Flowers for Algernon

Pdf fan
Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Charlie’s Hallucinations (younger Charlie) Symbol Analysis

Charlie’s Hallucinations (younger Charlie) Symbol Icon

Especially in the second half of the novel, Charlie Gordon experiences vivid hallucinations of his younger self, often peering out from behind a window. Charlie’s visions prove that he hasn’t entirely overcome his own troubled past: not only is there a part of his mind that continues to suffer from mental disability, but he’s also still traumatized by his childhood experiences. As a child, Charlie’s mother, Rose Gordon, beat him for misbehaving or touching women, even in the most innocent ways. As a result, Charlie—even as a brilliant adult—can’t be intimate with women without hallucinating a younger version of his self. The symbolism is clear: the child is “father to the man”—that is, Charlie’s internalized sense of fear and inferiority from childhood lives on in his own head as an adult.

Charlie’s Hallucinations (younger Charlie) Quotes in Flowers for Algernon

The Flowers for Algernon quotes below all refer to the symbol of Charlie’s Hallucinations (younger Charlie). 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 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.


A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Flowers for Algernon quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

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.

Get the entire Flowers for Algernon LitChart as a printable PDF.
Flowers for algernon.pdf.medium

Charlie’s Hallucinations (younger Charlie) Symbol Timeline in Flowers for Algernon

The timeline below shows where the symbol Charlie’s Hallucinations (younger Charlie) appears in Flowers for Algernon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Progress Report 14
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...wanted to learn to read and write like everyone else. Charlie realizes that the “ old Charlie ” is still with him, even after his operation. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...for Chicago. Charlie meets Alice at her apartment, where he confesses that he’s still “ the old Charlie Gordon ” sometimes—the frightened child who fears his mother. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...this time.” Charlie makes passionate love to Fay. As he does, he imagines the “ old Charlie ” watching, and finds that he doesn’t care anymore. (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Charlie has too much to drink, and in his drunkenness he behaves like the “ old Charlie .” Fay is confused by Charlie’s behavior, but finds it funny. Charlie also notes that... (full context)
Progress Report 16
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...leaves the house. As he walks away, he turns back, and thinks he sees a little boy staring at him from the window. (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
...on the couch, he tells Strauss about his hallucinations—he’s been seeing a version of his childhood self . As Charlie talks, he has another hallucination, so vivid that he forgets Strauss is... (full context)
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon
October 17. Charlie begins to have hallucinations of his childhood self , looking out through a window. He fears being sent back to the Warren State... (full context)