Flowers for Algernon


Daniel Keyes

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Flowers for Algernon can help.

Flowers for Algernon: Progris riport 2 Summary & Analysis

Martch 4. Charlie undergoes a series of psychological tests with Professor Nemur and Doctor Strauss. An assistant, whose first name is Burt (Charlie isn’t good at remembering last names), gives Charlie inkblot tests—or “raw shok” tests, as Charlie calls them—and asks him to say what the inkblots remind him of. Charlie is so simpleminded that he doesn’t know how to answer these questions—he says the inkblots remind him of ink. Charlie tries hard to “see” something in the inkblots, and Burt gets more and more frustrated. Charlie concludes, “I don’t think I passd the raw shok test.”
An inkblot (or Rorschach) test is a basic psychological examination, but Charlie clearly doesn’t know what it is (and even confuses “Rorschach” with “raw shok”). For most of the first half of the book, we get a lot of “dramatic irony” of this kind, in which we the readers are meant to understand something that the character does not. Charlie’s mistake is to think that there’s literally something “hidden” in the inkblot—he can’t understand that he’s supposed to project his own subconscious mind onto abstract shapes. This could point to the fact that Charlie simply doesn’t have the deep-seated guilt and fear that inkblot tests were designed to measure—he’s unintelligent, but also innocent.
Ignorance, Intelligence, and Happiness Theme Icon
Intelligence vs. Wisdom and Morality Theme Icon
Pride, Hubris, and the Tragic Hero Theme Icon