Flowers for Algernon

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Rose Gordon (Charlie’s mother) Character Analysis

Charlie Gordon’s mother, and one of the most important influences on his life. Rose is a domineering, cruel mother who’s obsessed with outward appearances. She spends years denying that Charlie is mentally disabled, despite all evidence to the contrary, and later, when she can’t deny it any more, she sends Charlie to live with his uncle. Rose continues to wield great power over Charlie even after Charlie becomes a genius. Because Rose used to beat him as a child for showing any interest in women, Charlie later finds it difficult to form intimate relationships with Alice Kinnian. In general, it’s suggested that Charlie’s ambition and need for validation are partly the result of his mother’s abusive and controlling attitude.

Rose Gordon (Charlie’s mother) Quotes in Flowers for Algernon

The Flowers for Algernon quotes below are all either spoken by Rose Gordon (Charlie’s mother) or refer to Rose Gordon (Charlie’s mother) . 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.
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. 

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Progress Report 13 Quotes

A funny thing about Guarino. I should resent him for what he did to me, and for taking advantage of Rose and Matt, but somehow I can't. After that first day, he was always pleasant to me. There was always the pat on the shoulder, the smile, the encouraging word that came my way so rarely.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Rose Gordon (Charlie’s mother) , Matt Gordon , Dr. Guarino
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie remembers an episode from his childhood that he’d previously repressed. His parents, desperate to make him intelligent by any means necessary, hired a quack doctor, Guarino, to “put some brains” in Charlie. Guarino was, of course, a con artist, who stole Charlie’s parents’ money and did nothing at all to make Charlie more intelligent. Strangely, though, Charlie doesn’t resent Guarino. On the contrary, he remembers Guarido fondly for treating him as an equal, or at least a human being. As the passage suggests, Charlie is still desperate for the validation and approval of his peers. He’s been treated as a outcast or a freak for so long that any semblance of politeness or normality thrown his way is a blessing. Now a genius, Charlie overcompensates for the decades during which he was mocked and bullied by seeking the validation of millions.

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Rose Gordon (Charlie’s mother) Character Timeline in Flowers for Algernon

The timeline below shows where the character Rose Gordon (Charlie’s mother) appears in Flowers for Algernon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Progris riport 5
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
March 6. Strauss and Nemur track down Charlie’s sister, Norma, who lived with Charlie’s mother in Brooklyn. Norma gives the doctors permission to operate on Charlie, meaning that Charlie will... (full context)
Progress Report 7
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
...with his intelligence. He also wanted to become smart so that he could make his mother happy: his mother always wanted him to be cleverer when he was a child. (full context)
Progress Report 8
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
...politics, and religion. Charlie doesn’t know anything about these subjects, except that religion is good—his mother raised him to believe that God is great. (full context)
Progress Report 9
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Charlie remembers his mother and his sister, Norma. When Norma was a baby, Charlie tried to comfort her, but... (full context)
Progress Report 10
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...has a dream in which his parents argue with a schoolteacher about his future. Charlie’s mother insists that Charlie will go to college and be “normal” one day, but the schoolteacher... (full context)
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...dream. He also remembers being six years old, before his sister, Norma, was born. Charlie’s mother, whose name is Rose, insists that Charlie was normal, though Charlie’s father, whose name is... (full context)
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
In the memory, Charlie tells his mother that he needs help going to the bathroom, and his mother angrily says that he’s... (full context)
Progress Report 11
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...exposed herself to him. Then, Charlie remembers being a small child, and being beaten by Rose whenever he got an erection. Rose threatens to kill Charlie if he ever touches a... (full context)
Progress Report 12
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
...his sister Norma returning from school, happy at having gotten an “A” on her paper. Rose and Matt tell Norma to go play with Charlie, but Norma refuses. She shouts that... (full context)
Progress Report 13
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
During the flight, Charlie remembers being five years old and going with Rose and Matt to Dr. Guarino—a man who claims to be able to make Charlie smart.... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
After the “procedure,” Dr. Guarino tells Rose and Matt to continue bringing Charlie in and paying him more money. As time goes... (full context)
Progress Report 14
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...newspapers. In one news story, Charlie is surprised to find an interview with his own mother and sister. Since the news story includes their address, Charlie now has a way to... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
...his parents arguing about sending him to the Warren State Home for the mentally disabled. Rose wants to send Charlie away, since she believes that Charlie’s presence is having a bad... (full context)
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...where he works in the Bronx. Charlie chooses to do this before he sees his mother and sister, since he’s always felt that he’s closer with his father. In most of... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
...father cuts his hair. As he sits there, Charlie remembers an argument between Matt and Rose from years ago. Rose shouts that Charlie has “got to go” to the Warren State... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...he confesses that he’s still “the old Charlie Gordon” sometimes—the frightened child who fears his mother. (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
...it’s very important but partly because he’s been putting off a visit to see his mother. Algernon is erratic and frustrating to work with. To relax himself, Charlie drinks and goes... (full context)
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September 21. Charlie plans to visit his mother tomorrow. He’s very nervous, and keeps telling himself not to hate her. (full context)
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September 26. It’s been three days since Charlie saw his mother. He describes the visit. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
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...to Marks Street, to the house where he grew up. He’s amazed to see his mother sitting on the stoop outside, washing the windows. This reminds Charlie that Rose was always... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Rose looks at Charlie with panic and fear. As Charlie moves toward her, Rose tries to... (full context)
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Charlie calls to Rose and begs her to talk to him. He explains that he’s changed—he’s no longer mentally... (full context)
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Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
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Charlie listens as Rose babbles about her son—a brilliant boy with a high IQ. Then, she claims that her... (full context)
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Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
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Charlie decides that he 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... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...about Charlie’s operation, and that she’s been wanting to see Charlie for some time now. Rose had always told her that Charlie died in Warren, and she believed this until Nemur’s... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
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...again. She admits that she’s been feeling guilty for years—if it hadn’t been for her, Rose wouldn’t have sent Charlie away from home. (full context)
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Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
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...But he promises to come back soon. He urges Norma to take good care of Rose. Norma is appalled that Charlie is leaving her so soon. She touches Charlie’s hand. Abruptly,... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
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Charlie thinks about Rose’s anger and hatred, and realizes that there’s no point in hating her. He forgives his... (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
...but finds that he can’t remember anything about it. He remembers his childhood, when his mother angrily tried to teach him how to read. Charlie begs to God, “Don’t take it... (full context)
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...He orders her to leave immediately. He accuses Alice of pushing him, just like his mother. When Alice denies this, Charlie yells for Alice to leave. She leaves the apartment, weeping. (full context)