At several points in the book, Keyes references the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. In the book of Genesis, we’re told that Adam and Eve gave up a life of eternal happiness in the Garden of Eden when they chose to eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Although they gained intelligence and knowledge from the tree, their lives also became sadder and more painful because they were expelled from Eden for their disobedience. It’s clear enough that (in the novel) the Adam and Eve story is meant to symbolize Charlie Gordon’s own brain surgery. Just like Adam and Eve, Charlie gains enormous knowledge when his IQ triples. And yet his new intelligence doesn’t bring him happiness—on the contrary, it makes him realize that he was miserable all along, and just didn’t know it. There appears to be a tradeoff between happiness and intellect in Flowers for Algernon, and the Adam and Eve story is the best symbol of this.
Flowers for Algernon
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Adam and Eve appears in Flowers for Algernon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Progress Report 7
...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,... (full context)
Progress Report 11