Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

This was one of those books that you are not quite sure you read or saw the movie version.  After reading Flowers for Algernon, I’m still not sure and I had a sense of revisiting a made for TV or Hallmark movie.  Perhaps it is my intolerance for using misspelled words to convey a character’s mental ability.

After conducting experiments on mice to enhance intelligence, a human subject is sought and found in Charley, a 32-year-old bakery worker with an IQ of 68.  In the end, many questions remained unanswered, most importantly, what costs are worthwhile in the end?

Charlie Gordon is the human guinea pig who undergoes surgery to improve his intelligence as part of a research project funded by the Welberg Foundation at Beekman University.   We learn about Charlie via his required progress notes flashing back to his childhood that was anything but pleasant.  Sent away by his mother, his uncle takes him on and after becoming ill secures his future with a friend who owns a bakery.  As Charlie’s intelligence grows rapidly, his emotional growth cannot keep pace and creates multiple conflicts.  So in the end, the question remains; are things sometimes better off left alone?

Sweet Miss Kinnian, also known as Alice is Charlie’s teacher and responsible for recommending him for the experiment.  As Charlie reaches her level, she falls in love with him, but as he quickly surpasses her intellectually, she begins to question her decision to involve him in the research.

Charlies’ mother, Rose, seems to personify the mid-century notion that children of lower than average intelligence should be sent away, yet her guilt tears apart the family she thought she was preserving.  Certainly no mother of the year.

I’d love to ask Mr. Keyes what he thought of the movie adoption of his novel.  His years teaching would certainly leave the door open to ask  many questions and perhaps we could stroll down a Brooklyn street and discuss writing skills.

My rating for Flowers for Algernon is a 7 out of 10.

Please share your own reviews or  comments by using the link below.

Next up, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451…


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