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“Flowers for Algermon” by Daniel Keyes

21 Mar

The protagonist of the novel , Charlie Gordon, is a mentally retarded thirty-two-year-old man who is  chosen by a team of scientists to undergo an experimental surgery designed to increase his intelligence. Alice Kinnian, a teacher at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults, has decided to choose Charlie for the experiment because he is always eager to learn. The two directors of the experiment (Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur), ask Charlie to write reports about his experience. The entire narrative of the novel is composed of the “progress reports” that Charlie writes.

At the beginning Charlie works at Donner’s Bakery in New York City as a janitor and delivery boy. The other employees often laugh at him, but Charlie  cannot understand that he is the subject of mockery. He believes that his colleagues are good friends. After some experiments and tests Charlie undergoes the operation and with work and help from Alice, he gradually improves. Charlie also begins to recover lost memories of his childhood, most of which involve his mother, Rose, who resented and often brutally punished Charlie for not being normal like other children.

As the book goes on we learn Charlie doesn’t feel happy with his new situation as he becomes aware that he is only part of an experiment where he is not treated as a real human being. His anxiety increases when he becomes more intelligent than the Doctors involved in the experiment and discovers that the operation was a failure as there was an error they couldn’t solve, Charlie starts losing his intelligence and ends up being the same man as at the beginning of the story.

In fact the author starts with Plato’s Alegoria of the Cave and tries to analyse.

  • The mistreat of mentally disables.
  • The tension between emotion and intellect.
  • The persistence of the past in the present.


Click on the image to see a presentation created for the meeting:


Pilar Martínez-Sapiña

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