Yes, there are spoilers.
Please don’t read this if you haven’t already read the book and intend to.
Charlie was just a guy who wanted to fit in, you know? He just wanted to be smart “like everyone else” and understand what people said and..fit in. That’s why he tried so hard. He jumped through every hoop Dr.Nemur and Dr. Strauss showed him and he got his wish. He became smart. He became smarter. He became the smartest person humankind ever possibly knew. Life would be so simple and happy if that was the end of the story. We love happy endings, don’t we. We want the underdog to succeed. We want a triumphant person at the end of a story. Maybe that’s what we get at the end; I’m not going to give anything away. But I will tell you about the process to that end. Charlie Gordon has an IQ of 68 when the story begins and life has been extremely hard for him – being abandoned by his parents, working at a bakery where he seems to have been given a chance from his perspective, but we can see they’re plain bullies there, having fun at Charlie’s expense and he bears it all with a grin and a laugh, because he wants to have friends. He thinks they Are his friends. And that heart of his is what makes you want to take the entire journey with him through his journal, go through everything he’s gone through, through his memories of his mother – Rose, his father -Matt and his sister, Norma…. The only glimmer of sunshine Charlie has or seems to have through this gloomy cloud of a fast-paced IQ-rising life of his is Alice Kinnian, one of his tutors at the facility where Charlie is to undergo treatments and eventually therapy sessions. In her, Charlie finds love and safety and I love that Daniel Keyes had her as a character.
Another character that is constantly alluded to and is really, the titular character is Algernon, a mouse that Charlie is pitted against at the beginning. It’s heartening to see how Charlie’s relationship with Algernon changes, even if one-sided – first as a goal, then as a rival, then as a subordinate and subsequently as a pet. The symbolism of Algernon’s microcosmic journey is telling and when flowers Are placed for Algernon, one can’t help but feel the ground drop from under them even if they have been expecting it.
At the core of it, Flowers for Algernon is, in my opinion, about relationships – the relationship with one’s self, with those you count friends, those you count lovers, those you count superiors and others. Underneath the veil of a man climbing a ladder of IQs was a man ..
- a man who wanted to climb it purely to be like everyone else, to have that which was taken away from him his whole life,
- a man who never had a childhood other children seem to have,
- a man who never felt the love of his mother for who he truly was or the pride of his father for what he could be if he could be anything at all,
- a man who eventually wanted to love and be loved by his friends, by a partner, by a sibling.
A man who wanted to matter.
If there was one thing i would have liked that seemed missing, it would have been a proper reconciliation with his father. But oh well…
This was a beautiful story.
Thank you Daniel Keyes.
Subjective Rating: 4.9/5