Flowers for Algernon

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Flowers for Algernon Progress Report 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
March 11. Charlie has had his operation, and he reports that it didn’t hurt. Afterwards, Charlie wears bandages on his face for the next three days. Burt comes to visit Charlie every day to measure his blood pressure and temperature. Burt explains that Charlie has been writing progress reports so that other people will be able to understand his transformation.
One important question is whether or not Charlie understands what these progress reports are for. As we see here, Charlie is vaguely aware that other people are going to be reading his words. It’s also telling that this report is the first one with its title spelled correctly—a sign that the operation is already affecting Charlie’s brain.
Themes
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Charlie wonders when he’ll start to be smart. He imagines that being smart is wonderful: smart people have lots of friends, and never get lonely.
Charlie’s naïve idea about greater intelligence bringing greater happiness is another example of dramatic irony, as he will learn soon enough.
Themes
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
March 12. Charlie stays in the hospital, tended by a nurse named Hilda. Hilda tells Charlie that he’s been very brave for letting Professor Nemur study him. Hilda adds that she has her doubts about Charlie’s operation, since God would have made him smart if it was “God’s will.” She mentions the story of Adam and Eve, and implies that Strauss and Nemur are “tampering with things.” This makes Charlie frightened, since he doesn’t want to anger God.
Hilda is the first person to question whether the surgery was the right thing to do, and here she establishes one of the novel’s most important themes: the tradeoff between intelligence and happiness. This is essentially what happened in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve—they ate the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and so gained knowledge but lost their innocence and were expelled from Paradise. Hilda’s warning also highlights Charlie as a tragic hero punished for his ambition, and essentially frames the story as a vague retelling of Frankenstein—man tries to “play God” and is punished for his hubris. At the same time, Hilda’s criticism seems logically biased, as we would assume she wouldn’t object to taking medicine for a sickness instead of just leaving it up to “God’s will.”
Themes
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
March 13. Charlie gets a new nurse, named Lucille. Lucille is friendly, and shows Charlie how to spell. She mentions that Hilda has been sent to the maternity of the hospital, where it doesn’t matter if she “talks too much.” Charlie asks Lucille how babies are made, and Lucille blushes.
Charlie’s newfound intelligence is immediately linked to an exploration of his sexuality, as Keyes portrays these two things as closely intertwined. It’s suggested that Hilda has been punished for criticizing Nemur and the surgery—and that Charlie is indirectly responsible, as he wrote down her words in his progress report.
Themes
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
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Miss Kinnian visits Charlie, and Charlie tells her that he’s disappointed that he’s not smart yet. Kinnian tells Charlie that he’ll have to work very hard to become intelligent. Charlie admits that he’d dreamed about returning to the bakery and impressing his coworkers 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.
Charlie wants to become a genius as quickly as possible, because he wants to impress his coworkers as soon as he can. He’s also motivated by a sense of inadequacy with regards to his mother. This establishes a strong Freudian theme (related to Freud’s idea of the “Oedipal complex,” in which male children first experience romantic love for their mothers), to which Keyes will return later on.
Themes
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