Flowers For Algernon
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“Flowers For Algernon” By Daniel Keyes
“Progris ript” “Progress report” • Keyes use of narrative structure enables us to see the operation has been successful. We see this in the quick improvement in spelling. • The narrative structure develops Charlie’s characterisation and shows us how poor in intelligence Charlie is at the start of the short story.
“he really pulled a Charlie Gordon” • The narrative structure enables us to understand what Charlie is oblivious to. • His workmates view him as the personification of idiocy. • This introduces the theme of the short story which is critical of the way society treats people who are different,
“I never knew that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me around to make fun of me” • The narrative structure shows us Charlie becoming more discerning as his intelligence increases following the operation. We also see the grief he experiences when he realises his friends are not genuine.
“when I become more intelligent then maybe I’ll be like everyone else and people will like me.” • The narrative structure reveals Charlie’s motivation to undergo the intelligence increasing operation is in order to become more popular. • This is ironic as the outcome will be the very opposite.
“I figured up a new way to line up the machines in the factory” • The narrative structure shows us that Charlie’s intelligence continues to increase after the operation and he exceeds the intelligence of the people at work. • In this incident we see the theme of society’s mistreatment of those who are different. Charlie saves his boss $10,000 per year yet Charlie only receives a $25 bonus.
“They said you know it will probly be tempirey. I said yes…I don’t care if it hurts. • The use of dialogue between Charlie and the scientists clearly reveals Charlie’s misunderstanding of the word,”temporary”. • In this incident the scientists fail to enlighten Charlie. • This effectively shows the scientists in a poor light as they are overly anxious to proceed with the operation. • This incident illustrates the theme, where we see even the scientists take advantage of Charlie. • This also introduces a theme which is critical of science and scientists.
Robinson Crusoe • The incident where Charlie reads this novel shows us that he remains lonely. • We see that Charlie’s operation and his intelligence increase has not led him to be more socially accepted. • Robinson Crusoe is geographically isolated. • This effectively emphasises Charlie’s social and emotional isolation.
Paradise Lost • Charlie progresses to more complex texts. • This use of the narrative structure shows us that his intelligence continues to increase. • The incident where he reads this poem reminds us of Charlie’s experience. For him, the “apple” of knowledge was his operation. • This use of foreshadowing suggests that the outcome of the operation will be tragic for Charlie.
“This intelligence has driven a wedge between me and all the people I once knew and loved” • As Charlie’s intelligence continues to increase he becomes ever more isolated. • The use of the metaphor, ”wedge” creates the impression of a huge, insurmountable gulf between Charlie and other people. • Rather than enabling Charlie to have more friends, his operation appears to have done the opposite.
The petition • Charlie’s workmates are so alarmed at his sudden intelligence they sign a petition to have him sacked. • This incident illustrates how many people are intimidated by his new intelligence. • This effectively shows us that people are hostile to people who are different. At first it was because Charlie was below average intelligence. Now it is because he is above average intelligence.
“It was evil when Eve listened to the snake and ate from the tree of knowledge” • Only one person refused to sign the petition against Charlie. • In this incident Fanny is troubled by Charlie’s new intelligence and tells him no good will come from it. • The use of foreshadowing, the reference to Adam and Eve and their attempt to increase their knowledge, make us think that Charlie’s operation to increase his intelligence will also have a tragic outcome.
The scientists disagreement over the definition of I.Q. • As Charlie’s intelligence increases he becomes more interested in the tests he undergoes. • He discovers the scientists hold varying views on I.Q. This leads Charlie to question the validity of the tests. • This incident illustrates that scientists and science have limitations. They are not omnipotent. • This incident raises doubts on the ability of the scientists being able to artificially increase Charlie’s intelligence.
“Dr Nemur was saying it was his experiment and his research and Dr Strauss was shouting back” • In this incident the scientists are arguing over ownership of the pioneering operation and the research behind it. • This exposes the career ambitions of the scientists and makes us question their motives. • This incident effectively exposes the scientists as flawed human beings, rather than otherworldly benign deities. The reader is alarmed at the implications for Charlie.
“Contrary to my earlier impressions of him, I realize that Dr Nemur is not at all a genius” • Charlie’s intelligence surpasses that of the scientists’ and he sees their gaps. • This incident is alarming as it raises doubts on their ability to artificially increase human intelligence. • This further develops the theme which is critical of science and scientists.
“his areas of knowledge are too limited” • Charlie is now more intelligent than Dr Strauss. • This incident shows Charlie’s loss of confidence in the ability of the scientist. • This incident effectively raises the possibility that Dr Strauss is ill-equipped to conduct such an experiment and the ultimate outcome will not be good.
“It happened today. Algernon bit me” • The character of Charlie is linked to Algernon through their similar experience of the operation. In this way the writer builds tension using foreshadowing as it is inevitable that Charlie will also regress. • The tension is further developed by the two short sentences which emphasise the bad news.
“If there is an answer, I’ll have to find it out for myself. Suddenly, time has become very important to me”
• The narrative structure indicates that Charlie is aware only he has the intelligence to attempt to prevent his regression. • The use of word choice, “If” effectively makes us sceptical of the success which creates tension. • The reference to time develops the tension.
Letter to Dr Strauss • Keyes uses narrative structure, the inclusion of Charlie’s letter, to reveal his regression is inevitable. • In the letter Charlie’s tone is professional. However, it is clear that the scientists were premature in applying their animal research on a human. • This further develops the theme which is critical of science and scientists.
“I don’t know why Im dumb agen or what I did wrong.” • The use of narrative structure, Charlie’s poor spelling and punctuation, indicates clearly that he is regressing at an increasing rate. • This is further evidence that the operation had not been successful
“He talked to me like I was a baby and he winked at Mrs Flynn.” • Mrs Flynn calls in a doctor as Charlie is becoming very ill. • In this incident we see the doctor, an educated man, is yet another character who has no reservations about mocking those who are below average intelligence. • The use of word choice, “baby” reveals how patronised Charlie feels in this incident. • This incident continues the theme which looks at the way society treats people who are different.
Returning to work. The incident when Frank and Joe defend Charlie against the new member of staff contrasts with their behaviour towards Charlie earlier in the short story. Keyes uses this incident to show that the men are basically decent. This develops the theme, the way society treats people who are different, as it shows that this behaviour is acceptable to otherwise kind individuals.
“Dr Strauss came to see me again. I wouldn’t open the door and I told him to go away.” • Dr Strauss’ visits to Charlie develop his characterisation by showing another side to him. He clearly feels remorse towards Charlie and a concern for him. This shows that the scientists were not monsters, just ambitious and career minded. In this way, Keyes shows that the scientist is not a villain despite taking advantage of Charlie earlier in the short story.
“I don’t want Miss Kinnian to feel sorry for me. Evry body feels sorry for me at the factery and I don’t want that eather so Im going. • Charlie does not want pity substituted for popularity. • He will become Robinson Crusoe by adding geographical isolation to his social isolation
“Im going someplace where nobody knows that Charlie Gordon was once a genus and now he cant even reed a book or rite good. • Charlie is clearly regressing at the same pace as Algernon. Foreshadowing establishes that, like Algernon, he too will die. He is leaving to go where he can die without anyone knowing he was once a “genius”. • This effectively suggests that society will not change which relates to the theme, the way society treats people who are different. It is also the final development of the loneliness Charlie has experienced throughout the short story.
The Title • We discover the significance of the title. The title completes the use of Algernon in foreshadowing. We are also reminded that Charlie will die alone with no one to mark his grave, a final expression of the loneliness he sought to eradicate when he underwent the operation.