->''"Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye."''
-->-- ''Book VII of Plato's The Republic''

Written by Creator/DanielKeyes and originally published in ''Magazine/TheMagazineOfFantasyAndScienceFiction'' (April 1959 issue). "Flowers for Algernon" is a ScienceFiction ShortStory that tells of a young man named Charlie Gordon who has an IQ of 68, [[IJustWantToBeNormal but tries hard to learn and become normal]]. In 1966, the story was expanded into a {{Novel}}, and won the UsefulNotes/NebulaAward (tying with ''Literature/Babel17'').

Charlie works at a bakery with people he considers his friends. His instructor, Alice Kinnian, teaches him at the Beakman College Institute for Retarded Adults, and she is the one who informs him of a possible cure: a surgery designed to improve his mental capacity. The people putting this surgery into action are looking for a human subject, having already had a successful result with the eponymous Algernon, a lab mouse.

Charlie gets the surgery and his intelligence quickly blooms. While this is happening, he falls in love with Alice, but soon finds that he cannot relate to her because he is much smarter than she is. As well, he discovers that his friends have not been as trustworthy as he thought they were, and he begins to recall memories from his childhood, finding even more incidences of trickery and ridicule. As a result, he becomes quite jaded and cynical.

His intelligence tops out at 185, where he is deemed a certified genius. At this point, he is frantically soaking up all the knowledge he can, and is becoming aware of a sharp decrease in Algernon's intelligence. Charlie begins to research the effect and eventually publishes his findings, having realized that he will suffer the same decline and return to his original mental state.

Told entirely in journal entries ("progress reports"), the book does a wonderful job of showing how Charlie's intelligence changes. It is often used in SchoolStudyMedia.

It's one of the more famous books that has been [[MoralGuardians banned from schools]], thanks to its sexual content and profanity (except for certain copies that have it [[{{Bowdlerization}} severely reduced]], so as to avoid it.)

The original short story won the UsefulNotes/HugoAward for Best Short Story in 1960. The novel won the UsefulNotes/NebulaAward for Best Novel in 1966 and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1967.

Adapted into a 1968 [[TheFilmOfTheBook feature film]] called ''Charly'' and starring Cliff Robertson in the title role, for which he won a Best Actor Academy Award. There was also a 2000 MadeForTVMovie adaptation starring Matthew Modine.

Also adapted into a 1978 {{musical}} known variously as ''Charlie and Algernon'' in London and by the original title on Broadway. In America, at least, it lasted only 17 performances.

For a similar story with a more sci-fi edge, see also the InNameOnly film version of ''Film/TheLawnmowerMan''.
!!This literary novel named the following Trope:
* FlowersForAlgernonSyndrome / TheAlgernonGordonEffect: Named after Charlie's drastic personality change, then [[spoiler: reversion back to his old self.]] Also a well-known TropeCodifier for many works that draw off the story for inspiration.


!!Tropes for Algernon:

* AbusiveParents: Charlie's mother. She first refuses to acknowledge that Charlie is mentally disabled, and punishes him for it. When she later gives birth to a daughter, who is of normal intelligence, she blatantly favors her over Charlie, and eventually sends him away to an institution.
* AllPsychologyIsFreudian:
** Dr. Strauss' sessions are pretty classic Freudian psychotherapy.
** Charlie's sexual issues are due to traumatic experiences with his mother; he almost has a reverse OedipusComplex, fearing his mother and relying on his father for protection.
* BettyAndVeronica: Charlie is the Archie, [[TeamMom Alice]] is the Betty, [[ReallyGetsAround Fay]] is the Veronica.
* BreakTheCutie: Charlie goes through this after gaining his intelligence. [[spoiler:He goes through it again, but even worse, once he starts to lose it.]]
* BringMyBrownPants: One of the few times it's PlayedForDrama. Charlie has a tendency, especially as a kid, to shit himself whenever he gets frightened, which doesn't take much considering he's mentally disabled. This just leads to more pain and suffering since then Rose decides she has to spank him, somehow thinking that disciplining him will stop him from being mentally disabled.
* BrotherSisterIncest: Never actually occurs in the story, but [[spoiler:Charlie's mom is worried that it will]]. This might be part of the reason [[spoiler:she [[ParentalAbandonment sent Charlie away]] in the first place]].
* ComingOfAgeStory: An interesting version, since Charlie is already an adult, but has the mind of a child and must grow up quickly. In the end [[spoiler:while he returns to his former intelligence level, he is still not as ignorant as he used to be.]]
* DontYouDarePityMe: [[spoiler:In the end, Charlie decides to move away because he hates seeing Alice and everybody else feeling sorry for him after he loses his intelligence.]]
* DownerEnding: The last fifty-or-so pages are so depressing it's amazing the book doesn't spontaneously combust. [[spoiler: Furthermore, Algernon and Charlie had the same surgery performed on them, and Algernon ended up degenerating and dying. What do you think happened to Charlie? Consider the following: the "d" in "bak yard," the final sentence of the book, trails off into a long, messy line. In many paperback versions, the ending is instead several pages left intentionally blank, suggesting Charlie either died, or has mentally regressed so far that he'd become completely illiterate, essentially leaving him more severely disabled than at the beginning of the book. Either way, the implications are incredibly depressing.]]
* DramaticIrony: A Warren caregiver lectures genius Charlie about the dedication needed to look after the retarded patients, not realizing that Charlie will soon become one of them.
%%* DrJerk: Professor Nemur.
* DumbIsGood: Discussed. Alice tells Charlie that he was a better man when he was retarded--he was more compassionate, warm, and friendly. Charlie, on the other hand, refuses to accept it; he says people only liked him more because being around him made them feel smarter. While it's true that Charlie starts becoming a JerkAss when he gains his intelligence, he [[DiscussedTrope discusses this trope]] by saying that there's nothing wrong with a good person trying to be smarter.
* DysfunctionJunction: The [[OnlySaneMan only truly sane characters]] seem to be Alice and Burt.
%%* EvilMatriarch: Rose.
* FirstGirlWins: [[spoiler: And eventually loses.]]
* FlowersForAlgernonSyndrome: The TropeNamer, and {{Discussed}} in Charlie's paper on TheAlgernonGordonEffect.
* ForegoneConclusion: After seeing the first hints of [[spoiler:Algernon's deteriorating abilities]], it's pretty obvious the same thing is going to happen to Charlie.
* FridgeLogic: [[InvokedTrope Invoked]] when genius Charlie remembers his childhood. Remembering his former thinking: FridgeHorror.
* HenpeckedHusband: Charlie's father. He was much more accepting towards Charlie's disorder, but he couldn't protect him from Rose. He eventually cuts all ties with Rose some time after she throws Charlie out.
* HourglassPlot: Charlie towards a few groups: Dr. Nemur, the other employees at the bakery, even Alice, all treat him differently because of his condition. When he becomes a super-genius, he treats them much like they treated him as a moron (though he'd get called out on it by the two empathetic characters, Bert and Alice).
%%* HystericalWoman: Charlie's mother.
* IJustWantToBeNormal: Charlie from suffers this both while retarded and a genius.
* IJustWantToHaveFriends: Once Charlie realizes that he can't emotionally connect with anyone, either while dumb or smart, he has a breakdown.
* InVinoVeritas: [[spoiler:super-genius Charlie Gordon reverts back to a barely-functional moron (in the clinical sense) when he gets drunk.]]
* InheritedIlliteracyTitle: Not the book itself, but TheFilmOfTheBook is called ''Charly''.
* InkblotTest: When Charlie is given one at the beginning, he's unable to understand the concept, thinking that he's supposed to find some sort of hidden picture. A few weeks later, he's given the test again, and gets angry because he thinks they changed the test on him.
* InnocentInaccurate: In the beginning, Charlie doesn't understand that his co-workers mock him and treat him like dirt. He describes their taunts and insults as funny jokes.
* InsufferableGenius: Charlie after he becomes super-intelligent.
* IntelligenceEqualsIsolation: Charlie becomes so intelligent that everyone around him seems like a moron.
* IThoughtEveryoneCouldDoThat: Charlie is honestly shocked when his colleagues don't share his genius-level talents, such as reading multiple languages.
* JadeColoredGlasses: Charlie after the operation. Dr. Nemur is even before it.
* JerkAss: After Charlie exceeds the intelligence of even the scientists who work on him, he repeatedly looks down on those around him for not being at his level of super-intelligence--even criticizing Strauss for not being fluent in as many languages ([[{{Omniglot}} 20!]]) as he is. However, Charlie makes it clear that he's bitter about the way others had treated him when he was retarded, as well as the fact that he finds the intelligence flip ironic.
** He's also called out on it later in the novel, and admits to being one, which makes him somewhat even more of a [[TheWoobie Woobie]] in hindsight.
* KidsAreCruel: Are they ever. Charlie is beaten, bullied and possibly molested more than once throughout the novel.
* KnightTemplarParent: Charlie's mother thinks that she can cure his mental illness by beating it out of him.
%%* MadArtist: Fay.
%%* ManicPixieDreamGirl: Also Fay.
* MeaningfulName: Norma. [[note]]Normal.[[/note]]
** The aforementioned Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Fay, is free-spirited and fairy-like.
* MillsAndBoonProse: Used in the sex scene between Charlie and Alice. It works, because it's used to show how different it is when he's with a woman he loves, than when he's just with a woman who enjoys sex.
* MyGirlIsASlut: Charlie doesn't mind that Fay has [[EthicalSlut many, many other partners]] than him; they're more of FriendsWithBenefits than an actual couple.
* NextSundayAD: The original short story, published in 1959, was set in 1965.
* NocturnalEmission: Early in the story, when Charlie's coworkers take him out to get him drunk and mess with him by introducing him to a stripper. He notes in his progress report that he dreams about the stripper that night and wakes up sticky.
%%* NoMedicationForMe
* NoPreggerSex: Charlie halts a near-sexual encounter after finding out that the woman was pregnant.
* {{Omniglot}}: One of the skills Charlie gains is mastery of about twenty languages, which is useful for his research.
* PastimesProvePersonality: When he's at the peak of his intelligence, Charlie enjoys classical music, opera and fine literature. When he's at his baseline intelligence, he likes comic books and television.
* PersonAsVerb: Pulling a "Charlie Gordon" is messing up.
* PowerTrio:
** Charlie: Self-doubting, rational, and scientifically-minded, emotionally unfulfilled (Superego).
** Fay Lilliman: Overtly sexual, artistic, and whimsical (Id).
** Alice Kinnian: Compassionate, emotionally mature, educated, balances intellect and emotions (Ego).
** Of the three scientists who work on the project, Dr. Nemur is Id (possessed by a drive to further his career without paying much heed to ethics), Dr. Strauss is Superego (calm, cool-headed and reasonably skeptical) and Bert is Ego (realistic, pragmatic, cares about both the project's success and Charlie's feelings).
* RapeAsDrama: A horrifying example thrown out as background dressing: when Charlie visits his class for developmentally disabled adults, this time with enhanced intelligence, he takes note of a pretty blonde woman who giggles. She's had three abortions (given her mental state, QuestionableConsent is in play) until her family arranged a hysterectomy for her. Note, that means that doesn't stop her from being taken advantage of, it just stops the pregnancies.
* ReallyGetsAround: Fay, though as an EthicalSlut.
%%* ScrapbookStory
* SecondaryCharacterTitle: Flowers For Algernon refers to the protagonist's fellow test subject - a white mouse. Averted in the film adaptation ''Charly''.
* SenseLossSadness: Charlie regrets losing his naive, dreamless perception of the world when he was retarded [[spoiler:and later, his vastly increased intelligence.]]
* ShoutOut: To Creator/{{Plato}}'s Allegory of the Cave. Also, one of the books Charlie reads [[spoiler:while his intelligence is decreasing]] is ''Literature/DonQuixote'', although he doesn't mention it by name.
* SingleTargetSexuality: All of Charlie's sexual experiences are passionless, confusing, or painful until he has sex with Alice Kinnian, the only woman he's ever truly loved.
** When Charlie takes a tour through the sanitarium that he would have ended up in ([[spoiler:and eventually does]]), he sees two (male) inmates holding each other as lovers. The doctor simply says that, since this is all they have, this is who they turn to for love. (This probably outraged the MoralGuardians even more than any scene with Fay.)
* SleepLearning: Charlie uses a TV that plays hypnopaedic instruction tapes while he's sleeping to learn rapidly.
* SocietyMarchesOn: It might be a bit uncomfortable for modern readers (or at least the politically correct minded) to see the term 'retarded' so often. Back then, that ''was'' the politically correct term for mentally disabled persons.
** HaveAGayOldTime
** In many areas, large institutions for the intellectually disabled have been phased out in favor of small group homes in the community.
* SpoiledBrat: Charlie's younger sister Norma is this growing up due to her mother's ParentalFavoritism. She grew out of it in adulthood but still retained a mild degree of neediness.
* SpoilerTitle: Anyone using FridgeLogic as to why Algernon would be brought flowers can easily figure this out.
* StylisticSuck: Charlie's early entries before he gets the operation are written in AllLowercaseLetters with no punctuation. [[spoiler:This also applies to his last entries after his intelligence regresses.]]
** One of the entries where Charlie is learning how to use punctuation has various punctuation marks thrown in entirely at random.
* SuperSpeedReading: At the apex of his intelligence, Charlie reads a page per second. He even has to be given a private room in the library lest people gather around him in curiosity.
* {{Technobabble}}: Some (mercifully short) [[HandWave explanations]] of the neuroscience behind Charlie's transformation. Essentially, the process is AppliedPhlebotinum though.
* TheyWastedAPerfectlyGoodSandwich: Charlie pays for a meal without eating it after seeing how the restaurant treats a slow busboy.
* TheUnFavorite: Charlie's mother Rose preferred her daughter Norma to her son Charlie due to Norma having an average IQ compared to Charlie's very low 68. This made Norma a SpoiledBrat and left Charlie mostly confused and afraid of his mother who would beat him for perfectly natural things like having an erection as would any pubescent teen boy. Terrified he would do something to Norma, Rose eventually forced Charlie's father to have him taken away by [[spoiler:threatening to kill Charlie if he didn't]].
* TookALevelInKindness: Charlie's "friends" at the bakery. At the beginning, they treat him badly and laugh at him because of his disability, but he is too simple to understand. When he becomes intelligent and gets promoted over them, they resent him and get him fired. [[spoiler:When he regresses and is given his old job back, they take pity on him and protect him when another employee mistreats him.]]
* UnreliableNarrator: Though we can understand what he doesn't, through his InnocentInaccurate descriptions.
* WantonCrueltyToTheCommonComma: Justified. The narrator's use of punctuation improves and then declines in tandem with his augmented intellect.
** Charlie's two entries after Alice teaches him punctuation are overflowing with it. The next one contains a breakthrough as he's finally using punctuation properly.
* WellDoneSonGuy: Charlie's mother, to Charlie.
* WhamLine: The exact moment this pops up after it's revealed that [[spoiler:Charlie is going to lose his intelligence]] is a small, but definite example: [[spoiler:a minor spelling error]].
* WhyCouldntYouBeDifferent: Charlie's mother Rose lived under the delusion that one day her son would be just like--or better than--everyone else. When his little sister Norma came along, Rose abandoned this hope and just heaped attention on Norma instead (see TheUnfavorite).
* YouCantGoHomeAgain: Charlie can no longer work at the bakery, and [[spoiler:when he regresses, he still remembers a thing or two about humanity]].