Flowers For Algernon

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"Flowers for Algernon" written by Daniel KeyesDaniel Keyes, the writer of the short story "Flowers for Algernon" encourages a particular response from the reader by placing emphasis on the conventions of point of view, structure and language. In the short story, Charlie, a mentally challenged man, is the subject of an experiment to improve his intelligence. In this way, Keyes positions his reader to explore the theme of human experimentation.

Keyes' choice for point of view is first person. He uses this so we can see life through Charlie's eyes. This encourages the reader to sympathise with Charlie and understand what he goes through. By using a naive narrator, we believe what Charlie tells us, because he is innocent and childlike; for example, in the beginning of the story, he does not understand what the doctors, Strauss and Nemur are talking about but he feels proud and writes down what the doctors say.

Using first person point of view, we understand that Charlie is a good person and that encourages the reader to see the doctors as 'bad'. We also share his likes and dislikes. We experience with Charlie his rise and fall and this makes the experience more vivid. It encourages the reader to question what is being done to Charlie and to question the ethics of science.

Structure is another convention emphasised by Keyes. In "Flowers for Algernon", Keyes uses diary form so the reader believes what Charlie says. It also allows intimacy with Charlie so we share his experiences, feelings, thoughts and we critise those who persecute him. The allegory structures the story to read like the fall in Genesis. Keyes relates to a part of Genesis using terms like, Paradise Lost, "feeling naked" and "shut out of the factory" (garden), when Adam ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge, when Charlie "felt naked" is when Adam realised he was naked after eating the fruit. Being "shut out of the factory" was like when God drove Adam out of the Garden of Eden. By using the progress report form, we are shown how long Charlie is smart for and how quickly he regresses, we are then sympathetic towards Charlie and angry and disgusted towards human experimentation and science.

Language is another convention emphasised in the story. The language used in the beginning is simple and basic. By using poor spelling, poor grammar and demonstrating a poor command of language, Keyes positions us to understand that Charlie is mentally challenged and we see him as a victim and powerless.

Language in our culture is powerful and as Charlie's language changes, he becomes more powerful and people are scared of him until they throw him out of the factory. The increase of power means he can communicate more effectively and we can understand his thoughts and read his work better, then feel proud of his efforts and share his success. In the beginning, when Keyes uses simple, basic language, this positions the reader to understand that Charlie is simple and basic.

In conclusion, we can see how Daniel Keyes encourages a particular response from the reader by placing emphasis on the conventions of point of view, structure and language. We can experience with Charlie his rise and fall, his feelings and his thoughts, and we explore the theme of human experimentation.