Flowers for Algernon

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Algernon’s Maze Symbol Icon

It’s no secret that Algernon the mouse’s experiences symbolize Charlie Gordon’s own struggles with genius. Algernon becomes irritated with having to solve endless mazes designed to measure his intelligence, and thus Algernon’s mazes symbolize Charlie’s own exasperation with the medical establishment. Professor Nemur—the man who designed Charlie’s brain surgery—parades Charlie around at a medical conference, forcing him to show off his new intellect. Just as Algernon becomes bored and frustrated, Charlie begins to resent Nemur for treating him like an animal or a sideshow attraction. Thus, Charlie and Algernon “escape” from the medical conference at the same time, turning their backs on the “mazes” of academic bureaucracy.

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Algernon’s Maze Symbol Timeline in Flowers for Algernon

The timeline below shows where the symbol Algernon’s Maze appears in Flowers for Algernon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Progris riport 4
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
...to compete against a mouse named Algernon. Amazingly, Algernon is better than Charlie at solving mazes. Charlie didn’t realize a mouse could be so smart. (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
...though he hasn’t gone back to work yet. Professor Nemur gives Charlie puzzles to work on—mazes and logic games. Charlie gets headaches when he thinks. Miss Kinnian visits him and tells... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
March 29. Charlie beats Algernon in a maze competition. He realizes that he’s getting smarter, even if he doesn’t feel smarter. Burt, who... (full context)
Progress Report 13
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
...has become increasingly erratic and unpredictable—there are days when Algernon refuses to participate in the mazes and problems he’s been assigned. Charlie is even more upset when Burt shows the other... (full context)
Progress Report 14
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
...days reading and studying, and sometimes watches TV with Algernon. He builds Algernon complicated, three-dimensional mazes to ensure that he keeps in shape, and tries to motivate him with food. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Fay is impressed with Charlie’s piano playing (he’s taught himself recently), and with the elaborate mazes he’s built for Algernon. Suddenly, Fay says she has to go—she has a date with... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
June 21. Charlie continues to spend time teaching Algernon how to navigate through mazes. Algernon solves every maze he’s given. One evening, Fay comes to Charlie’s apartment with a... (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
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...working hard to study Algernon. Sometimes, he notices Algernon confidently navigating his way through a maze, only to forget where he’s going, or indeed, what he’s doing. Charlie knows that even... (full context)
Progress Report 17
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Cruelty and Bullying Theme Icon
...5. Charlie visits Professor Nemur and Burt to conduct more tests. He tries to solve mazes, and finds that he can’t. As Charlie gets more frustrated, Burt apologizes for lashing out... (full context)