Flowers for Algernon

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Alice Kinnian Character Analysis

A young, beautiful woman who works as a teacher for mentally challenged adults, and is instrumental in choosing Charlie Gordon as the subject of Professor Nemur’s brain surgery. Alice is intelligent but also kind—a rare combination in the novel. She’s devoted her adult life to helping other people, and takes care of Charlie, even after he loses his genius and lapses into intellectual disability once again. Although Alice finds herself feeling attracted to Charlie once he becomes a genius, she’s frustrated by his arrogance, and worries that they’re moving too fast—she recognizes that Charlie has childhood issues that he needs to settle before he can pursue a mature relationship with anyone. Charlie and Alice enjoy a few moments of pure, mature love, but ultimately they’re forced to end their love affair when Charlie loses his intelligence.

Alice Kinnian Quotes in Flowers for Algernon

The Flowers for Algernon quotes below are all either spoken by Alice Kinnian or refer to Alice Kinnian . 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.
3d progris riport Quotes

He said Miss Kinnian tolld him I was her bestist pupil in the Beekman School for retarted adults and I tryed the hardist becaus I reely wantd to lern I wantid it more even then pepul who are smarter even then me.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Alice Kinnian
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

In the early chapters of the novel, Charlie Gordon's IQ is very low--he can barely read or write. But as this quotation makes clear, he's also incredibly ambitious and determined to improve his mind. Charlie attends night classes taught by Miss Kinnian--the woman who ultimately recommends Charlie for the controversial brain surgery that makes him into a genius.

Charlie's ambition, one could say, is his greatest strength and (as we will see shortly) his greatest weakness. It's also the quality that first makes him the novel's "hero." Even if we can't really understand Charlie's way of looking at the world, we can identify with his ambition to improve himself and become more successful and talented. Charlie is a tragic hero, who rises and falls over the course of the novel due to his appetite for glory.

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Progress Report 7 Quotes

Well I tolld her that made me kind of feel bad because I thot I was going to be smart rite away and I coud go back to show the guys at the bakery how smart I am and talk with them about things and mabye even get to be an assistint baker. Then I was gone to try and find my mom and dad. They woud be serprised to see how smart I got because my mom always wanted me too be smart to. Mabey they woudnt send me away no more if they see how smart I am.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Alice Kinnian , Rose Gordon (Charlie’s mother) , Matt Gordon
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie has just been told that his brain surgery will make him smart, but not overnight. On the contrary, he'll have to work exceptionally hard after his surgery to ensure that his mind absorbs new information and grows to its full potential. Charlie is disappointed by the news, because he wants to become more intelligent, more popular, and more loved as soon as possible.

The passage is important because it spells out, in the plainest terms, the link between Charlie's tragic childhood and his desire for success and popularity. Charlie was an unloved child--because of his mother's behavior, he was made to feel ashamed of his low IQ and clumsy behavior. As a result, Charlie has been conditioned to feel a constant desire to please other people--a desire that's led him to learn to read and write at night class. Like many a tragic literary hero, Charlie seeks approval and prestige because he never enjoyed the love of his parents and siblings. 

Progress Report 11 Quotes

"Charlie, you amaze me. In some ways you're so advanced, and yet when it comes to making a decision, you're still a child. I can't decide for you, Charlie. The answer can't be found in books—or be solved by bringing it to other people. Not unless you want to remain a child all your life. You've got to find the answer inside you—feel the right thing to do. Charlie, you've got to learn to trust yourself."

Related Characters: Alice Kinnian (speaker), Charlie Gordon
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charlie becomes increasingly intelligent, he also becomes aware of the astonishing gaps in his knowledge. Charlie has witnessed his only friend and protector at the bakery, Gimpy, stealing money from the store. Charlie's unsure how to go about "solving" this problem, and he's concerned that there's no branch of human knowledge that can tell him how to proceed. Here, Charlie's mentor, Alice Kinnian (the same woman who once taught Charlie to read and write, and who recommended Charlie for brain surgery), tells Charlie the truth: he doesn't know anything about morality, in spite of his "book learning." Furthermore, Charlie will have to trust his own moral instincts when dealing with Gimpy.

The passage is important because it suggests some of the strengths and limitations of Charlie's brain surgery. A higher IQ means that Charlie can discover new knowledge and savor the pleasure of finding things out. And yet Charlie's new intelligence also causes him some new problems: he feels the sting of guilt, regret, and here, moral uncertainty. He's now forced to make the moral decisions that all adults must make--in other words, he's becoming not only more intelligent but more mature. The "tradeoff" of intelligence, one could say, is that Charlie sacrifices his blissful ignorance, and yet gets the opportunity to become sensitive, mature, and wise.

Progress Report 17 Quotes

The only bad thing about having Alice here with me is that now I feel I should fight this thing. I want to stop time, freeze myself at this level and never let go of her.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Alice Kinnian
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Charlie--having realized that he's going to lose his intelligence and become mentally disabled once again--expresses a desire to "freeze time" and spend the rest of his life with Alice, the woman he's come to love.

Charlie's desires contrast markedly with his earlier ambitions to learn, make important scientific discoveries, and generally become a great man. Put another way, Charlie sacrifices some of his arrogance and hubris because of the emotional connection he feels for Alice. Although books have taught Charlie to seek fame and glory, Alice has taught Charlie emotional maturity: instead of the elusive pleasures of prestige or sex, Charlie has discovered the more profound pleasure of love.

You're right. I never said I could understand the things that were happening to you. Not when you became too intelligent for me, and not now. But I'll tell you one thing. Before you had the operation, you weren't like this. You didn't wallow in your own filth and self-pity, you didn't pollute your own mind by sitting in front of the TV set all day and night, you didn't snarl and snap at people. There was something about you that made us respect you—yes, even as you were. You had something I had never seen in a retarded person before.

Related Characters: Alice Kinnian (speaker), Charlie Gordon
Page Number: 299
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charlie begins to lose his intelligence, he becomes angry and frustrated. In particular, he fights with Alice Kinnian, the woman he loves. Alice tells Charlie that he shouldn't guard his intelligence so jealously--when he was mentally disabled, she insists, he was a kinder, more likable person. Now that he's a genius, Charlie is a frustrated, self-pitying man--not particularly likable at all.

Alice's claims support the idea that Charlie's brain surgery may have come at the cost of happiness and goodness. By gaining a high IQ, Charlie has become more self-absorbed, and in losing it he has become more bitter and irritable--to the point where he doesn't care about hurting other people's feelings, even Alice's.

If you ever reed this Miss Kinnian dont be sorry for me. Im glad I got a second chanse in life like you said to be smart because I lerned alot of things that I never even new were in this werld and Im grateful I saw it all even for a littel bit. And Im glad I found out all about my family and me. It was like I never had a family til I remembird about them and saw them and now I know I had a family and I was a person just like evryone.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Alice Kinnian
Page Number: 310
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Charlie sums up his experiences as a genius. Although one could say that Charlie's time with a high IQ has been futile (since he's losing his IQ in the end), Charlie himself disagrees. As he points out here, Charlie has gotten the chance to experience the pleasure of finding things out--a pleasure he'd always wanted to experience, even as a mentally disabled man. Moreover, Charlie has satisfied an even deeper desire--the desire to know that he has a family. During his time as a genius, Charlie tracked down his parents, and fell in love with a woman (Miss Kinnian herself). More simply and poignantly, Charlie now feels that he is "a person just like evryone"—he has gained an emotional maturity and self-confidence that cannot be taken from him.

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Alice Kinnian Character Timeline in Flowers for Algernon

The timeline below shows where the character Alice Kinnian appears in Flowers for Algernon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Progris riport 1
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...Charlie also attends night classes for mentally disabled adults. A teacher at these classes, named Miss Kinnian , has recommended him to Nemur and Strauss. (full context)
3d progris riport
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...interested in using Charlie as a subject, since Charlie has shown surprising enthusiasm and motivation: Miss Kinnian says Charlie is by far the hardest-working student in her classes. (full context)
Progris riport 5
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...and Burt Selden meet with Charlie to talk about his upcoming experiment. They say that Miss Kinnian has recommended Charlie because he’s hard-working and highly motivated. They explain that Charlie will soon... (full context)
Progris riport 6
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...that he’s sick—they send him a chocolate cake and tell him to feel better soon. Miss Kinnian visits Charlie and gives him some magazines to read. Burt brings Charlie flowers from the... (full context)
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Charlie imagines becoming smart and pleasing Miss Kinnian . He thinks about going to visit his family, and finally being smart, just like... (full context)
Progress Report 7
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Miss Kinnian visits Charlie, and Charlie tells her that he’s disappointed that he’s not smart yet. Kinnian... (full context)
Progress Report 8
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...gives Charlie puzzles to work on—mazes and logic games. Charlie gets headaches when he thinks. Miss Kinnian visits him and tells him that he has to be patient—he’ll be smart soon. (full context)
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...that he’s going to be smart. He wonders if the experiment has failed. He tells Miss Kinnian that he doesn’t want to write progress reports anymore, and that he gets headaches all... (full context)
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Charlie adds one last thing—he’s going to go back to his classes with Miss Kinnian . He notes that Miss Kinnian “is nice.” (full context)
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...Burt at the university, Burt tells Charlie that the machine is helping him learn. Soon, Miss Kinnian will conduct tests on Charlie, and teach him “lessons.” Charlie is confused—if his TV device... (full context)
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...to the adult learning center, where he finds a group of adult students, led by Miss Kinnian . She tells Charlie to register for classes. Charlie concludes, “Thinking and remembering is hard.” (full context)
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...lampshade on his head. Joe mocks Charlie for being a janitor, and when Charlie mentions Miss Kinnian , he suggests that Charlie and Miss Kinnian are “making out,” though Charlie doesn’t know... (full context)
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March 30. Charlie begins lessons with Miss Kinnian . He thinks that Miss Kinnian looks younger than he remembered her being. Kinnian tells... (full context)
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March 31. Miss Kinnian helps Charlie learn grammar and spelling. He’s frustrated with the rules of spelling—for example, that... (full context)
Progress Report 9
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April 4. Miss Kinnian reads through Charlie’s progress reports, and, according to Charlie, “looks kind of funny.” She tells... (full context)
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...incorrectly—there are rules about correct usage. He also realizes that he needs to learn spelling. Miss Kinnian is a genius, he decides. (full context)
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April 8. Charlie reads a book about grammar, recommended to him by Miss Kinnian . He also spends a night with the TV device, and when he wakes up,... (full context)
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...his old progress reports, and is embarrassed to find that they’re full of grammatical errors. Miss Kinnian points out that this means Charlie is making fast progress. (full context)
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...he knows the truth now. He spends his day learning new words and reading books. Miss Kinnian continues to give him lessons in the evening, and notes that he’s reading very quickly. (full context)
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April 17. Charlie has a nightmare about Miss Kinnian . In the nightmare, Charlie sits down to write, but finds that he’s forgotten how.... (full context)
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...an eleven-year-old child. In his free association essay, he goes to public school, accompanied by Miss Kinnian , who takes the form of an eleven-year-old girl named Harriet. (full context)
Progress Report 10
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...him. He’s disappointed that his coworkers aren’t prouder of him. He also plans to ask Miss Kinnian to go to a movie with him—though he’s nervous about doing so. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
...depending on the results of Strauss and Nemur’s research. He decides to wait before asking Miss Kinnian out to the movie. (full context)
Progress Report 11
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May 1. Charlie has noticed that Miss Kinnian—whose first name is Alice—is extremely beautiful. He takes her to dinner and a movie, and fantasizes about putting his... (full context)
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After the film, Charlie criticizes the film’s poor storyline and cheap ending, and Alice is impressed by Charlie’s new intelligence. They walk through Times Square (we realize that Charlie... (full context)
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Charlie is moved by Alice’s support, and tells her that he could never have done this without her. Alice touches... (full context)
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At the end of the night, Charlie contemplates kissing Alice, but she gets out of the cab before he can. She thinks him for a... (full context)
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Charlie goes to talk about Gimpy with Alice. Alice listens patiently to Charlie’s story, and then tells Charlie that there’s no intellectual way... (full context)
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Charlie goes on to tell Alice that she has “made me see.” Alice blushes, and Charlie, encouraged, tells her he loves... (full context)
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Charlie begs Alice to let him see her again, “away from the lab.” Alice is reluctant, but eventually... (full context)
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...is disillusioned with his peers. He notes that tomorrow he’s going to a concert with Alice, and tells himself that she’s a woman, not a goddess. (full context)
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May 17. Charlie has had a date with Alice. They go to a concert in Central Park. During the concert—Debussy’s La Mer—Alice tells Charlie... (full context)
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Suddenly, Charlie notices a teenager with his pants open, watching him sitting with Alice. Charlie runs off after the teenager, despite Alice’s insistence that it doesn’t matter. He’s unable... (full context)
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...even delusion. He realizes that he’s simply not ready to be in a relationship with Alice, at least not yet. (full context)
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May 20. Upset about his dismissal from the bakery, Charlie goes to Alice’s apartment. Alice invites him inside and serves him coffee. Charlie has a quick look around... (full context)
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Charlie confesses to Alice that he’s frightened. Alice tells Charlie that Strauss and Nemur have been pushing him too... (full context)
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As Alice talks to him, Charlie remembers a day when he fainted in the middle of a... (full context)
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In the present, Charlie tells Alice, “hold me,” and Alice begins to kiss him. Charlie kisses her back, but suddenly he... (full context)
Progress Report 12
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Charlie sees Alice occasionally, but their relationship has been platonic ever since Alice kissed Charlie. (full context)
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June 6. Charlie and Alice have a fight. Charlie has gone to visit Alice in the adult learning center. Inside,... (full context)
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In Alice’s classroom, Charlie is moved to see his old classmates, all of whom are mentally disabled.... (full context)
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Charlie begs Alice to go home with him—he needs somebody to talk to. Alice replies that she can’t... (full context)
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Charlie leaves Alice’s apartment. He realizes that he’s just as far from Alice now—with an IQ of 185—as... (full context)
Progress Report 14
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...neither Charlie nor Leroy like this idea. Charlie has to fight the temptation to call Alice. He finds that he can’t picture Alice’s face—all he can think of is Fay. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
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...replicating his own surgery in the brains of mentally disabled patients. He resolves to call Alice and tell her about his plans. (full context)
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June 25. Charlie calls Alice and asks to see her. She’s very eager to see him—she hasn’t heard from him... (full context)
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Alice takes Charlie to her bedroom and tries to make love to him. This is difficult... (full context)
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Terrified of his own sexual anxiety, Charlie leaves Alice’s apartment. He staggers through Times Square, where he buys a bottle of gin, and then... (full context)
Progress Report 15
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...studying Algernon’s mental deterioration. He doesn’t contact Fay for fear that Fay would run into Alice. He also plans to visit the Warren State Home—the place where he might be spending... (full context)
Progress Report 16
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July 16. Alice goes to visit Charlie in his apartment—Burt has told her about Algernon’s mental deterioration. While... (full context)
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Later, Charlie goes downstairs with Alice to hail a cab for her. Alice tells Charlie that she likes Fay. Charlie insists... (full context)
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...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 hears this. (full context)
Progress Report 17
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October 11. Charlie finds Alice asleep on his couch. Alice wakes up and explains that she wants to see as... (full context)
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October 14. Charlie’s mental state deteriorates quickly. He spends time with Alice, but gets angry easily. He listens to Stravinsky music and finds it slow and dull,... (full context)
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...finds that he can’t understand any of it. He’s irritable all day long, even when Alice is kind to him. He imagines that Alice is humoring him—deliberately ignoring his mental deterioration.... (full context)
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...his motor control, and he trips and drops things constantly. His only pleasure is television. Alice tries to cheer him up, but this only makes Charlie angrier. He realizes that he... (full context)
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October 21. Alice and Charlie have a fight. Alice claims that she can’t live with Charlie when he... (full context)
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Charlie can’t stand listening to Alice. He orders her to leave immediately. He accuses Alice of pushing him, just like his... (full context)
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...Mrs. Mooney, his landlady. She brings him soup and other food. Charlie knows that either Alice or Doctor Strauss has arranged for Mrs. Mooney to take care of him. (full context)
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November 11. Alice and Doctor Strauss visit Charlie, but he refuses to let them into his apartment. Later... (full context)
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November 16. Alice visits Charlie, but Charlie refuses to see her. This makes Alice cry, and she explains... (full context)
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November 21. Charlie goes to Miss (Alice) Kinnian’s class at the adult learning center, forgetting that he’s not in the class anymore.... (full context)
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...the Warren Home. He doesn’t want people feeling sorry for him—not his coworkers, and not Miss Kinnian . He tells Miss Kinnian, “If you ever reed this Miss Kinnian dont be sorry... (full context)
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Charlie says goodbye to Miss Kinnian , Doctor Strauss, and everyone else. He asks Professor Nemur not to be such a... (full context)