Flowers for Algernon

Novel By: Daniel Keyes Category: Science Fiction

The operation would change everything for Charlie Gordon. Charlie, who hardly ever gets his spellings right. Charlie, who has been working at Mr. Donner's bakery for seventeen years from when he was a boy; cleaning up and making 'diliveries' as always. In the evenings, you can find him at the Centre learning to 'reed' and 'rite' under the kind Ms. Kinnian. But now Charlie has been selected as the first human subject for a dangerous neuropsychological experiment and study; an experiment that will increase his intelligence to unprecedented levels- three times his own. Algernon, the only other subject- a mouse, who is much quicker than him at solving mazes and puzzles, would soon become his closest companion. As Charlie sets out to diligently put down his progress reports, reports that would document his transformation from the intellectually deprived to a genius, he is wholly unaware that the gift of science comes with its own severe cost.

"The more intelligent you become, the more problems you will have, Charlie." ~ Dr. Strauss in 'Flowers of Algernon'

Daniel Keyes, the author, has not shied from addressing difficult questions; questions about ethics of experimentation on living subjects, be it man or animal to the very human predicaments that arise out of being thrust into the light of knowledge from the comforting grey of ignorance. The writing on the other hand was clean and emotionally engaging. Charlie's character arc shines not only because of his newly gained intelligence but also through the subtle yet profound influences of the secondary characters- his lover, the professor and Algernon.

"I realize now that my feeling for Alice had been moving backward against the current of my learning, from worship, to love, to fondness, to a feeling of gratitude and responsibility."

The intellectual growth post-operation is exponential and soon outstrips Charlie's emotional growth while his forgotten traumas from the past come back to haunt him with ever-increasing clarity; he is then faced with everything that each of us goes through at some point in our own lifetimes. Struggles of love and purpose, battles with fear and faith; and finally, an epiphany of realization alongside the peace of acceptance, concluding a truly extraordinary journey.

"There’s one thing you’ve all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn’t been tempered by human affection isn’t worth a damn."

PS: You can find the book on Amazon Kindle and if this story reminds you of 'Forrest Gump', you are not alone! Do check out the forum before you go:)

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