Flowers For Algernon: Setting

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The novel Flowers for Algernon is set in the heart of New York City. A good deal of the book takes place in Professor Nemur's lab. The reason much of the story takes place here is because it is where all the experiments take place. The Majority of the action all takes place here and in the City of New York. Charlie Gordon, the protagonist, works at a bakery in New York. In this area, where Charlie lives, there is also a college for the mentally challenged: Beckman College. He attends evening classes there where Ms. Kinnian, a teacher and a friend, teaches him things. When the novel starts, Charlie is already thirty-two years old, yet he does not seem to remember anything about his home. Later, after receiving the surgery, Charlie finds out his mother and sister still live in their old home in Brooklyn on Marks street, a run-down section of the Bronx, but when going to visit, it is nothing how he remembers it.

Thus, New York is the setting where most of the action occurs.

The bakery in New York, Donner's Bakery, was well described by the author. As I read the book I can almost see the brick walls that enclosed the mixing machines Charlie would use to make rolls. Charlie is certain his job at the bakery is the only real thing he can be certain he will always have. Mr. Donner had taken Charlie into his bakery and promised him a job forever. Sadly, Charlie is fired, but he realizes that the bakery was like his home when he says "there was something about the place with its brick walls browned by oven heat . . . It was home to me". (72).

Similarly, the laboratory in New York is almost like a home to Charlie as well. Charlie is to go to this laboratory for checkups and tests every once and a while. The mood that is established inside the lab at the beginning of the novel is, in a way, humorous because of Charlie's peculiar behavior. Eventually, as I read on, the seriousness of the mood deepens. Charlie's attitude changes and the setting effects the way he acts: for example, when Charlie is not in the lab he seems to be more open. He proves this point when he tells Ms. Kinnian that he loves her (64). Where in the lab, he obeys orders and does what the professors ask of him.

When Charlie runs away from the psychology convention with Algernon, he encounters new settings. He finds out his sister and his mother live in Brooklyn on Marks Street, so Charlie decides to visit them. This particular area is quite the disaster. When Charlie arrives on the street he describes the setting. "It was a filthy street. Vacant lots where many of the houses had been torn down. On the sidewalk, a discarded refrigerator with its face ripped off, and on the curb an old mattress with wire intestines hanging out of its belly. Some houses had boarded up windows, and others looked more like patched-up shanties than homes". (180). Charlie also notices "there are no children playing on Marks street". (180). The author uses words such as "intestine" and "shanties" to establish a mood of death and desertedness. Charlie becomes upset; the mental picture he has of his home has become completely opposite to what it used to be.

The author did an excellent job in detailing the settings to an imaginable extent. I can picture being in the actual setting as I read, thus making Flowers for Algernon an excellent reader.