could have been written 4 years ago instead of 40 -- except for it's obsession with a certain brand of psychology and sex with near strangers. In this way, it just screams "I WAS WRITTEN IN THE 60s!" I dunno. Books from this era just bug me in general. They are so smugly sure of their analysis of the whys and wherefores of human nature, yet they still cling to the archetypes. Charlie knows The Puffed-up Scientist and The Down-to-earth Sci There is nothing specific in this book that dates it -- it could have been written 4 years ago instead of 40 -- except for it's obsession with a certain brand of psychology and sex with near strangers. In this way, it just screams "I WAS WRITTEN IN THE 60s!" I dunno. Books from this era just bug me in general. They are so smugly sure of their analysis of the whys and wherefores of human nature, yet they still cling to the archetypes. Charlie knows The Puffed-up Scientist and The Down-to-earth Scientist. The women in his life are The Cruel Mother, The Whore, and The Angel. (One of the reasons this book screams the 60s is because The Angel is ok with his relationship with The Whore. In fact, she encourages it. Brilliant. Can we tell the author was a man and the book was written in the era of "free love"?) All of this in a book that is supposed to be about a man coming to grips with new found intelligence without turning into an intellectual jerk and divining the REAL NATURE of the women in his life. Am I the only one who sees the irony of this? People were, and are, ga-ga about this book. And while I think that the premise is interesting, all the futz surrounding the premise was formulaic. Snore.

  24. 3 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    This review is for the full novel version of Flowers for Algernon, as opposed to the original Hugo Award-winning short story, which I've reviewed in more detail here. I prefer the short story over this novel, which felt like it contained a lot of filler that, in the end, wasn't particularly memorable for me. It's still a great story, either way, but the original short story version had a lot more impact on me. Full disclosure: I read the full novel version many years ago, as a young adult, maybe This review is for the full novel version of Flowers for Algernon, as opposed to the original Hugo Award-winning short story, which I've reviewed in more detail here. I prefer the short story over this novel, which felt like it contained a lot of filler that, in the end, wasn't particularly memorable for me. It's still a great story, either way, but the original short story version had a lot more impact on me. Full disclosure: I read the full novel version many years ago, as a young adult, maybe even as a teen, so this is based on old memories.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    When I was in junior high school the movie Charly was big. Everyone saw it, and one girl, I can’t remember her name, had a Charly protective book cover and was so obsessed with the movie that she’d write the name, with the backwards “R” on everything, including adding it as a middle name to her own name on tests and papers she would hand in. She was in all the school plays and sang beautifully so my guess is her connection was with the play and the movie as opposed to the subject of the story. O When I was in junior high school the movie Charly was big. Everyone saw it, and one girl, I can’t remember her name, had a Charly protective book cover and was so obsessed with the movie that she’d write the name, with the backwards “R” on everything, including adding it as a middle name to her own name on tests and papers she would hand in. She was in all the school plays and sang beautifully so my guess is her connection was with the play and the movie as opposed to the subject of the story. Or maybe she just had a thing for Cliff Robertson. Flowers for Algernon is expanded from an original short story and is the tale of Charlie Gordon, a retarded man with an IQ of 68. Chosen to take part in a groundbreaking experiment, Charlie soon finds himself gaining knowledge at record speed until, in a short period of time, his IQ nearly triples. Written in epistolary style, the plot is moved along through Charlie’s regular 'Progress Reports' which he begins writing just before his operation and detail his day-to-day life and thoughts. Even if you haven’t seen the movie or read the short story, Charlie’s journey is easy to predict, but that doesn’t ruin the story, it makes it all the sadder. There were some passages that made me think the book was maybe a little too long and that maybe some of those slower passages took away from the overall story, but once I was past them I realized that wasn’t the case. Those passages were just different pieces to the puzzle and only added to the richness of the story and to the depth of Charlie. There’s a scene about halfway through the book where Charlie goes to a diner after taking a walk. Charlie is watching the restaurant’s busboy working, and he recognizes something of himself in the 16-year-old worker. As Charlie watches, the busboy drops some dishes and the restaurant manager comes over and begins verbally abusing the boy who cowers in terror of being hit. Eventually the restaurant customers begin teasing the boy and Charlie watches, seeing himself in the boy, until he can’t watch any longer. Charlie stands and shouts for everyone to leave the boy alone because he can’t help who he is. He’s just human. Charlie leaves the restaurant in shame and thinks to himself, “How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes – how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with low intelligence.” I share that passage because the message I took from Flowers for Algernon was that there are bits of Charlie - both pre and post-operation Charlie - in everyone. If we forget that, or lose that, then we start to lose our humanity and our connection to the world and at that point it doesn't matter if our IQ is 68 or 185. In the end, our lives aren’t measured by how smart we are, but by how we treat others and interact with others. Our humanity isn't a measure of our intelligence, but rather whether or not we can remember flowers for Algernon. Flowers for Algernon is a beautiful story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    One of the most touching stories ever written. And no, it's not Romance! It's Sci-Fi. This is a first person narrative that has been written as a series of progress reports from a deeply retarded man, who can barely be considered literate. His writing is ful of bad grammar and spelling mistakes. At first, if you are not prepared for it, this makes this book a little hard to read, and some passages even have to be re-read a couple of times before you understand them. Our protagonist goes through One of the most touching stories ever written. And no, it's not Romance! It's Sci-Fi. This is a first person narrative that has been written as a series of progress reports from a deeply retarded man, who can barely be considered literate. His writing is ful of bad grammar and spelling mistakes. At first, if you are not prepared for it, this makes this book a little hard to read, and some passages even have to be re-read a couple of times before you understand them. Our protagonist goes through experimental brain surgery, that has the effect of gradually increasing his intelligence to that of a genius. His change from a retarded to a genius is beautifully conveyed by his improved spelling, grammar, sentence constructions, reflections and the way he relates and connects to his surroundings (and also how they relate to him in return). His journey is a tragic one, filled with regrets, hopes and dreams.This is one of the most heart-breaking stories that I have ever read. I read it first time in high school (the original short story) back in the late 80s/early 90s, and I haven't been able to let go of it since. This is one of those very rare books that just stays with you forever, whether you want it to or not. It's simply unforgettable, and it challenges you in more than one way. My praise could never do any justice to this masterpiece. You owe it to yourself to read it.As posted on my blog: http://rita.crowdedminds.com/flowers-...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    Why have I never read this before? It captivated me totally. I actually read it in one sitting because I could not bear to put it down so I am now totally sleep deprived but very happy. What a wonderful book despite its sad but necessary ending. I was so glad the author did not try for a fake happy solution to Charlie's problems because in real life there is none. This is a story which makes the readers look at themselves in judgment and know that sometimes we really do these things to others. A Why have I never read this before? It captivated me totally. I actually read it in one sitting because I could not bear to put it down so I am now totally sleep deprived but very happy. What a wonderful book despite its sad but necessary ending. I was so glad the author did not try for a fake happy solution to Charlie's problems because in real life there is none. This is a story which makes the readers look at themselves in judgment and know that sometimes we really do these things to others. At the same time there is a steady theme of human kindness throughout the book which gives us hope. I loved it!

  28. 3 out of 5

    Mohamed Al

    أنا بحاجة ماسة إلى قراءة شيء يدهشني! لمع هذا الخاطر في ذهني. وأنا مستلقٍ على السرير، وسرعان ما انطفأ كلمبة معطوبة، عندما فتحت باب مكتبتي! وجدت على الرف رواية"العاشق الياباني" للتشيلية إيزابيل ألليندي، وبعد أن تصفحتها سريعًا، أعدتها إلى مكانها وأنا أفكر جديًا بالتوقف عن اقتناء كتبها الأخيرة التي تتراوح في جودتها بين العادي والسيء، وكأنه لم يعد لديها ما تقدمه ومع ذلك تصر دور النشر على ترجمة كل ما تكتبه. وجدت روايتين للروائي ستيفان زفايغ الذي يبدو أن دور النشر اكتشفته للتو فبدأت تتنافس فيما بينها على أنا بحاجة ماسة إلى قراءة شيء يدهشني! لمع هذا الخاطر في ذهني. وأنا مستلقٍ على السرير، وسرعان ما انطفأ كلمبة معطوبة، عندما فتحت باب مكتبتي! وجدت على الرف رواية"العاشق الياباني" للتشيلية إيزابيل ألليندي، وبعد أن تصفحتها سريعًا، أعدتها إلى مكانها وأنا أفكر جديًا بالتوقف عن اقتناء كتبها الأخيرة التي تتراوح في جودتها بين العادي والسيء، وكأنه لم يعد لديها ما تقدمه ومع ذلك تصر دور النشر على ترجمة كل ما تكتبه. وجدت روايتين للروائي ستيفان زفايغ الذي يبدو أن دور النشر اكتشفته للتو فبدأت تتنافس فيما بينها على ترجمة أكثر قدر من كتبه. أغلقت باب المكتبة بضجر، وأنا أتساءل كم عدد الكتاب الجدد الذين لم تصلنا مؤلفاتهم بسبب إصرار دور النشر على ترجمة وإعادة ترجمة مجموعة معينة من الكتاب تعود أعمالهم في مجملها إلى منتصف القرن الماضي. أحتاج إلى قراءة شيء يدهشني! كررت العبارة في رأسي، وكأني أتدرب على حفظها لاختبار قادم، ودخلت إلى صفحة إحدى صديقات الكتب على "الانستغرام"، ووجدتها تتحدث بشغف عن هذه الرواية. قررت إذًا أن أجازف بقراءة هذه الرواية، بعد أن وجدت نسخة منها (بالإنجليزية طبعًا لأنها لم تترجم بعد إلى العربية) في مكتبة دبي مول. وما إن بدأت بالقراءة غمرني طوفان من الدهشة، وقررت أن أتوقف قليلاً عن القراءة وأبحث عن معلومات عن الرواية. ظننت في البداية أنها رواية حديثة بسبب لغتها السلسة وقصتها الغريبة، ولكنني صُدمت عندما عرفت بأن هذه الرواية صدرت عام ١٩٦٦، فلا اللغة ولا الحوارات ولا البناء السردي توحي بأنني أمام رواية كلاسيكية. بالعودة إلى بحثي على الانترنت عرفت أيضًا بأن المؤلف نشر قصة قصيرة بنفس الاسم في عام ١٩٥٩، ثم حولها لاحقًا إلى رواية بعد أن لاقت نجاحًا طيبًا. كيف إذًا لا نعرف عن هذا المؤلف وعمله شيئًا ونحن مهووسون، كعرب، بترجمة وقراءة الأعمال الكلاسيكية. صحيح، نحن مشغولون بقراءة كل ما تكتبه إيزابيل ألليندي وكونديرا وماركيز وموراكامي وغيرهم من الاسماء التي أصبحت علامات تجارية لا تختلف عن العلامات التجارية العريقة للسيارات والمطاعم والملابس الداخلية، وكأن الله لم يخلق كتابًا غيرهم! عدت لقراءة الكتاب، وأنا أتوقع مع الاستمرار في القراءة بأن أجد شيئًا منع دور النشر العربية من ترجمة الكتاب، ولكنني مع كل صفحة أقلبها كان يقيني يزداد بأن هذه الرواية أفضل بمراحل من كثير من الهراء الذي نضطر لقراءته لمجموعة بعينها من المؤلفين بسبب عدم وجود البديل. هل يمكن أن يكتشف العلم طريقة لزيادة ذكاء شخص ما؟ وماذا لو كان هذا الشخص موصومًا بتخلف عقلي ووجد العلماء طريقة لجعله ذكيًا؟ ماذا سيفعل هذا الشخص، بهذه الكمية الهائلة من الذكاء التي نزلت على رأسه فجأة، وهو الذي قضى ثلاثين عامًا من عمره يتخبّط في تأخره العقلي؟ بل كيف سيتعامل المقربون من هذا الشخص معه بعد أن يكتشفوا أنه أصبح ذكيًا، بل وأذكى من أذكاهم؟ هذه هي الأسئلة التي تطرحها هذه الرواية، وتترك للقارئ حرية الإجابة عليها، وهو يلاحظ كيف تغيرت حياة بطل الرواية جذريًا بعد أن حوّله العلماء إلى عقل عبقري يمشي على قدمين.

  29. 3 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    I’ve known about this novel since I was in high school but didn’t get around to reading it until just recently at the age of 33 (coincidentally the same age as the protagonist!). I read a Simpsons comic and watched an episode of the Simpsons TV show which both covered the same story so I felt like I didn’t need to read the original. But I’m glad I finally checked out Daniel Keyes’ Flowers For Algernon because it’s actually really good - it definitely deserves its classic status. Charlie Gordon i I’ve known about this novel since I was in high school but didn’t get around to reading it until just recently at the age of 33 (coincidentally the same age as the protagonist!). I read a Simpsons comic and watched an episode of the Simpsons TV show which both covered the same story so I felt like I didn’t need to read the original. But I’m glad I finally checked out Daniel Keyes’ Flowers For Algernon because it’s actually really good - it definitely deserves its classic status. Charlie Gordon is a simpleton with an IQ of 68. Working as a cleaner at a bakery, Charlie wishes he was smarter so people will respect him more so he volunteers for experimental surgery to do just that - and it works! His IQ triples and Charlie is a new man in a whole new world. And then he discovers that the successful test mouse, Algernon, has started regressing and realises that his time as a genius is growing shorter and shorter… Flowers For Algernon is labelled a SF classic but really the brilliant premise is the book’s only sci-fi aspect. It’s actually an unexpectedly very powerful and dramatic human story which I feel makes it not just a genre classic but easily a literary one too. I only mention the distinction because often old SF books are badly written and cheesy as all hell and Daniel Keyes’ novel is nothing like that. Keyes cleverly chooses to write the story in the first person so we can see the change in Charlie’s intelligence through the writing which starts off with poor spelling, language and grammar until, following the surgery, it improves until it’s perfect. More than that though, Keyes writes Charlie’s voice beautifully. It’s convincing at every stage of his transformation and even when he’s simpleton Charlie the writing never comes off cartoonishly or mocking. Keyes’ greatest accomplishment in this novel is the character of Charlie Gordon who’s a bonafide unique literary creation up there with the likes of Huck Finn and Captain Ahab. Once Charlie becomes a genius, he starts seeing his old self in eerie out-of-body hallucinations. It’s an inspired approach because in a very real sense these two Charlies are completely separate but also it puts the new Charlie in the same position as the reader, learning about the old Charlie’s past at the same time through revisiting old memories that he’s now able to understand with this sudden gift of intelligence. Keyes also notes the subtle distinction between academic intelligence and emotional intelligence. So while Charlie is able to speed-read numerous books and become adept at various disciplines and languages, emotionally he’s still child-like, as we see when he tries to express his feelings to the woman he falls for, Alice Kinnian. And that’s another bitter twist of irony in the tale: simple Charlie was happy with his life and had friends; genius Charlie finds his intelligence isolates him, he loses his old friends, and he becomes unhappy. He hoped cleverness would make him more friends but the opposite happened - be careful what you wish for. In fact, it only made him more miserable after he realised his old friends sometimes behaved cruelly to him. Charlie realises intelligence doesn’t make you happy or give you a fulfilled life - human contact does. It’s a somewhat elementary but profound truth. The story lost me for a while in the middle when Charlie and Algernon escaped from the science conference in a hammy sequence (people shrieking and leaping onto chairs as Algernon the mouse ran free) and Charlie dating the bohemian artist was meandering, overlong and a bit pointless. I also feel like Keyes didn’t fully explore the possibilities of Charlie’s genius IQ and that this was done better in the Bradley Cooper movie Limitless which had a similar premise and was obviously inspired in part by Keyes’ novel. But the book ends strongly once Charlie learns that he’s going to lose his smarts and decides to track down and reconnect with his estranged parents and sister. The scene between him, his abusive mother and his sister blew me away - it was the kind of moving drama I’d expect to see in an Arthur Miller play rather than a SF novel (sorry to keep ragging on SF but, having read enough shitty SF novels, I feel like it’s earned it!). A lot of the book is kind of a downer but Keyes’ writing was too compelling to not keep going and the ending is quietly positive albeit also unapologetically sentimental. Oof, it’s such an emotional read! Yeah, I enjoyed Flowers For Algernon and highly recommend it!

  30. 3 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sagan

    Whenever I have to make a gift and I’m thinking of buying a book, knowing that the person isn’t an avid reader, I’m thinking of buying Flowers for Algernon. It’s such a beautiful and sad book. I can’t imagine how frightening must be to know that you’re slowly losing your mind, that you’re losing what makes you you, to know that it won’t be long until it won’t matter anymore, at least for you, because you won’t remember. And it makes me wonder – what makes me the person that I am? What if I get i Whenever I have to make a gift and I’m thinking of buying a book, knowing that the person isn’t an avid reader, I’m thinking of buying Flowers for Algernon. It’s such a beautiful and sad book. I can’t imagine how frightening must be to know that you’re slowly losing your mind, that you’re losing what makes you you, to know that it won’t be long until it won’t matter anymore, at least for you, because you won’t remember. And it makes me wonder – what makes me the person that I am? What if I get in an accident and I get brain injuries that make me act and think differently? Will I be the same me? And if not, at what point will I be a completely different person, walking in someone else’s body?

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