Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

flowers for algernonI suppose it’s human nature to want something more than what God has given us. Some of us want longer, skinnier legs (ahem) while others want six-pack abs while others, still, want fame glory and rock and roll (huh?). For Charlie Gordon, all he wanted was to be a little bit smarter.

Despite being born mentally retarded, 32-year old Charlie knew enough that he was dumber than his co-workers and friends at the bakery in which he works. He thinks that if he learns to read and write, he’d be smarter. He enrolls at the Beekman University where he takes special classes with other adult retards to learn those skills. Because of his high “motor-vation,” a couple of professors at the university take interest in him and use him in their “spearamints” to make him smarter.

He meets Algernon, a lab rat that is highly intelligent due to an operation that he soon undergoes. He initially hates Algernon for beating him in challenges, but that soon changes after his operation. The truth is that what happens after that operation changes his life and the way he views it forever.

“Flowers for Algernon” is a touching story about a man whose desire to be something more costs him his life. The operation allowed his brain to absorb vast amounts of knowledge but do little to help him comprehend human nature and form lasting relationships. Charlie’s story isn’t just touching; it makes you think about whether or not you should tamper with what God has given you. You find yourself thinking that it might be wonderful to be just a little smart and since everybody is making over their faces and bodies, why not make over one’s brain, too? In the end, though, when Charlie realizes the catch towards the end, you find yourself asking: is it worth it?


One thought on “Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

  1. I love this book! I think I’ve read it over a dozen times and I still cry in the end. Sometimes too much knowledge is a bad thing–intelligence can make you jaded and less appreciative of the simple things life can offer.


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