March 6. Strauss and Nemur track down Charlie’s sister, Norma, who lived with Charlie’s mother in Brooklyn. Norma gives the doctors permission to operate on Charlie, meaning that Charlie will undergo the operation soon. Charlie is very excited.
Charlie is essentially a child in these early chapters—he can’t make his own decisions, and so his family members have to make decisions for him.
Nemur, Strauss, and Burt Selden meet with Charlie to talk about his upcoming experiment. They say that Miss Kinnian has recommended Charlie because he’s hard-working and highly motivated. They explain that Charlie will soon become extremely intelligent—he’ll be a new “superman,” despite the fact that at the present time he has an IQ of only 68.
Like any tragic hero, Charlie begins with a sense of ambition and desire. For the time being, Charlie’s desire for greatness (genius) is inspiring. In line with the psychological ideas of his time, Keyes gives a lot of weight to IQ: a test that has since been shown to be more biased and limited than it was originally thought.
Professor Nemur expresses some doubts about using Charlie for the experiment, since there could be complications from the required surgery. Although Charlie doesn’t understand everything Nemur is saying, Nemur tells Charlie that there’s a possibility that the surgery won’t work on him. Or it’s possible that the surgery will work for a short time, and then Charlie will have an even lower mental age than he has right now.
Here, Keyes throws some foreshadowing our way. There’s really only one reason why we’d be hearing that the surgery might fail: because the surgery will fail in the end. As with most great tragic stories, we can sense that Charlie’s ambition is destined to be thwarted: he’s going to aim incredibly high, but in the end he’s going to punished for it.