Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, follows the life of a developmentally disabled man named Charlie Gordon, before and after he agrees to participate in a surgery that will improve his mental capabilities. The story mixes different elements like personal internal and external struggles beautifully, keeping the reader guessing about what will happen next and how Charlie with react to and cope with the events that follow.
The book uses Charlie’s love of writing as a way to mark Charlie’s intellectual progress as the book moves forward. It starts with Charlie writing his mandatory progress reports with very poor grammar and little to no understanding of his own mental disabilities. The way his knowledge about the english language expands, allows the reader to accurately follow his improvement over the course of the book. Once Charlie reaches the height of his knowledge, he begins writing about philosophy or topics his own doctors couldn’t completely explain to him. The start of Charlie’s tests consisted of his progress reports and races against a mouse who was also given the same surgery. The mouse, Algernon, is also a way for the author to mark the growing intelligence of Charlie Gordon as Charlie would perform mental tests with the mouse each day. Unfortunately for Charlie, this increase in IQ forced him out of the small friend group he had consisting of his old co-workers, and also ruined his relationship with the love of his life, Alice Kinnian. Along with his general knowledge, his increase in intellect also opened his eyes to the cruelty of the world that he had been protected from by a family friend, and made Charlie realize his group of friends only liked him because they used Charlie as a source of slapstick entertainment. His leap in intellect also allowed him to understand some memories from his childhood and made him realize the relationship between him and his two parents. The genius level Charlie Gordon then seeks to find a new occupation away from his old co-workers while attempting to balance his emotional pain with the pressure of presenting his mental progress to an audience of prestigious scientific minds. With the presentation growing nearer, Charlie writes an entire book about his own mental progress, as he has already surpassed the mental capabilities of his own doctors. After the presentation, Charlie was trying to recover from the enormous amounts of stress, until the mouse, Algernon, dies without explanation. This and Charlie’s inability to comprehend some of his writing from his full mental capacity, provides the reader with immense amounts of foreshadowing.
Daniel Keyes utilizes Charlie Gordon’s writing knowledge perfectly, to create a book that changes in writing style as the book progresses. Charlie’s Progress reports are also written in first person, allowing the reader to see into the life of Charlie Gordon with more clarity than other perspectives, but even though everything is much more clear, what Charlie is thinking or how he will try to deal with personal issues, everything is restricted to the mind of Charlie, forcing the reader to put themselves into the shoes of multiple people, as the writing doesn’t depict any exact feelings or actions performed by the other characters in the book.
The book itself starts off a little bit slow, so anyone who wants a faster paced book, shouldn’t be thinking about reading this one, but anyone willing to give the book time to unfold will be pleasantly surprised with the beautiful writing style that Daniel Keyes captures so well. Overall, I think everyone should read this point at some point. It is not the hardest book in the world, nor is it the longest, but the literary value is extensive.