Flowers for Algernon
I read this book in high school, a long time ago. The story has stuck with me. It's science fiction but it could be horror. Not because it's gruesome, creepy or morbid. Just because the idea of seeing yourself so clearly and so much better than you had been before - only to then be returned to what you had been... that seems horrifying to me.
Algernon is the mouse in a lab experiment. Charlie is the man picked to take part in the same experimental brain surgery. It all seems to work so well at first.
Algernon is exceptional, the experiment seems to work with greatly positive results! So they pick Charlie because he has never been exceptional, intellectually, and this is what the experiment is all about. Can they improve the intelligence and thus the whole life of someone who started out the level of below average? Can they turn Charlie into a genius?
At first Charlie is still being beaten by Algernon, the mouse. Charlie doesn' tlike that, of course. He has always known he was not as smart as some people but he looks up to people and thinks well of everyone. He believes the people he works with are his friends. One of the saddest parts of the book is Charlie's realization that they were making fun of him, even treating him badly but he never understood enough to know.
Charlie improves, understands more, sees more and begins to want more for himself too. It's not long at all before he is beyond any intelligence level in Algernon, the mouse. Charlie even surpasses the scientists who created and performed the experiment. Charlie falls in love, makes plans for the future... but one day Algernon dies.
Algernon had started losing his super intelligence, gradually. Charlie, knowing he had the same surgery, expects his results will backslide and now, knowing and understanding so much more he knows he is going back to who he was before. the difference being that now he sees a very different picture of who he was before and how he was treated by other people.
If knowledge is power, is ignorance bliss?
How would it feel to have come far, learned so much, changed your life and yourself and then have it all taken back until you are reduced to so much less than you had been even for a short time? I can't imagine living each day as someone who understands the jokes people made about him when he was less intelligent and knowing you would soon be back to that life again.
Of course, there is a movie too. Read the book first.
See or Read 'Flowers for Algernon'.
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Last updated on June 26, 2014
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