Book Review : Flowers for Algernon By Daniel Keyes
Flowers for Algernon tells 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?
A Sneak Peek Into “Flowers for Algernon”
Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and re-membir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on. I dont no why but he says its importint so they will see if they can use me. I hope they use me becaus Miss Kinnian says mabye they can make me smart. I want to be smart. My name is Charlie Gordon I werk in Donners bakery where Mr Donner gives me 11 dollers a week and bred or cake if I want. I am 32 yeres old and next munth is my brithday. I tolld dr Strauss and perfesser Nemur I cant rite good but he says it dont matter he says I shud rite just like I talk and like I rite compushishens in Miss Kinnians class at the beekmin collidge center for retarted adults where I go to lern 3 times a week on my time off. Dr. Strauss says to rite a lot evrything I think and evrything that happins to me but I cant think anymor because I have nothing to rite so I will close for today … yrs truly Charlie Gordon.
I had a test today. I think I faled it and I think mabye now they wont use me. What happind is I went to Prof Nemurs office on my lunch time like they said and his secertery took me to a place that said psych dept on the door with a long hall and alot of littel rooms with onley a desk and chares. And a nice man was in one of the rooms and he had some wite cards with ink spilld all over them. He sed sit down Charlie and make yourself cunfortible and rilax. He had a wite coat like a docter but I dont think he was no docter because he dint tell me to opin my mouth and say ah. All he had was those wite cards. His name is Burt. I fer-got his last name because I dont remembir so good.
I dint know what he was gonna do and I was holding on tite to the chair like sometimes when I go to a dentist onley Burt aint no dentist neither but he kept telling me to rilax and that gets me skared because it always means its gonna hert.
So Burt sed Charlie what do you see on this card. I saw the spilld ink and I was very skared even tho I got my rabits foot in my pockit because when I was a kid I always faled tests in school and I spilld ink to.
I tolld Burt I saw ink spilld on a wite card. Burt said yes and he smild and that maid me feel good. He kept terning all the cards and I tolld him somebody spilld ink on all of them red and black. I thot that was a easy test but when I got up to go Burt stoppd me and said now sit down Charlie we are not thru yet. Theres more we got to do with these cards. I dint understand about it but I re-membir Dr Strauss said do anything the testor telld me even if it dont make no sense because thats testing.
“What do smart people think about. Fancy things I suppose.
I wish I knew some fancy things alredy.”
I dont remembir so good what Burt said but I re-membir he wantid me to say what was in the ink. I dint see nothing in the ink but Burt sed there was picturs there. I coudnt see no picturs. I reely tryed to see. I holded the card up close and then far away. Then I said if I had my eye glassis I coud probaly see better I usully only ware my eye-glassis in the movies or to watch TV but I sed maybe they will help me see the picturs in the ink. I put them on and I said now let me see the card agan I bet I find it now.
I tryed hard but I still coudnt find the picturs I only saw the ink. I tolld Burt mabey I need new glassis. He rote somthing down on a paper and I got skared of faling the test. So I tolld him it was a very nice pictur of ink with pritty points all around the eges but he shaked his head so that wasnt it neither. I asked him if other pepul saw things in the ink and he sed yes they imagen picturs in the inkblot. He tolld me the ink on the card was calld inkblot.
Burt is very nice and he talks slow like Miss Kinnian dose in her class where I go to lern reeding for slow adults. He explaned me it was a raw shok test. He sed pepul see things in the ink. I said show me where. He dint show me he just kept saying think imagen theres something on the card. I tolld him I imaggen a inkblot. He shaked his head so that wasnt rite eather. He said what does it remind you of pretend its something. I closd my eyes for a long time to pretend and then I said I pretend a bottel of ink spilld all over a wite card. And thats when the point on his pencel broke and then we got up and went out.
I dont think I passd the raw shok test.
3 Words to Sum Up This Book
TOUCHING, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, SIMPLE
Honestly, I didn’t know why I decided to read this book in the first place. I mean, I have had this book in my kindle for as long as I could remember but I never felt compelled to read it for some reason. It was after reading through a lengthy and exhausting YA novel that I decided I needed a break from all that seriousness and Flowers for Algernon caught my eyes.
Now, if you know me, then you also know that I never read the synopsis of a book, ever. I like to be surprised by the plot and how the story develops without knowing what I’m signing myself up for. So, based on the cover of this book, of course I would think that Flowers for Algernon is some kind of cutesy and heartwarming book that will make for a quick read. But boy oh boy was I wrong.
PS. there are going to be a lot of spoilers in this review, so if you’re not a big fan of spoilers, it’d be a great idea to stop reading right about….now.
CHARLIE, WHO IS HE REALLY?
In the beginning of the book, Charlie started off as a happy-go-lucky man who views life and the people around him in the most positive light possible. Sure, he may not have a lot in regards to his smarts, income or friends, and he had a hard time trying to conjure up sentences with the correct spelling, but Charlie was happy in his own bubble, and that was what’s important.
You got to mix them up, she showed? me” how. to mix! them( up,. and now; I can! mix up all kinds” of punctuation, in! my writing? There, are lots! of rules? to lern; but Im gettin’g them in my head.
Or is it?
Apparently not. Charlie, who has an IQ of 68, wanted to be smarter. Which is only fair of course, as he is a person after all, with dreams and wants and desires. So off he went, to work together with a few scientists who suggest that they could make him smarter if he agrees to be their guinea pig for their new experiment. And of course, the ever optimistic Charlie said yes, already excited at the prospect of being smarter than he is now. And maybe with his newly found smarts, he will be able to truly understand what his friends at work are talking about instead of having to guess it half of the time.
“becaus all my life I wantid to be smart and not dumb.
But its very hard to be smart.”
But then Charlie undergo the brain surgery, and he became smart, really smart. With his newfound intelligence, Charlie realized that all the people at work he thought was his friends were actually making fun of him all this time. Not to mention, after the surgery, all Charlie wanted to do was to learn. He stopped trying to socialize and didn’t even try to find a hobby. Charlie was constantly thinking and pursuing knowledge to the point where all he ever did was lock himself in a room and read 24/7.
This makes me wonder about who the real Charlie was. He was this kind and ever-optimistic guy before the surgery, but after, he became so smart that no one could relate or even wanted to befriend him. He even started to look down on people who didn’t understand things in the speed that he does. And this begs to question, who is Charlie really? How can someone’s personality just change that rapidly, leaving no trace of who he was before? Is he the stupid janitor, or the multi-lingual polymathic genius? Because they’re different people––one is happy, one is not. But, which one is Charlie? Or is he both?
THINGS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED
Different readers take away different things from Flowers for Algernon. For some, they look at Charlie’s story as a tragedy, others as a warning. For me, it taught me to be grateful.
Reading about Charlie and how quickly his mind accelerated from someone who can’t spell things correctly into a man who read books in several different languages while doing his own research on the side opened my eyes into something that––I think––a lot of people take for granted.
Sure, looking at Charlie, a lot of us would emphasize with him and pity him. Some might even offer to help him, but no one wants to be Charlie. We take our ability to pick whatever book we want from a shelf and skim read at any moment’s notice for granted. Our ability to write, read, type and function like a normal human being. All of those are being taken for granted each and every single day.
To us, these are just the things that we’re born with, the things we’re used to having. After reading Flowers for Algernon however, it made me realize that it’s not like that for everyone. We’re all so busy with our lives and constantly being better and chasing our dreams that sometimes, I think, we forget to take a moment and be thankful for what we have. So if someone asks me what I take away from reading Flowers for Algernon, it’s this: be grateful.
I’m not trying to come off as offensive, but I really enjoyed Charlie’s writing style before he undergo the surgery to make him smarter. It comes off as very innocent and pure, like seeing the world through the eyes of a child. A tad bit naive, happy and as a whole still unmarred by the realities of the world.
“I dint know that mice were so smart. Maybe thats because Algernon is a white mouse. Maybe white mice are smarter then other mice.”
But then the tone of the Charlie’s writing changed as he became smart. He turned recluse, cynical, and scornful to everything and everyone around him. It felt like he was constantly battling against himself, pushing himself to be smarter, to read more, to learn more. His pain and distress became something that was self-inflicted.
And then, Charlie’s writing changed again when his mind started to deteriorate. He started to write more like old Charlie, the Charlie before surgery. But there was a tinge of sadness to it. Because he knew was what coming, and he understood that his mind was deteriorating at a speed that could not be contained and would in the end cost him his own life.
All these 3 different writing tones in Flowers for Algernon are subtle but it draws out each and every single emotions that Charlie felt skillfully, making the readers sympathize and feel for Charlie as if they are feeling Charlie’s pain as their own.
Some bawled their eyes out, some felt indifferent towards this books. For me personally, I am siding a little towards the latter. Of course, this book is good, reading Flowers for Algernon made me think about a lot of things that I have never thought about before. It made me stop and truly appreciate my life and the things and people I have.
However, it didn’t make me sob uncontrollably due to what happened to Charlie. Maybe it was because I kind of saw it coming, or something else. I’m not sure. But despite that, I still think Flowers of Algernon is a book that everyone should at least read once. It’s a short book, 40 something pages in length, so it’s shouldn’t be too long for people who are not a big fan of reading. But yeah, definitely give this book a try if you have the chance.
After reading so many books throughout the years, I can honestly say that I have never read a book so simple and short in length, and yet was able to have this kind of impact on its readers. Flowers for Algernon, despite it’s length and simplistic story telling style, is a book that will stay with you for a long time.
- Welcome to The Good Place Review –– Everything is Great
- 10 Movies to Watch That Will Have You Ugly Crying –– Recommendations