Flowers For Algernon

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“Flowers For Algernon”
By Daniel Keyes
“Progris ript”
“Progress report”
• Keyes use of narrative structure enables us to
see the operation has been successful. We
see this in the quick improvement in spelling.
• The narrative structure develops Charlie’s
characterisation and shows us how poor in
intelligence Charlie is at the start of the short
story.
“he really pulled a Charlie Gordon”
• The narrative structure enables us to
understand what Charlie is oblivious to.
• His workmates view him as the personification
of idiocy.
• This introduces the theme of the short story
which is critical of the way society treats
people who are different,
“I never knew that Joe and Frank and
the others liked to have me around to
make fun of me”
• The narrative structure shows us Charlie
becoming more discerning as his intelligence
increases following the operation. We also see
the grief he experiences when he realises his
friends are not genuine.
“when I become more intelligent then
maybe I’ll be like everyone else and
people will like me.”
• The narrative structure reveals Charlie’s
motivation to undergo the intelligence
increasing operation is in order to become
more popular.
• This is ironic as the outcome will be the very
opposite.
“I figured up a new way to line up the
machines in the factory”
• The narrative structure shows us that Charlie’s
intelligence continues to increase after the
operation and he exceeds the intelligence of
the people at work.
• In this incident we see the theme of society’s
mistreatment of those who are different.
Charlie saves his boss $10,000 per year yet
Charlie only receives a $25 bonus.
“They said you know it will probly be
tempirey. I said yes…I don’t care if it
hurts.
• The use of dialogue between Charlie and the scientists
clearly reveals Charlie’s misunderstanding of the
word,”temporary”.
• In this incident the scientists fail to enlighten Charlie.
• This effectively shows the scientists in a poor light as
they are overly anxious to proceed with the operation.
• This incident illustrates the theme, where we see even
the scientists take advantage of Charlie.
• This also introduces a theme which is critical of science
and scientists.
Robinson Crusoe
• The incident where Charlie reads this novel
shows us that he remains lonely.
• We see that Charlie’s operation and his
intelligence increase has not led him to be
more socially accepted.
• Robinson Crusoe is geographically isolated.
• This effectively emphasises Charlie’s social and
emotional isolation.
Paradise Lost
• Charlie progresses to more complex texts.
• This use of the narrative structure shows us
that his intelligence continues to increase.
• The incident where he reads this poem
reminds us of Charlie’s experience. For him,
the “apple” of knowledge was his operation.
• This use of foreshadowing suggests that the
outcome of the operation will be tragic for
Charlie.
“This intelligence has driven a wedge
between me and all the people I once
knew and loved”
• As Charlie’s intelligence continues to increase
he becomes ever more isolated.
• The use of the metaphor, ”wedge” creates the
impression of a huge, insurmountable gulf
between Charlie and other people.
• Rather than enabling Charlie to have more
friends, his operation appears to have done
the opposite.
The petition
• Charlie’s workmates are so alarmed at his sudden
intelligence they sign a petition to have him
sacked.
• This incident illustrates how many people are
intimidated by his new intelligence.
• This effectively shows us that people are hostile
to people who are different. At first it was
because Charlie was below average intelligence.
Now it is because he is above average
intelligence.
“It was evil when Eve listened to the
snake and ate from the tree of
knowledge”
• Only one person refused to sign the petition
against Charlie.
• In this incident Fanny is troubled by Charlie’s new
intelligence and tells him no good will come from
it.
• The use of foreshadowing, the reference to Adam
and Eve and their attempt to increase their
knowledge, make us think that Charlie’s
operation to increase his intelligence will also
have a tragic outcome.
The scientists disagreement over the
definition of I.Q.
• As Charlie’s intelligence increases he becomes
more interested in the tests he undergoes.
• He discovers the scientists hold varying views on
I.Q. This leads Charlie to question the validity of
the tests.
• This incident illustrates that scientists and science
have limitations. They are not omnipotent.
• This incident raises doubts on the ability of the
scientists being able to artificially increase
Charlie’s intelligence.
“Dr Nemur was saying it was his
experiment and his research and Dr
Strauss was shouting back”
• In this incident the scientists are arguing over
ownership of the pioneering operation and the
research behind it.
• This exposes the career ambitions of the
scientists and makes us question their motives.
• This incident effectively exposes the scientists as
flawed human beings, rather than otherworldly
benign deities. The reader is alarmed at the
implications for Charlie.
“Contrary to my earlier impressions of
him, I realize that Dr Nemur is not at all
a genius”
• Charlie’s intelligence surpasses that of the
scientists’ and he sees their gaps.
• This incident is alarming as it raises doubts on
their ability to artificially increase human
intelligence.
• This further develops the theme which is
critical of science and scientists.
“his areas of knowledge are too
limited”
• Charlie is now more intelligent than Dr
Strauss.
• This incident shows Charlie’s loss of
confidence in the ability of the scientist.
• This incident effectively raises the possibility
that Dr Strauss is ill-equipped to conduct such
an experiment and the ultimate outcome will
not be good.
“It happened today. Algernon bit me”
• The character of Charlie is linked to Algernon
through their similar experience of the
operation. In this way the writer builds
tension using foreshadowing as it is inevitable
that Charlie will also regress.
• The tension is further developed by the two
short sentences which emphasise the bad
news.
“If there is an answer, I’ll have to find it
out for myself. Suddenly, time has
become very important to me”
• The narrative structure indicates that Charlie
is aware only he has the intelligence to
attempt to prevent his regression.
• The use of word choice, “If” effectively makes
us sceptical of the success which creates
tension.
• The reference to time develops the tension.
Letter to Dr Strauss
• Keyes uses narrative structure, the inclusion of
Charlie’s letter, to reveal his regression is
inevitable.
• In the letter Charlie’s tone is professional.
However, it is clear that the scientists were
premature in applying their animal research
on a human.
• This further develops the theme which is
critical of science and scientists.
“I don’t know why Im dumb agen or
what I did wrong.”
• The use of narrative structure, Charlie’s poor
spelling and punctuation, indicates clearly that
he is regressing at an increasing rate.
• This is further evidence that the operation had
not been successful
“He talked to me like I was a baby and
he winked at Mrs Flynn.”
• Mrs Flynn calls in a doctor as Charlie is becoming
very ill.
• In this incident we see the doctor, an educated
man, is yet another character who has no
reservations about mocking those who are below
average intelligence.
• The use of word choice, “baby” reveals how
patronised Charlie feels in this incident.
• This incident continues the theme which looks at
the way society treats people who are different.
Returning to work.
The incident when Frank and Joe defend Charlie
against the new member of staff contrasts
with their behaviour towards Charlie earlier in
the short story. Keyes uses this incident to
show that the men are basically decent. This
develops the theme, the way society treats
people who are different, as it shows that this
behaviour is acceptable to otherwise kind
individuals.
“Dr Strauss came to see me again. I
wouldn’t open the door and I told him
to go away.”
• Dr Strauss’ visits to Charlie develop his
characterisation by showing another side to
him. He clearly feels remorse towards Charlie
and a concern for him. This shows that the
scientists were not monsters, just ambitious
and career minded. In this way, Keyes shows
that the scientist is not a villain despite taking
advantage of Charlie earlier in the short story.
“I don’t want Miss Kinnian to feel sorry
for me. Evry body feels sorry for me at
the factery and I don’t want that
eather so Im going.
• Charlie does not want pity substituted for
popularity.
• He will become Robinson Crusoe by adding
geographical isolation to his social isolation
“Im going someplace where nobody
knows that Charlie Gordon was once a
genus and now he cant even reed a
book or rite good.
• Charlie is clearly regressing at the same pace as
Algernon. Foreshadowing establishes that, like
Algernon, he too will die. He is leaving to go where he
can die without anyone knowing he was once a “genius”.
• This effectively suggests that society will not change
which relates to the theme, the way society treats
people who are different. It is also the final
development of the loneliness Charlie has experienced
throughout the short story.
The Title
• We discover the significance of the title. The
title completes the use of Algernon in
foreshadowing. We are also reminded that
Charlie will die alone with no one to mark his
grave, a final expression of the loneliness he
sought to eradicate when he underwent the
operation.
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