Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
311 pages
Finished 2/18/08

Ah, Flowers for Algernon. One of those books that it seems like everyone and their brother read in high school. Well, I didn't, so lay off! This is one of those books that I added to my amazon.com wishlist years ago (fine, it was May 28, 2004, to be exact) and then promptly forgot about. I found it the other day while on my magical trip to Half Price Books (which, by the way, was followed up by an equally magical trip to Goodwill, where I found tons of Baby-Sitter Club books. Because I'm 12).

For those that don't know, Flowers for Algernon is basically about a man named Charlie with a low IQ (around 70) that has an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence. The surgery has already been performed successfully on a mouse named Algernon. The story is written diary style by Charlie.

I really went back and forth with this novel. I loved it in the beginning - Charlie just seemed so sweet and delicate that I really cared about him, and how the surgery would go for him. Once the surgery happened, though, I got more and more annoyed with Charlie. He was so negative. During this period of the book, his high points are with Algernon (who is not mentioned nearly enough, in my opinion). It was the ending of the book that made me really love the novel in the end, though. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but in a way, it was the perfect ending to this book.

Flowers for Algernon brought up a lot of great questions for me. How do you relate to Charlie on any level, both pre- and post-surgery? What would this book be like if it was written today, in 2008? Has anyone read it and care to discuss? Anyone?

I give it Four Stars. There is so much to think about...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't read this one in High school either. I read it as I was entering a teaching career. Charlie, presurgery is a sympathetic character. He stimulates a protective almost motherly caring for himself. He is gentle, loving, and genuinely wants to be smart because on a deeper level, he knows that's what he needs to be loved by his mother.

The reason I think I became frustrated with Charlie post surgery is because he stops being excited about being smart, and he starts to realize how cruelly the world has treated him. He is a bitter person! And he does not (as is often the case) wear the genius label in a socially acceptable way. He is a bit pretentious and assuming. He assumes that other characters can keep up with him.

Could you imagine how hard that would be to deal with? You were once his boss or teacher, and all of the sudden this guy that you kindly tolerated and ignored his ignorance suddenly starts talking quantum physics, or even worse questioning your morality?

I sympathize with the teacher character and think that I would possibly be on par with her character (although without the sexual connotation). I would be excited for his intellectual improvement, frustrated by my own ingorance, then sympathetic to his overall demise.

What affected me most was the pervading sense of cruellty. Charlie, while ignorant, was mostly satisfied with his life. After the surgery, he was never satisfied again. Why, why was it okay for the society to deem it better to be smart than to be satisfied? I think that self-hatred that Charlie learns post surgery, is the cheif cruelty in the book....

just my thoughts.
(Bohemiansmoke, LJ)