Flowers for Algernon

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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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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.

Progress Report 7 Quotes

If your smart you can have lots of fiends to talk to and you never get lonley by yourself all the time.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Charlie explains why he wants to become smart: he wants to have more friends. Charlie is confident that intelligence is a path to a better social life: brain power will help him talk to the people around him and make them more likely to talk to him and like him.

There are two ways to interpret Charlie's quotation, one positive, one rather tragic. On one hand, Charlie's desire for human contact seems innocent and highly poignant. Charlie is bullied and ignored at his job (although he doesn't yet know it), and he doesn't have a family that loves him (his family abandoned him years ago). In all, he craves friends to fill the void in his social life. But on the other hand, this quote expresses the tragically naive view that with greater intelligence comes greater happiness and love. This isn't always the case, as Charlie finds out--indeed, he's arguably at his most "blissful" when he's most "ignorant."

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 8 Quotes

We had a lot of fun at the bakery today. Joe Carp said hey look where Charlie had his operashun what did they do Charlie put some brains in. I was going to tell him about me getting smart but I remembered Prof Nemur said no. Then Frank Reilly said what did you do Charlie open a door the hard way. That made me laff. Their my frends and they really like me.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Professor Harold Nemur , Joe Carp , Frank Reilly
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

This quotation is a good example of dramatic irony--a situation in which a character is ignorant to some important information, but the reader is well aware of it. Here, Charlie--bearing a big scar from his brain surgery, but still with his low IQ for the time being--doesn't realize that the people at the bakery are making fun of him in the cruelest way; as far as he's concerned, they're his best friends.

One important question that the passage might lead us to ask is, does Charlie realize on any level that his coworkers don't really like him? His statement, "Their my friends," would suggest that Charlie is completely ignorant of his coworkers' meanness. And yet Charlie also seems to feel, on some level, that his friendships with his coworkers are threadbare because of his low IQ. Even if he doesn't know exactly why Joe Carp is laughing at him in this scene, perhaps Charlie senses that he's distanced from the people around him by his intelligence--and this is precisely why he wants brain surgery in the first place.

Frank laffed and said dont go getting so eddicated that you wont talk to your old frends. I said dont worry I will always keep my old frends even if I can read and rite. He was laffing and Joe Carp was laffing but Gimpy came in and told them to get back to making rolls. They are all good frends to me.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Joe Carp , Frank Reilly , Gimpy
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Charlie (who's just had his brain surgery, but isn't a genius yet) interacts with his "friends" at the bakery. One coworker, Frank, is clearly mocking Charlie--he doesn't believe that Charlie will ever become a genius, since Charlie has always been a slow, clumsy employee.

On a narrative level, this quote is important because it sets us up for a later scene, in which Frank is punished and humiliated for ever doubting Charlie's potential for intelligence. But the passage is also interesting in that it marks some of the differences between Charlie's coworkers; in other words, the passage makes it clear that not all of Charlie's "friends" bully him. Gimpy, if no one else, seems to genuinely like Charlie and look after him, even if Gimpy would never be openly affectionate or sentimental with him.

Progress Report 9 Quotes

Now I know what they mean when they say "to pull a Charlie Gordon." I'm ashamed. And another thing. I dreamed about that girl Ellen dancing and rubbing up against me and when I woke up the sheets were wet and messy.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Ellen
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie--who's had brain surgery, and is slowly becoming more intelligent--realizes that his coworkers laugh at him for his stupidity. Charlie is immediately embarrassed. It's interesting to note that Charlie's first reaction to the news that he's a punching bag for his coworkers isn't anger--his shame outweighs his anger. As we've already seen, Charlie has been dealing with embarrassment his entire life. He's so used to apologizing for his low intelligence that it doesn't yet occur to him that his coworkers at the bakery are really at fault, not him.

The other notable part of this passage is the information that Charlie has had a "wet dream" after seeing an attractive woman. As Charlie gains intellectual maturity, he's also thrust into the world of emotional and sexual maturity. (It's also worth noting that the passage echoes the Biblical book of Genesis: just as Adam and Eve become ashamed of their nakedness at the same instant that they gain knowledge, so Charlie simultaneously becomes embarrassed and sexually aware with his new intelligence.)

I told him one of the things that bothers me is about women. Like dancing with that girl Ellen got me all excited. So we talked about it and I got a funny feeling while I was talking, cold and sweaty, and a buzzing inside my head and I thought I was going to throw up. Maybe because I always thought it was dirty and bad to talk about that. But Dr Strauss said what happened to me after the party was a wet dream, and it's a natural thing that happens to boys. So even if I'm getting intelligent and learning a lot of new things, he thinks I'm still a boy about women. It's confusing, but I'm going to find out all about my life.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Doctor Strauss , Ellen
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie tries to come to terms with a new side of his personality--his sexuality. For the first chapters of the novel, Charlie has essentially been a child--a slow, clumsy boy trapped in a man's body. Now, thanks to his brain surgery, Charlie is becoming a genius, but he's also transforming from an immature young boy to a mature man in a matter of weeks. Charlie has danced with a beautiful woman, and then had a wet dream about her. Dr. Strauss's job is to counsel Charlie through his experiences with the brain surgery--here, for example, he explains a few things about sex to Charlie.

It's important to bear in mind that Charlie's story isn't just one of intellectual discovery; it's also one of emotional development. While Keyes will give us plenty of information about Charlie's scientific and musical pursuits, the heart of his story is Charlie's search for love--a stable, adult relationship with another woman. In this quotation, Charlie takes the first, cautious steps toward such a relationship.

"You mean there are no pictures hidden in those inkblots?"
Burt frowned and took off his glasses. "What?"
"Pictures! Hidden in the inkblots! Last time you told me that everyone could see them and you wanted me to find them too."

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Burt Seldon
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie, now a man of average intelligence, has a conversation with Burt Seldon, a technician and graduate student who's been tasked with overseeing Charlie's transformation to genius. Previously, Charlie has taken a series of inkblot tests (Rorschach tests) with Burt. Charlie misinterpreted Burt's explanation of the test to mean that there were literal pictures in the inkblot; i.e., that the test had a correct answer. Now that Charlie is intelligent enough to realize that the inkblots have no actual pictures in them, he accuses Burt of lying about the tests.

Charlie's reaction demonstrates his frustration; not only with Burt but with himself. Although he's taking out his anger on Burt, Charlie is really furious at himself for having been foolish enough to believe that there was a correct answer to an inkblot test. In this way, the scene shows how Charlie is beginning to hate himself and hate intellectually disabled people in general. Already, Charlie is rejecting the naivete and simplicity that used to characterize his worldview--he's looking ahead to a bright future of intellectual achievement, but forgetting where he came from.

Progress Report 10 Quotes

I spend most of my free time at the library now, reading and soaking up what I can from books. I'm not concentrating on anything in particular, just reading a lot of fiction now—Dostoevski, Flaubert, Dickens, Hemingway, Faulkner—everything I can get my hands on feeding a hunger that can't be satisfied.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker)
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charlie becomes more intelligent, he develops a deep love for world literature, and devours several book a day. He spends a lot of time in libraries, reading as much as he can (and attracting a lot of attention for doing so).

It's interesting to note that Charlie describes his desire for intellectual stimulation as a hunger that cannot be satisfied. In general, Charlie's description of the intellectual life suggests the tragic proportions of his story. An ambitious, driven man, Charlie strives for greatness and prestige, only to realize that his drive will never, ever disappear. His endless need to learn is at once disturbing and deeply relatable for readers: we've all felt that gnawing sense of curiosity, and then been disappointed when it doesn't go away. One could say that Charlie represents humanity's ambition to be great, and simultaneously its utter failure to be so.

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.

She stared down at the bride and groom on the wedding cake she was decorating and I could see her lips barely move as she whispered: "It was evil when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge. It was evil when they saw they was naked, and learned about lust and shame. And they was driven out of Paradise and the gates was closed to them. If not for that none of us would have to grow old and be sick and die."
There was nothing more to say, to her or to the rest of them. None of them would look into my eyes. I can still feel the hostility. Before, they had laughed at me, despising me for my ignorance and dullness; now, they hated me for my knowledge and understanding. Why? What in God's name did they want of me?

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Fanny Birden (speaker)
Related Symbols: Adam and Eve
Page Number: 107-108
Explanation and Analysis:

One of Charlie's coworkers at the bakery, a woman named Fanny Birden, tells Charlie about the "danger" of his brain surgery. By gaining intelligence, Fanny suggests, Charlie is sacrificing his innocence and childlike goodness. Fanny makes this claim by citing the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, in which the first human beings lost their innocence and innate goodness by eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

We've already had ample evidence for the point Fanny is making. Charlie, newly intelligent, is indeed becoming a little arrogant, a little pompous, and a little dismissive of those who are intellectually inferior to him (i.e., almost everybody). Previously, Charlie was a cheerful, carefree man, blissfully unaware that his coworkers were making fun of him. By becoming intelligent, Charlie has 1) become a ruder, less "moral" person and 2) become more miserable, as he realizes that he has even fewer friends than he'd thought. There really does seem to be a tradeoff between intelligence and morality--and, even more to the point, between intelligence and happiness.

Ultimately, though, it's not clear if Keyes really agrees with Fanny. It's true that the newly intelligent Charlie is rude, arrogant, and even cruel. And yet Charlie also has the opportunity to be good and moral, in a way that was utterly beyond him before his surgery. A mentally disabled Charlie Gordon can't solve complex moral problems in a way that benefits everyone, or publish scientific articles that will save thousands of lives. One could say that Charlie's new intelligence (and, for that matter, Adam and Eve's newfound sinfulness) is a challenge: he can either be more sinful than he ever was before, or he can use his brain to climb to new heights of glory and goodness.

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.

"Take it easy, Charlie. The old man is on edge. This convention means a lot to him. His reputation is at stake."
"I didn't know you were so close to him," I taunted, recalling all the times Burt had complained about the professor's narrowness and pushing.
"I'm not close to him." He looked at me defiantly. "But he's put his whole life into this. He's no Freud or Jung or Pavlov or Watson, but he's doing something important and I respect his dedication—maybe even more cause he's just an ordinary man trying to do a great man's work, while the great men are all busy making bombs."

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Burt Seldon (speaker), Professor Harold Nemur
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Charlie and Professor Nemur have traveled to Chicago for a major medical conference. Nemur, the doctor who masterminded Charlie’s brain surgery, is looking forward to presenting on his new procedure. Charlie has come to resent Nemur for treating him as a pawn, rather than a human being—Charlie believes (and with good reason) that Nemur is just using him to gain acclaim in the scientific community. Charlie’s friend and mentor, Burt, defends Nemur by praising his drive and determination.

It’s interesting to note that Burt highlights the same qualities that first brought Charlie to Nemur’s attention. Just as Charlie has striven to be smarter and more successful, so too has Nemur—who's well aware of the fact that he’s not a genius—tried to become the best he can be. Furthermore, Burt’s comment that Nemur is doing good work while great men build bombs reminds us of an important distinction between intelligence and morality. Being smart is no guarantee of a happy, productive life—one could spend one’s life building machines of war. It’s only when one combines intelligence with a strong sense of right and wrong that it’s possible to be a “good” human being. Charlie, already a genius, will have to educate himself in ethics and morality to become good.

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 14 Quotes

Somehow, getting drunk had momentarily broken down the conscious barriers that kept the old Charlie Gordon hidden deep in my mind. As I suspected all along, he was not really gone. Nothing in our minds is ever really gone. The operation had covered him over with a veneer of education and culture, but emotionally he was there—watching and waiting.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker)
Related Symbols: Charlie’s Hallucinations (younger Charlie)
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie comes to realize that in spite of his new intelligence, in his subconscious he's still a mentally disabled, emotionally underdeveloped man--and he can access this side of his personality whenever he gets drunk. Moreover, Charlie discovers that he's been repressing memories of his childhood. As a mentally challenged man, he was incapable of remembering much about his parents, his experiences in school, etc. (There's even some suggestion that his mind unconsciously repressed these memories because they were so painful.) But now, Charlie remembers many details about his past; these details were "waiting" in his mind all along. As he says here, "Nothing in our minds is ever really gone."

Charlie's realization foreshadows the novel's pessimistic conclusion. Charlie, working with Professor Nemur, tries to escape his tragic past--he tries to become intelligent and forget that there was ever a time when he couldn't add, read, or write. But in the end, Charlie is unable to escape his past--no amount of surgery can change who he is.

There is so much that can be done with this technique, if it is perfected. If I could be made into a genius, what about the more than five million mentally retarded in the United States? What about the countless millions all over the world, and those yet unborn destined to be retarded? What fantastic levels might be achieved by using this technique on normal people. On geniuses?

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker)
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie, now a talented medical doctor himself, fantasizes about what Professor Nemur's procedure could do to help the people of the world. He imagines using his newfound medical expertise to treat other mentally challenged people, giving them the same gift of intelligence that he was given.

This passage walks a fine line between arrogance and humility. On one hand, it shows Charlie striving to use his intelligence for the good of other people, rather than using it to show off and belittle his companions. Charlie isn't yet at the point where he's forgotten his years of mental disability--he continues to sympathize with those who've been born with a low IQ. And yet the passage also shows Charlie as his most arrogant and ambitious. In the same sense that Professor Nemur has arrogantly treated Charlie as his "creation," Charlie wants to operate on millions of other mentally disabled patients, attaining fame and prestige for himself in the process.

Then, with a violent effort of the will, I was back on the couch with her, aware of her body and my own urgency and potency, and I saw the face against the window, hungrily watching. And I thought to myself, go ahead, you poor bastard—watch. I don't give a damn any more. And his eyes went wide as he watched.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Fay Lillman
Related Symbols: Charlie’s Hallucinations (younger Charlie)
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charlie becomes more intelligent and self-aware, he begins to hallucinate a young boy--the childhood version of Charlie himself. This young version of Charlie "watches" Charlie almost constantly, but especially when Charlie is engaging in behavior that he couldn't have managed when he was mentally disabled. In this scene, Charlie is about to have sexual intercourse with Fay Lillman, his neighbor. Although Charlie feels "young Charlie" watching him, he decides that he doesn't care--he continues having sex, daring his young self to do anything about it.

The presence of "young Charlie" in Charlie's mind suggests that he's still haunted by his past--the years during which he was humiliated and teased for his disability. As Charlie becomes more mature and experienced, he comes to resent young Charlie--he hates that there was ever a time in his life when he had a low IQ and feared his own sexuality. Here, Charlie seems to make peace with his troubled past (he no longer cares), and yet he also clearly hates his former self.

Progress Report 16 Quotes

If I can find that out, and if it adds even one jot of information to whatever else has been discovered about mental retardation and the possibility of helping others like myself, I will be satisfied. Whatever happens to me, I will have lived a thousand normal lives by what I might add to others not yet born.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker)
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie becomes suspicious that his brain surgery will wear off over time--although he's become a genius, eventually he'll regress to mental disability once again. In the time he has left as a genius, Charlie decides to research his own surgical procedure. As he makes clear in the quotation, he wants to leave a lasting scientific legacy, which will go on to benefit thousands of patients around the world.

The fact that Charlie, blessed with intelligence, can conduct research that could help other human beings reminds us that--contrary to what Fanny Birden claimed--intelligence and morality aren't mutually exclusive. It's possible to be smart and good; indeed, a smart person is capable of some acts of goodness far beyond what a mentally disabled person could imagine. Of course, it's also true that the quote shows Charlie at his greediest and most ambitious: he wants to be remembered forever, and thinks that he can gain a kind of immorality by leaving a legacy behind.

I was seeing myself as I really had become: Nemur had said it. I was an arrogant, self-centered bastard. Unlike Charlie, I was incapable of making friends or thinking about other people and their problems. I was interested in myself, and myself only. For one long moment in that mirror I had seen myself through Charlie's eyes—looked down at myself and saw what I had really become. And I was ashamed.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker), Professor Harold Nemur
Page Number: 252-253
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charlie spends more time as an intelligent person, he becomes increasingly self-aware. Here, he stares in the mirror and realizes that he's become a pompous, arrogant man. Charlie also decides that as a mentally disabled man, he was happier, more moral, and friendlier than he is now.

Although Charlie himself seems to believe that his intelligence has been a horrible burden--making him a meaner, less friendly person--Keyes wouldn't necessarily agree. Charlie has become more arrogant on account of his genius, but he's also completed acts of goodness on a scale that he couldn't have imagined before his surgery: he's conducted important medical research that will help other people live longer, healthier lives. And while he may have become less friendly, he's gained the gift of self-awareness: the ability to realize his own shortcomings and try to improve them. Previously, Charlie had tried to transform himself to gain the approval of his peers. But here, he seems to be acting out of a desire to please himself. Thanks to his brain surgery, Charlie has become more mature and emotionally intelligent: he's acting to make himself, not other people, happy.

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.

I saw her through my kitchen window last week. I dont know her name, or even what her top part looks like but every night about eleven oclock she goes into her bathroom to take a bath. She never pulls her shade down and thru my window when I put out my lights I can see her from the neck down when she comes out of the bath to dry herself. It makes me excited, but when the lady turns out the light I feel let down and lonely.

Related Characters: Charlie Gordon (speaker)
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charlie loses his intelligence more and more rapidly, he again becomes childlike in his sexuality and emotional maturity. Here, for instance, he spies on a woman who lives in the building opposite his own. Charlie is still capable of sexual desire, but he shows no signs of being capable of romantic love for another woman--he acts like an immature 12-year-old, peeping on his unfortunate neighbors. In other words, Charlie isn't just losing his mental capabilities--he's also losing his emotional intelligence. It remains to be seen whether all the experiences and wisdom he gained as a genius will stick with him even as his IQ drops.

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.

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. 

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