"Flowers for Algernon" By Daniel Keyes: a Personal Review
A Quick Summary
Book Title : Flowers for Algernon
Author : Daniel Keyes
Publisher : Mariner Books
Publication Date : December 1, 2007
Page Length : 228 pages
Being born without the ability to read, write, remember things and everything else that comes with being mentally retarded is rough and for Charlie Gordon it is the only thing he continues to strive for. So when his teacher recommends him for an operation to help him increase his I.Q. Charlie leaps at the chance to get smart. Through his progress reports, you are able to see how the operation affects not only the ability to read and write, but how much he is able to do at a rapid pace. Charlie tried to help others like him through this experimental operation, hoping to please those around him but he ends up finding out more about himself than he had originally thought. Throughout this experience he and a mouse who had the same operation become the best of friends, so when something happens to Algernon, the mouse, Charlie becomes distraught and even begins to really worry about his own life and the meaning of this experiment.
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Review Time (May Contain Spoliers)
Flowers for Algernon is an amazing journey that makes you take a step back and rethink things. It brings up a lot of issues that, no matter what time we are in, always seem to be around us, whether we notice or not. I found this story to be touching and in ways a bit disturbing. The journey in which this book takes you on, definitely makes you rethink things you may have done or witnessed in the past. It will have you thinking differently about those with learning disabilities and other mental issues. To see it from the point of view of someone who would go through these hardships, you are able to get the feel and understanding of things that you may not have had before.
Charlie is mentally retarded and it shows in his progress reports, which is where the whole story lies in. His grammar is horrible and his spelling can make it hard to read at first. It was hard to remind myself over the first few pages that the way it was written is exactly how someone like Charlie would write. However, it is very clear from the beginning he wants to "get smart." However, his reasoning behind it makes me shudder. I don't shudder because it makes me scared, but because of the disgust I feel towards how people treat him. He states he wants to please his teacher and be able to join in on conversations with his co-workers. He feels isolated and wants to be more than he is. Even though its clear people are making fun of him, he doesn't see it that way because they are laughing and smiling. To him, that means they are his friends. It isn't until later her realizes they are laughing at him that he begins to understand things.
I really liked how as Charlie learned new things and became more intelligent than he was, his progress reports became clearer and easier to read. But with his intelligence growing, he noticed other areas of his life were lacking. He no longer acted the way he had before, began to think very differently and still had the emotions of a child but in a whole new aspect. He was smart, but it was clear he was happier before the operation and the rise in his I.Q. It kind of goes to show that being smart doesn't always means you will be happy. He had to suffer to understand that the way his mind was changing wasn't exactly what he wanted. He wanted so much and even though he got smarter like he wanted, he lost the motivating factors behind it. He ended up losing his job and a lot of the people who surrounded him because of how his personality changed. It was heartbreaking to see him go through the hardships and feel so alone.
I found myself enjoying the fact that even during these hardships, he remained close with Algernon, the mouse who proved the operation worked. Charlie spoke fondly of the mouse, even though at first he hated him. It was pleasant to see that Charlie still had a friend, even if it was just a mouse. Especially with his memories torturing him whenever they decided to pop up. I found Charlie's childhood heartbreaking and exceptionally disturbing. His mother's ideals seemed to be wrong in my opinion. I don't know what she went through, but to be so harsh on a child and to not believe anyone because of how it might make her look to her neighbors and other people, was quite disturbing to me. I found myself hating the woman, and yet I know there are plenty of people who would do the same to their child, even in this day and age.
I have to say the ending was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever read. I understand there will always be risks to experiments that mess with ones brain, but I had really hoped for the best for Charlie. I wasn't fond of his intellectual self because of how he acted towards others and how he thought, but at the same time, to have him lose everything made me tear up and cry. It was truly not a desirable ending. However, seeing him put others first again was heartwarming. It goes to show you, sometimes it those who don't really understand things that are the kindest of people out there. It makes me think of those social studies of people asking others for money and it is the homeless who will try to help out versus those who have a lot they could give. I firmly believe that this book was created to show just how things can appear to be okay and its really not.
I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is in 9th grade or higher. I think we all need a reality check from time to time. I have read this book in high school for a book report and even though I am a decade older, rereading it reminded me of how much I loved this book. It has a bunch of underlying meanings and not just on intelligence. I loved the little hidden lessons and thoughts behind this book. It definitely gets your brain working and really puts our society in a truthful light. Even though its based on mental retardation, you can easily apply a lot of what is discussed in Charlie's progress reports and the things it hints at to other sources of discrimination . I would ultimately rate this book 5 stars out of stars. Though the book seems simple to read, it touches base on things in our everyday world that we normally wouldn't think twice about, and probably should. Flowers for Algernon is truly an amazing read.
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