Charlie is a good-natured but mentally challenged man in his early thirties. He works in a bakery as a janitor and every week he goes to the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults where he is learning to “read and write good” so he could get smart. He gets an offer from the researchers at the Beekman Institute to increase his intelligence with an operation. The operation is a success and he becomes a genius, experiencing the opposite end of the curve.
Before the operation, Charlie lived on the edge of the society, unwanted from his family and ridiculed by others. His co-workers saw him as a sideshow attraction and someone they could put down so they can feel better about themselves. After the operation and at the height of his intelligence, he again was an outsider. It infuriated him that people he looked to aren’t all-knowing masters of the world, but ordinary people.
Flowers for Algernon questions the role of memory in emotional growth.Intelligence comes in many forms. There’s the typical one, the one people usually associate with geniuses, the ability to understand complex concepts and solve abstract problems. There are also artistic intelligence, social intelligence, the emotional one and a few others. While raw intelligence is an amazing thing, humans are social creatures that learn through the interactions with others how to have healthy lives.
What I really liked about this novel was that it gave insight into the daily life of a person with a mental disability. They usually make people uncomfortable so their troubles aren’t very well known. From what I know and read, it seems that they are often victims of all kinds of abuse, without knowing if what’s happening to them is wrong. Charlie talks about his own abusive mother who couldn’t accept that her son wasn’t like the other kids, which brought a lot of difficulties with it and is basically the central topic of the novel. He also mentions a girl from his class who had three kids before she was 18 when her parents had her have a hysterectomy. She would often be picked up from the street by men who would then take advantage of her. It’s really sad to think that there are people who would take advantage of these people who just don’t know better.
All in all, we’re all human with our personalities and memories, no matter where our disabilities and strengths lie.