Charlie Gordon is a 32 year old man who was born with an incredibly low IQ of 68. He has a meager occupation at Donner’s bakery, and attends classes at Beekman College Center for adults who are mentally challenged with his instructor Ms. Alice Kinnian. With Charlie’s incredibly low IQ, and his eagerness to become smart, he is the perfect candidate to become the first human subject to undergo a surgery which will hopefully increase his intelligence level. The only other living being that this experiment has tested -- and proven successful -- on is a mouse named Algernon. Through Charlie’s journal entries, we are able to observe his intelligence expand as the experiment takes effect. After a couple months his intelligence skyrockets, going beyond the scientists who coordinated the experiment. This undertaking is clearly a major scientific breakthrough. At least until the mouse, Algernon, suddenly begins to deteriorate. Will the same happen to Charlie?
In this novel you get to witness life through the eyes of an adult who is mentally challenged, which gives us a first hand point of view that we usually do not have the opportunity to read in. You get to experience all of Charlie’s thoughts, feelings, and fears while following him along this roller coaster of a book.
One thundering idea that stood out to me in this novel are the messages that the author, Daniel Keyes, conveys to his readers. This novel covers ranges from the treatment of people who are mentally disabled, loneliness, love, hate, and the idea of man versus nature. We also learn that intelligence always comes with price. You are invited to follow Charlie through this story of emotions, learning why this is so.
At first glance I thought this was another one of those books that I was required to read for English class that I could never fully enjoy, but page by page I started to fall in love with this book. The plot always kept me interested and wanting to read more, and I love the powerful messages that the author displays. One thing I especially enjoyed is the format of this novel. From the beginning to the end you are reading Charlie’s progress reports that he has to keep throughout this experiment, and it feels like you are reading something written by Charlie himself. This novel brought out many emotions in me including hope, perseverance, anger, and happiness.
I would recommend any reader to give this book a try. This is not your traditional science fiction book with aliens and spaceships. It involves people, emotions, and an exciting plot line. After reading this book, Charlie Gordon will not be the only person to have taken something valuable from embarking upon this journey, you will too. Charlie states, "And I meen it like I tolld them. After the operashun Im gonna try to be smart. Im gonna try awful hard" (11). With the same determination as Charlie, I challenge you to explore Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, and be swept off your feet by this roller coaster of a story the same way I was. Happy reading!