Thursday, June 22, 2023

Review of Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Novel
Book Club Event = Book List (09/30/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Biographies: Auto, Memoir, and Other Types

Watch Short Review


“I asked can I feed him because I felt bad to beat him and I wanted to be nice and make frends.  Burt said no Algernon is a very speshul mouse with an operashun like mine.  He was the first of all the animals to stay smart so long and he said that Algernon is so smart he has to solve a problem with a lock that changes every time he goes in to eat so he has to lern something new to get his food.  That made me sad because if he coudnt learn he woudnt be able to eat and he would be hungry.  |  I dont think its right to make you pass a test to eat.  How would Burt like to have to pass a test every time he wants to eat.  I think Ill be frends with Algeron.” – Daniel Keyes, Page 24

“It had been all right as long they could laugh at me and appear clever at my expense, but now they were feeling inferior to the moron.  I began to see that by my astonishing growth I had made them shrink and emphasized their inadequacies.  I had betrayed them, and they hated me for it.” – Daniel Keyes, Page 68

“Strauss again brought up my need to speak and write simply and directly so that people will understand me.  He reminds me that language is sometimes a barrier instead of a pathway.  Ironic to find myself on the other side on the intellectual fence.” – Daniel Keyes, Page 72


Is This An Overview?

Charlie Gordon is intellectually disabled.  Before and after having an operation that can increase Charlie’s intelligence, Charlie is asked to write down progress reports for research purposes.  They act like diary entries.  It is through these progress reports that the book is written.  Before the operation, the researchers perform various tests on Charlie’s intelligence.  Some of the tests are a competition with the mouse Algernon, to complete a maze.  Charlie kept losing to the mouse.  The mouse had the intelligence operation that they were going to perform on Charlie. 

When they do perform the operation on Charlie, the gradual progress frustrations Charlie, but eventually Charlie becomes much smarter.  Even Charlie’s memory improves.  With the new found intelligence, Charlie became an expert in many intellectual fields and languages.  When Charlie was intellectually disabled, Charlie had friends, but the friends had fun at Charlie’s expense.  When Charlie became an intellectual, Charlie made others feel inferior and therefore lost friends.  Charlie’s intelligence became so vast, that Charlie thought the researchers were inadequate compared to Charlie, that they were frauds.  Charlie’s intelligence may have drastically increased, but not Charlie’s emotional intelligence.  Problems for Charlie did not disappear after having the intelligence operation.  The problems just became different. 



As this book is written from progress reports by Charlie, some of the progress reports can be difficult to read.  As Charlie’s intelligence improves, so does the writing.  This makes the story very consistent.  Giving the reader an immersive experience. 

This book has psychological foundations, but psychology has advanced.  Some of the ideas presented in the book might have been popular during the era, but have been proven wrong.  Terminology has also gone through changes.  Some of the terminology was appropriate during the era, but are no longer considered appropriate. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Who is Algernon? 
•Who is Dr. Strauss? 
•Who is Alice Kinnian?
•Who is Fay Lillman?
•What does Charlie think of Algernon?
•Why was Charlie chosen for the operation?
•How do people treat and think of Charlie before and after the operation?
•What ironic things does Charlie realize after getting intelligence? 
•Is Algernon’s and Charlie’s intelligence permanent? 
•How does Charlie use the new found intelligence?
•Should they have made Charlie smart? 
•How fast does Charlie read?
•Is learning during sleep possible?
•What is the difference between conscious and subconscious? 
•How was Charlie treated at the bakery? 
•How does Charlie handle Gimpy’s extra source of income? 
•How does Charlie’s love life change? 
•How is Charlie’s emotional intelligence?
•How do Charlie’s parents treat Charlie as a child?
•How does Charlie approach Charlie’s relatives after gaining intelligence?
•How does Nemur make Charlie feel?
•What does Charlie think of the researchers? 
•What did Charlie do at the conference that honored the achieve of Algernon and Charlie?
•What happens when Charlie gets drunk?
•Why does Charlie come back to the researchers?

Book Details
Publisher:             Mariner [HarperCollins Publishers]
Edition ISBN:      9780547539638
Pages to read:       182
Publication:          2007
1st Edition:           1959
Format:                 eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5