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.
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
Progress Report 8
...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)
Progress Report 13
...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
...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)
...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)
Progress Report 16
...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
...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)