“Flowers for Algernon”: meaning and analysis of the book by Arkady and Daniel Keyes

“Flowers for Algernon”: meaning and analysis of the book by Arkady and Daniel Keyes Literature

“A person endowed with reason, but deprived of love, is doomed to moral death and mental disorder.” What is stronger – the mind or feelings? Here is the key question that runs through the story of the hero’s life in Flowers for Algeron. Nature has deprived Charlie Gordon of reason.

He was rejected by his loved ones, this ruined his sensuality. The drama that is narrated in the book made many turn to the problems of special people. It touches on aspects of humanity and relationships. Equally important is given to science and sometimes the lack of humanity on its part. Scientists, paying attention to progress, turn a blind eye to the spiritual struggles of man. There is a fine line between genius and insanity.

What is this book about

Charlie Gordon is a man involuntarily doomed to loneliness. He has clinical mental retardation. Charlie leads a quiet, monotonous life as a janitor at a college. He has no friends at all, only colleagues who make fun of his weakness. But one day his life changes. Charlie is offered to participate in a clinical experiment. The essence of which is to test a medicine on a person that can heal his illness.

A similar experiment was carried out on the little mouse Algeron, which showed amazing results on the mind of a mouse. Charlie agrees, because this is the only way to become a normal person and live a decent life. The results are not long in coming. Charlie in a short time mastered the basic knowledge in various areas. He deeply studied foreign languages, soon became fluent in them. Received doctorates in natural sciences.

His brain became a machine for memorizing and mastering motor skills. Charlie decides to try his hand at music and very soon learns brilliant works and plays them at the level of a master. This is where love comes into play. Music teacher – Alice, shows feelings for Charlie. The man describes the manifestations of his feelings and comes to the conclusion that he loves Alice. However, he cannot show his feelings, because he completely lacks sensuality. Any intimacy with her frightens Charlie.

His genius of mind takes over life. The people around the hero seem ordinary and simple to him. Charlie cannot cope with the flow of thoughts and memories, does not have the ability to analyze his feelings. In the documents of doctors, he discovers information about the mouse Elgeron, who loses his sanity and returns to his previous state. This information makes Charlie furious. He refuses to continue taking his medication. And, as a result, the mouse dies, and Charlie degrades. He buries the mouse in the backyard of his house and brings him flowers. Relations with Alice are doomed. Charlie returns to his roots and loneliness.

The meaning of the book

The author describes the features of human intellectual development: rise to genius and fall into the abyss to the origins of mental retardation. It shows the need for intellectual development and its connection with relationships.

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The book deals with philosophical questions about life and death, love and loneliness. The component of motivation is clearly identified, and what it can give a person. Particular attention is paid to the role of science in society. There is a fine line between wanting to be a genius and still being emotionally clueless. An important role is given to the tragic childhood and its influence on the life of the hero.

Book analysis

Flowers for Algeron is a science fiction book. The story is told from the perspective of a mentally retarded man who writes a diary about his impressions and feelings. Lots of grammatical errors that can confuse the reader. And yet, this makes sense – immersion in the world of the hero of the story, the opportunity to feel his life.

The author touches on the theme of the doomed love of an ordinary woman and an unusual man. Relationships with the world and most importantly – with yourself. The hero is in search of himself, looking for an answer to the question – who am I?

The book can be divided into two branches. The first is devoted to philosophical searches, ideas. If the mind is at the head, the sensual side of life is denied. A person thinks only by the laws of logic, neglecting emotions and isolating himself from people. If feelings are at the head, a person thinks only with them, denying meanings. The author does not in vain describe the two extremes of human existence. Choosing voluntarily or not, a person will be unhappy. Thus, harmony is needed, which the hero of the book was deprived of. The second branch is devoted to science. In search of truth and answers to questions, science sometimes goes far. However, if there were no such experiments, there would be no discoveries. The book describes the dream of sick people – to be healed. Science is working in this direction. However, there is always a price to pay.

Particular attention is paid to religion. A mentally retarded man believes in God, faith in him is stronger than ever. However, the higher his genius, the weaker his faith in higher powers.

The rational component of human life is certainly important, but it is not the only one.

The history of the creation of the book

Daniel Keyes began his journey to Algernon long before the story was written. Yes, it was a story, because the story of Charlie was not originally a book with a detailed storyline. Keyes from childhood was inspired by the need for schooling. Since the writer’s family was not rich, a good study could become the foundation for the boy to receive an education and subsequently financial well-being. Since childhood, he believed that “it’s good to be smart.”

Daniel spent a lot of time reading literature. He became an erudite young man. However, the young man understood that the more time he devotes to education, the more he moves away from his relatives. He then goes to medical school, where he is greatly influenced by the autopsy experiment on a white mouse. Keyes soon realizes his disinterest in medicine. He tries himself as a military sailor, thanks to which he earns money to pay for his studies.

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Daniel is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Keyes worked with mentally retarded children, where he had thoughts of increasing intelligence. Childhood, medical education, work with “special” children imposed certain images on the consciousness of the future writer. Each stage of Daniel’s life has left its mark on the creation of the work “Flowers for Algernon”. The story of a man with a low level of intelligence, who agreed to an experiment in the name of “to become smart.” Subsequently, this story acquired the scale of an entire book and was then adapted for cinema and theater.

The meaning of the title of the book

Mouse Algeron is an analogue of Charlie Gordon, only in the animal world. The life of a little mouse is monotonous and predictable. Live and die like a mouse, or become part of a big experiment and die for the good of science. Either way, physical death. Here is Charlie Gordon, doomed to moral death in his predictable life, or all the same, death for the good of science. They differ only in that one became a hostage involuntarily, while the other chose his own path.

Charlie pays tribute to the little mouse by offering flowers, which has become the latest victim of science. The man saw himself in the mouse. Flowers for the mouse and for myself.

Problems of the book

The most obvious problem in the book is the question of genius. She intoxicates and elevates the hero above others. Charlie openly demonstrates his superiority. The inability to stop leads to the loss of his own I. Charlie ceases to be an open and kind person. As the intelligence index increases, it loses its true nature. Genius dooms the hero to loneliness.

What does the book teach

The book has a significant impact on the reader.

It makes you think about childhood. After all, who a person becomes largely determines his childhood. Charlie was born “special”, he had feelings, but no mind. The boy’s mother could not bear his rejection. Rejecting attachment in relationships has become an impetus for the inability to understand yourself and your feelings.

A brilliant mind and erudition will not bring happiness to a person. Of greater importance is emotional intelligence and the ability to understand yourself, manage your desires and life.

The world we live in teaches tolerance for others. Here we are talking about a different opinion, a different person. The book tells about the life of a mentally retarded person in the first person. Daily difficulties, ridicule from people, the inability to understand loved ones, and even the inability to see the non-material are difficult for him. This is a story about the humanity of people, and the importance of its education in oneself.

Society recognizes only normality. If a person is too smart, too talented, or vice versa intellectually ungifted, it is perceived as an extreme. This is taken as a deviation. People are close only with similar “normal” themselves. Any deviation is the road to loneliness.

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Why Charlie and Alice’s love was doomed

This love was doomed for several reasons. The first and most obvious is that despite the rapid formation of skills for a “normal” life in society, Charlie simply does not have a place in it. His life experience is too different from that of the average person.

He is able to build a full-fledged relationship, until it comes to sexual contact. One of the reasons for the fear of intimacy was a traumatic childhood. Charlie had a cruel mother, who regarded any manifestation of sexuality on the part of the child as a pathology. Therefore, any manifestation of this kind was severely suppressed and punished.

Another problem was Charlie’s emotional immaturity. His intellect formed so quickly that it outstripped the formation of emotions.The protagonist knows how to analyze human actions, but does not know how to behave in a given situation. Recall, for example, the episode when, after one of Alice’s first refusals, he begins to hate her, he wants her to crawl in front of him on her knees, but at the same time he wants to hug her.

Charlie’s intellect becomes another stumbling block. The first major quarrel occurs precisely because the girl ceases to understand her lover. She notices significant changes in Charlie’s personality: if earlier he was kind to everyone, now, with an increase in intelligence, cynicism is increasingly beginning to appear in him.

The protagonist realizes that many people just mocked him. If he was treated well, then, according to Charlie, only because they so wanted to assert themselves.

Parting was approaching also because Alice began to feel stupid in Charlie’s company. The protagonist turns out to be right: their relationship develops smoothly as long as the girl can take a patronizing position. As soon as the situation changes, there is a breakdown.

Thus, we see how the hero becomes a hostage of his own intellect. Any attempts to socialize and create a full-fledged family turn into a failure. Indeed, geniuses are often lonely…

There is no usual happy ending in this novel, the ending leaves a bitter aftertaste. However, I would like to support the writer’s decision to leave it that way. The rise and demise of the hero gives us reason to think about what makes us who we are.

Explanation of the book’s ending

Charlie’s story ends with a return to the very beginning of his development. With the remnants of his mind, he decides to go to a hospital where he spends his whole life. The physical death of the mouse symbolizes the moral death of Charlie. They are like two sides of the same whole. And in two cases, a dramatic ending.

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