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Beautifully written classic tale of Charlie Gordon, a man with mental retardation who undergoes an experimental surgical procedure to cure his “condition.” Charlie is mentally and physically abused by his mother and teased for the entirety of his 32 years. He enters into therapy, and an accelerated learning program, attending classes and racing mazes with the first subject, Algernon the mouse. Keeping a diary, Charlie tracks his current progress and remembers the painful details of his previous memories with new clarity.
The story questions the attitudes and sickening treatment of people with special needs and the isolation felt from being on the outside looking in. I’m reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s, “Pygmalion.” Eliza Doolittle, like Charlie, becomes a subject in a test to prove those believed inferior can transform to the norms of society. The question ignored is when emotional immaturity doesn’t catch up quickly enough with newfound intelligence and the pitfalls therein. The human being is ignored for the advancement of science. Charlie also struggles to find meaning and purpose. All of these themes are explored in depth by Keyes and the narrator is phenomenal; moving back and forth with spot on cadence and dialect, perfectly emoting the evolution and regression of Charlie.
184 of 187 people found this review helpful
It made me sad as I kept reading "Flowers for Algernon." I'm roughly the same age as Charlie and also was born with a disability. I could had had been mentally retarded, but by mother nature, my disability is different than his. I really don't think when Daniel Keyes was writing this book, he was going for the science fiction genre, but more how society treat people differently base on their mental status.
As Charlie gets smarter and smarter, he is treated differently and his attitude becomes more pompous as he learns more and more. He is no longer the happy go lucky guy that used to mopped floors in the bakery. As the experiment becomes more successful, he starts losing himself.
I can relate to Charlie. Although I am not a genius and I was raise in a loving family, the flashbacks of Charlie's parents is so real to me. For example, when his mother seeks for a cure to his mental retardation, I also had a similar instant in my life. For me, I had every treatment that my grandma could think of to make me try to walk or use my hands. None of the treatments worked and my family was forward thinkers at the time and gave me every resource to succeed.
If there was a magic cure to relieved me from my Cerebral Palsy and be like Charlie and be normal, I wonder how would my friends and family treat me. More importantly would I be walking with the norm, or would I be walking with a swagger and start to distance myself from people that I use to know?
This is an extremely powerful book. There is so much to the story other than the lab rat and the science experiment with the mentally retarded. A book like this is very rare these days.
"Flowers for Algernon" was published in 1959 and I have yet to read anything else that touch me.
Pure excellence. .
111 of 113 people found this review helpful