Flowers for Algernon

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
Algernon is a mouse that becomes extremely intelligent after Professor Nemur performs experimental brain surgery on it. Algernon is the first animal to have its IQ artificially increased, just as Charlie is the first human being to have his IQ artificially increased. As such, Algernon is a symbol for Charlie’s own mental growth and decline. Algernon’s mastery of Nemur’s puzzles, his frustration with the academic world, his desire for freedom, and his inevitable loss of intelligence anticipate Charlie’s own experience. In the end, Algernon dies, a reminder of the incompleteness of all attempts to control one’s own life and abilities.

Algernon Quotes in Flowers for Algernon

The Flowers for Algernon quotes below are all either spoken by Algernon or refer to Algernon . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt edition of Flowers for Algernon published in 1994.
Progris riport 5 Quotes

Dr Strauss said I had something that was very good. He said I had a good motor-vation. I never even knowed I had that. I felt good when he said not everbody with an eye-Q of 68 had that thing like I had it. I dont know what it is or where I got it but he said Algernon had it too.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Algernon , Doctor Strauss
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie talks to Dr. Strauss, one of the scientists who will mastermind Charlie's brain surgery--a procedure that will soon make him a genius. Dr. Strauss explains that the procedure will increase Charlie's IQ rapidly. He also adds that he's chosen Charlie for the procedure because of Charlie's drive and motivation to succeed.

Charlie's motivation to succeed is--as we've already seen--his defining quality. But it's also important to note that Charlie feels "good" when Strauss praises his motivation. Charlie already feels pride in his abilities. Indeed, it's Charlie's pride, as much as his motivation, that pushes him to attend night classes, learn to read, and (eventually), get brain surgery. He doesn't just want to learn how to read: he wants other people to recognize that he's learned how to read and praise him for it. Charlie's desire for recognition is rooted in a conflicted relationship with his own parents--a relationship we won't fully understand until the novel is over.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Flowers for Algernon quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Progress Report 13 Quotes

After the chairman announced the presentation from Beekman University, we took our seats on the platform behind the long table—Algernon in his cage between Burt and me. We were the main attraction of the evening, and when we were settled, the chairman began his introduction. I half expected to bear him boom out: Laideezzz and gentulmennnnnn. Step right this way and see the side show! An act never before seen in the scientific world! A mouse and a moron turned into geniuses before your very eyes!

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Algernon , Professor Harold Nemur , Burt Seldon
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

At a major medical conference, Charlie and Professor Nemur appear to answer questions about Charlie’s brain surgery. As Charlie prepares for the presentation, he has the distinct sense that he’s been exhibited at a circus. In other words, Charlie still thinks of himself as a sideshow freak, not even a human being. It’s hard to deny that Charlie has a point: the doctors who’ve attended the medical conference think of Charlie as a pawn, a convenient “example” of Nemur’s ideas. Charlie first volunteered for brain surgery because he thought intelligence would help him gain new friends who respected him as a human being. But here, it becomes clear that the opposite is true: Charlie is more of a “freak” than he ever was before—the doctors who admire his intelligence have no intention of engaging with him on a personal level.

Progress Report 17 Quotes

P.S. please tel prof Nemur not to be such a grouch when pepul laff at him and he woud have more frends. Its easy to have fiends if you let pepul laff at you. Im going to have lots of fiends where I go.
P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Algernon , Professor Harold Nemur
Page Number: 311
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charlie regresses to mental disability once again, he embodies a childlike goodness. He tells Nemur to be nicer, and even asks someone to put flowers on the grave of Algernon, the mouse whose mental growth and decline paralleled his own.

As a genius, Charlie's relationship with right and wrong was uncertain--there were times when he did good, and there were times when he proved himself to be capable of acts of arrogance and cruelty. As a mentally disabled man, however, Charlie proves that he instinctively knows right from wrong: he feels compassion for things that more intelligent people would ignore, such as Algernon the mouse. He also shows himself to be insightful, "sizing up" Professor Nemur quickly (and surprisingly accurately!). In general, then, Charlie's final diary entry suggests the tradeoff between intelligence and wisdom. As a genius, Charlie has a hard time knowing the right thing to do, and has big moral lapses. As a mentally disabled man, Charlie doesn't have much knowledge, but he seems to be a good, honest person who always knows the right thing to do. So as depressing as the novel's end might be, there's a silver lining: Charlie loses his IQ, but gains some wisdom, and retains all his human dignity. 

Get the entire Flowers for Algernon LitChart as a printable PDF.
Flowers for algernon.pdf.medium

Algernon Character Timeline in Flowers for Algernon

The timeline below shows where the character Algernon appears in Flowers for Algernon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Progris riport 4
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
...his last name), and performs other tests. He has to compete against a mouse named Algernon. Amazingly, Algernon is better than Charlie at solving mazes. Charlie didn’t realize a mouse could... (full context)
Progress Report 8
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
...some time, but eventually, Charlie will become three times as intelligent as he was—just like Algernon, the mouse. (full context)
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...to come to the science lab with Strauss and Nemur to conduct more experiments with Algernon the mouse. Charlie misses a few appointments with Algernon, and Strauss and Nemur come to... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...and he gets lost trying to wander home. He feels ashamed for getting lost, since Algernon could probably find his way home easily. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
March 29. Charlie beats Algernon in a maze competition. He realizes that he’s getting smarter, even if he doesn’t feel... (full context)
Progress Report 13
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
...leading his friends to see Charlie, the “main attraction.” Nemur calls Burt to go over Algernon’s intellectual progress, and Charlie is surprised to see Burt explain that Algernon’s behavior has become... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Furious with the scientists at the meeting, Charlie imagines letting Algernon out of his cage. He listens to Nemur reading embarrassing excerpts from Charlie’s progress reports.... (full context)
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Suddenly, Charlie lets Algernon out of his tiny cage. Algernon runs through the conference, and Nemur shrieks for the... (full context)
Progress Report 14
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
June 15. News of Charlie and Algernon’s “escape” hits the newspapers. In one news story, Charlie is surprised to find an interview... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
...apartment near Times Square, spends his days reading and studying, and sometimes watches TV with Algernon. He builds Algernon complicated, three-dimensional mazes to ensure that he keeps in shape, and tries... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Charlie’s piano playing (he’s taught himself recently), and with the elaborate mazes he’s built for Algernon. Suddenly, Fay says she has to go—she has a date with someone she met at... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
June 21. Charlie continues to spend time teaching Algernon how to navigate through mazes. Algernon solves every maze he’s given. One evening, Fay comes... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Charlie.” Fay is confused by Charlie’s behavior, but finds it funny. Charlie also notes that Algernon’s behavior is becoming erratic again, and Minnie seems afraid of him. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
July 9. Algernon bites Fay while Fay is trying to play with him. Shortly afterwards, Charlie finds that... (full context)
Progress Report 15
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
...goes in to visit with Nemur, Strauss, and Burt, since Charlie has told them about Algernon’s deteriorating condition. Nemur and his academic Foundation have agreed to let Charlie pursue his own... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Burt and Charlie examine Algernon, and Burt sadly tells Charlie that Algernon is losing some of his old intelligence. Frustrated,... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Charlie devotes all his attention to studying Algernon’s mental deterioration. He doesn’t contact Fay for fear that Fay would run into Alice. He... (full context)
Progress Report 16
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
July 15. Charlie continues to work on his research with Algernon, partly because it’s very important but partly because he’s been putting off a visit to... (full context)
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
July 16. Alice goes to visit Charlie in his apartment—Burt has told her about Algernon’s mental deterioration. While Alice is at Charlie’s apartment, Fay comes by, carrying a bottle of... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
...Charlie works hard studying mental deterioration. His only reality is the laboratory where he studies Algernon. Although it’s the summer, and everyone outside is bright and energetic, Charlie is dirty, morose,... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...new boyfriend, but he isn’t hurt—in fact, he’s relieved. He continues working hard to study Algernon. Sometimes, he notices Algernon confidently navigating his way through a maze, only to forget where... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
July 31. Charlie senses that he’s on the edge of a major breakthrough with Algernon. At the same time, he can feel that he’s at the peak of his intelligence.... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
August 11. Charlie has reached a dead-end with his research. He knows that Algernon is regressing mentally, but he can’t imagine why or how. Against his instincts, Charlie decides... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...late. At 4:30 AM, he realizes ”the flaw in the experiment” he’s been conducting on Algernon. He resolves to finish his work as soon as possible. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
...letter from Charlie Gordon to Professor Nemur. Charlie explains that he’s completed research on the “Algernon-Gordon Effect,” the process by which Nemur’s surgery deteriorates over time. The greater the increase in... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Recently, Professor Nemur presented Charlie’s research to colleagues at the university, and they verified the “Algernon-Gordon Effect.” Charlie tells Alice that he’ll lose his intelligence soon, and Alice cries when she... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
...Charlie notices that he’s becoming absent-minded. He’s also upset because of the recent death of Algernon. Charlie dissects Algernon’s body and finds that his theory was correct: just as he predicted,... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Charlie has developed an unusual friendship with Algernon, and he’s sorry to see Algernon die, not least because it reiterates that Charlie’s own... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...should go. Before he leaves, he gives Rose a copy of his report on the Algernon-Gordon Effect—proof that her son turned out to be someone important. Then, the front door opens—it’s... (full context)
Progress Report 17
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
October 18. Charlie rereads his own paper on the Algernon-Gordon Effect and finds that he can’t understand any of it. He’s irritable all day long,... (full context)
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
...read books, but has to look words up in the dictionary. He puts flowers on Algernon’s grave, even though Mrs. Mooney finds this silly. Finally, Charlie tries to visit Fay, but... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
...you let people laugh at you. He also asks that someone put more flowers on Algernon’s grave. (full context)