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Literature: Flowers for Algernon
progris riport 1

Dr Strauss says I should tipe evrey thing abot wat happeid to me in this tv tropes articel. I dont no why but he says its importint for me to remembir what happnd to me and what my experence was like. My name is Charlie Gordon and I werk in Donners bakery. I want to be smart, and I hop this articel helps me remember what happend to me while I was smart... yrs truly Charlie Gordon.

PROGRESS REPORT 2

Flowers for Algernon, a short story (later expanded into a novel) by Daniel Keyes, tells of a young man named Charlie Gordon who has an IQ of 68, but tries hard to learn and become normal. 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 School Study Media.

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

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

Adapted into a film called Charly starring Cliff Robertson in 1968. Robertson won a Best Actor Academy Award for the role.

Also adapted into a 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 In Name Only film version of The Lawnmower Man.

This literary novel named the following Trope:


This book contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: 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.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian:
    • 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 Oedipus Complex, fearing his mother and relying on his father for protection.
  • Betty and Veronica: Charlie is the Archie, Alice is the Betty, Fay is the Veronica.
  • Break the Cutie: Charlie.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: One of the few times it's Played for Drama. 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.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Never actually occurs in the story, but Charlie's mom is worried that it will. This might be part of the reason she sent Charlie away in the first place.
  • Coming of Age Story: An interesting version, since Charlie is already an adult, but has a mind of a child and must grow up quickly. In the end while he returns to his former intelligence level, he is still not as ignorant as he used to be.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: 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.
  • Downer Ending: The last fifty-or-so pages are so depressing it's amazing the book doesn't spontaneously combust. 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" trails off into a long, messy line. Oh, the implications...
  • Dramatic Irony: 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.
  • Dr. Jerk: Professor Nemur.
  • Dumb Is Good: 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 Jerk Ass when he gains his intelligence, he discusses this trope by saying that there's nothing wrong with a good person trying to be smarter.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The only truly sane characters seem to be Alice and Burt.
  • Evil Matriarch: Rose.
  • Executive Meddling: Daniel Keyes' first attempt to publish Flowers For Algernon almost ran afoul of this; the editor he took it to demanded that he give the story a happy ending where Charlie keeps his enhanced intelligence. Fortunately, every writer Keyes asked about it told him to refuse. Of course, any reader can understand why the editor would ask that...
  • First Girl Wins: And eventually loses.
  • Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: The Trope Namer, and Discussed in Charlie's paper on The Algernon Gordon Effect.
  • Foregone Conclusion: After seeing the first hints of Algernon's deteriorating abilities, it's pretty obvious the same thing is going to happen to Charlie.
  • Fridge Logic: Invoked when genius Charlie remembers his childhood. Remembering his former thinking: Fridge Horror.
  • Henpecked Husband: Charlie's father. He was much more accepting towards Charlie's disorder, but he couldn't protect him from Rose.
  • Hollywood Science: In real life, the procedure would have been tested on hundreds of mice, the effects studied for ages, and other animals tested as well before moving on to human trials. A single mouse followed by a human being isn't very realistic.
  • Hysterical Woman: Charlie's mother.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Charlie from suffers this both while retarded and a genius.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends
  • In Vino Veritas: super-genius Charlie Gordon reverts back to a barely-functional moron (in the clinical sense) when he gets drunk.
  • Inherited Illiteracy Title: Not the book itself, but The Film of the Book is called Charly.
  • Inkblot Test: 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.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: 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.
  • Insufferable Genius: Charlie after he becomes super-intelligent.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Charlie becomes so intelligent that everyone around him seems like a moron.
  • I Thought Everyone Could Do That: Charlie is honestly shocked when his colleagues don't share his genius-level talents, such as reading multiple languages.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Charlie after the operation. Dr. Nemur is even before it.
  • Jerk Ass: Somewhat justified. 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 (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 Woobie in hindsight.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Are they ever. Charlie is beaten, bullied and possibly molested more than once throughout the novel.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Charlie's mother.
  • Mad Artist: Fay.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Also Fay.
  • Meaningful Name: Norma. note 
    • The aforementioned Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Fay, is free-spirited and fairy-like.
  • Mills and Boon Prose: 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.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: Charlie doesn't mind that Fay has many, many other partners than him; they're more of Friends with Benefits than an actual couple.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The original short story, published in 1959, was set in 1965.
  • No Medication for Me
  • No Pregger Sex: Charlie halts a near-sexual encounter after finding out that the woman was pregnant. He is understandably squicked, though she is not.
  • Omniglot: One of the skills Charlie gains is mastery of about twenty languages, which is useful for his research.
  • Pastimes Prove Personality: 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.
  • Person as Verb: Pulling a "Charlie Gordon" is messing up.
  • Power Trio:
    • 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).
  • Really Gets Around: Fay.
  • Science Marches On: See All Psychology Is Freudian. Virtually all of the psychology is outdated by today's standards, and the medical ethics aren't any better.
  • Scrapbook Story
  • Secondary Character Title: Flowers For Algernon refers to the protagonist's fellow test subject - a white mouse. Averted in the film adaptation Charly.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: Charlie regrets losing his naive, dreamless perception of the world when he was retarded and later, his vastly increased intelligence.
  • Shout-Out: To Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Also, one of the books Charlie reads while his intelligence is decreasing is Don Quixote, although he doesn't mention it by name.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: 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 (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 Moral Guardians even more than any scene with Fay.)
  • Society Marches On: 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.
  • Spoiled Brat: Charlie's younger sister Norma is this growing up due to her mother's Parental Favoritism. She grew out of it in adulthood but still retained a mild degree of neediness.
  • Spoiler Title: Anyone using Fridge Logic as to why Algernon would be brought flowers can easily figure this out.
  • Stylistic Suck: Charlie's early entries, before he gets the operation, and his last entries.
  • Super Speed Reading: 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) explanations of the neuroscience behind Charlie's transformation. Essentially, the process is Applied Phlebotinum though.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Charlie pays for a meal without eating it after seeing how the restaurant treats a slow busboy.
  • The Unfavorite: 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 Spoiled Brat 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 threatening to kill Charlie if he didn't.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: 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. When he regresses and is given his old job back, they take pity on him and protect him when another employee mistreats him.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Though we can understand what he doesn't, through his Innocent Inaccurate descriptions.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: 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.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Charlie's mother, to Charlie.
  • Wham Speeling Error: The exact moment this pops up after it's revealed that Charlie is going to lose his intelligence is a small, but definite example.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: 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 The Unfavorite).
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Charlie can no longer work at the bakery, and when he regresses, he still remembers a thing or two about humanity.

progris report 3

I red my articel again but it dont mak any sense to me. I did somthing but I dont remembir what. I gess I did it for all this dumb pepel like me in Warren in the world. But Im gone to try and get smart to get that feeling agen.

Goodby Miss Kinnian and dr Strauss and evrybody on tv tropes...

P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.

A Farewell to ArmsSchool Study MediaFor Whom the Bell Tolls
FlashmanLiterature of the 1960sThe Four Loves
FloodScience Fiction LiteratureFootfall
First-Person SmartassSelf-Demonstrating ArticleFootnote Fever
The CloneNebula AwardThe Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Lord DarcyHugo AwardThe Witches of Karres
The Fifth EstateFilms of the 2010sThe Forever War

alternative title(s): Flowers For Algernon
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