Flowers For Algernon

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade November 2001

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In the book Genesis, of the New American Bible, it is stated that, "God created man in his image; in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them" (2). Why is it that society does not accept the fact that they cannot play God and alter the way He wanted things to be? In Daniel Keyes' novel Flowers For Algernon, the main character Charlie Gordon, a developmentally delayed man, undergoes surgery to gain intellectuality and become what society views as being normal. Furthermore, Keyes raises awareness on why a human life should not be tampered with: When one changes their I.Q, their life and identity also change along with it. People who are developmentally delayed, like Charlie, are human beings and should be treated like humans. Also, this experiment goes against God and His will. By altering Charlie's brain pattern, he goes from being a developmentally delayed human to a super genius, who has come to the realization that this human experiment is wrong, which is in turn Keyes universal message.

In the novel Flowers For Algernon, one of the messages that Keyes tries to make evident is, with a change in one's intellectuality there is also a change in one's life and identity. After receiving the surgery, and after becoming a genius, Charlie also begins to see that not only is he becoming smarter, but his personality is changing too. This is illustrated when the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Nemur says, " 'This experiment was calculated to raise your intelligence"¦ We had no control over what happened to your personality, and you've developed from a likable, retarded young man J. De Zorzi 2 into an arrogant, self-centered, antisocial bastard' " (172). After this conversation Charlie begins to realize that Nemur was right and that as he becomes smarter, he also begins to worry solely about himself and no longer for others, as he did before the operation. The way people perceive Charlie has also changed. Before the experiment, Charlie was a likable person. However as his I.Q and personality changed many of the people in his life began to despise him and feel inferior in his presence. As Charlie becomes smarter, he begins to battle with his new found identity. While being a genius he begins having troubles trying to assess a personal identity and on numerous occasions becomes confused when flashbacks of his previous life collide with his new found one. As he gains consciousness of the transformation, Charlie begins to realize that people who are developmentally delayed are humans and should be treated like everyone else.

Charlie comes to many realizations throughout the novel. An important one being that the experiment is wrong and that Charlie is human and has always been, as a normal person or as a developmentally delayed man. Charlie begins to resent the doctors because they compare him to a lab mouse and refer to him as one of natures mistakes. This enrages Charlie because he is treated like an animal and not as a human. This is summarized when Charlie exclaims, "I'm a human being, a person-with parents and memories and a history- and I was before you ever wheeled me in to that operating room!" (112). Charlie is outraged after hearing Dr. Nemur talk about him as if he was inhuman before the operation was conducted and now that he is smart, can be considered a human being. As J. De Zorzi 3 the experiment allows for mental progression , Charlie finds that he has emotions and that he always has. As his flashbacks occur, he begins to remember all of the times that he had been hurt emotionally. This brings him to the conclusion that even a developmentally delayed person has emotions and at times, these emotions get hurt. As he remembers his feelings and as his intellectuality begins to diminish, Charlie becomes violet. He was once able to relate to people, but as he becomes delayed again he becomes violent towards the people in his life. As he comes to realize that he is human, Charlie also begins to realize that the operation is an act against God and His will for human beings.

As Charlie is trying to figure out and realize things about himself he also begins to regret ever going through with the surgery because it goes against God. He begins to think and comprehend and he comes to the conclusion that this operation betrays the fact that God made everyone different. Charlie realizes that he was born a developmentally delayed man for a reason and that neither he nor anyone else has the right to change that. He first begins to realize that the operation was morally wrong when a nurse named Hilda says, " ' "¦mabey they got no rite to make me smart because if god wantid me to be smart he would have made me born that way"¦mabey Prof Nemur and Dr. Strauss was tampiring with things they got no rite to tampir with' " (12). Charlie can now see that the reason that God makes everyone different is because he loves all of his creations. All of his realizations about his identity and that he was a human being all along are answered when he realizes that everyone is the same in God's eyes. This lesson helps Charlie come to the J. De Zorzi 4 realization and the conclusion that the experiment was not only morally wrong, but it is also humanly wrong.

In the odyssey that Charlie Gordon went through in his life as a developmentally delayed man to subsequently becoming a super genius, he comes to many realizations about the experiment. He realizes that when one changes their I.Q their life and identity change along with it. He also concludes that people who are developmentally delayed are human and should be treated like humans. Also, this experiment brings him to the realize that it goes against God and His will for humanity. Keyes allows the reader to comprehend that if Charlie had to go through this ordeal again he would choose not to. Upon reading this novel the reader develops a deeper understanding and empathy towards people who are "different" in society's eyes.