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Book Review-Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes


Flowers for Algernon is a novel by Daniel Keyes. It is about a thirty-two year old, mentally retarded man, named Charlie Gordon. He wants to become intelligent but with no luck, until, he gets an operation to increase his intelligence. Daniel Keyes came up with the concept of this book four years before when he met a mentally retarded man randomly on the streets. While this conversation was taking place, he thought of how wonderful it would be if you could increase a man’s intelligence just by surgery. Now years later, this book has been translated into many languages and won the Hugo Award in 1959. There are also a movie, respectfully titled Charly, and plays in England, France, Poland and Japan. It seems safe to say that this book is well loved. It might seem that the book is for everyone, but because of its mature concept of intelligence, this book is probably best for young adults and adults.
You can tell how different this book is just by flipping to the first page. It is formatted as a “progress reports” from Charlie Gordon himself. His intelligence is shown through the misspelled words and poor grammar, some of the letters are even backwards. He writes in short, simple sentences and seems to be pleasant to everyone.
Before the surgery, Charlie tells the reader about how he works as a janitor at a bakery of some sort. It clearly describes that the co-workers are using Charlie for jokes, but he doesn’t see it that way. He believes that they were laughing with him and not at him. It also describes how he goes to school, which is for the mentally retarded. He also has to go to a laboratory for IQ testing with his teacher, Alice. Here he races the white mouse, named Algernon, which had the intelligence surgery operated on him. Later on, she recommends to be the test subject for the intelligence test that was to be done by the researchers at Beekman. He quickly agrees.
Right after the surgery, his intelligence was rising at a very fast pace. The “progress reports” were becoming more grammatically correct and he began to use a wider range of vocabulary. He soon began to win against Algernon and they form a bond. Unfortunately, this newfound intelligence didn’t always bring positive outcomes. Because of his maturity, his relationship with others disappear.
Having no one with him except for Algernon, he starts his own research. He soon finds a “glitch” in the surgery done to him and the mouse. The “glitch” was that after a certain amount of time the intelligence fades. While all this is happening, Charlie tries to fix his bonds between his parents, who live in Brooklyn. Also, there is a little romance between Charlie and Alice.
This book, overall, is fantastic. The idea of the “progress reports” are very creative and it makes the reader get more into the story. Also, the way that Keyes used artificial intelligence was innovative, because it shows that there is no fake perfection. As I said before, because of some mature content in the book, this book is probably best for young adults and up.



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