"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
Flowers for Algernon
When was the last time you wanted something so much, you would sacrifice your life to have it; even if just for a moment? Charlie Gordon, a 37 year old man with a learning disability, did just that. In the story “Flowers for Algernon”, by Daniel Keyes, Charlie gets a chance to alter his I.Q. substantially through operation. The only drawback to this is, the long-term outcomes of the operation are unknown. The operation does succeed, but later Charlie is sent on a riveting downward spiral into the life he tried to run away from. The operation hurt Charlie in every imaginable way; and did nothing to help him.
Is it not better to do your best than to be the best? Charlie Gordon was a motivated man who always put forth as much effort as he could! He struggled for independence and freedom in a world he desperately wanted to be a part of. A statement such as, “Im gonna try awful hard” is often heard spoken by Charlie. Everybody notices how hard Charlie tries to be what he considers normal. Dr. Strauss described Charlie best when he said, “But most people of his low mentality are hostile and uncooperative. They are usually dull, apathetic, and hard to reach. He has a good nature. He’s interested and eager to please”. If a person is doing the best they can for the circumstances, isn’t that the best? Why should a person feel pressured to be what he isn’t capable of being? After the operation, Charlie first doesn’t even want to try, then can’t remember what it means to try, and finally, doesn’t have hope enough to try. His statement changes from, “Im gonna try awful hard” to, “maybe its just easier not to do what I say Im going to do”! the thought to try his best never even occurs. He lost one of his most valuable qualities due to his need to conform.
If a man does not know of hurt and suffering, he should not have to know. Before Charlie knew the truth of his life and was able to look back on it, he didn’t know of some horrible feelings. He never had to feel ugly, unwanted, alone, and most of all, ashamed. After finding out how all of the men he thought were his friends only used him for free laughs, Charlie feels so humiliated. A man unequipped with the armor most people use to protect themselves, should not suddenly be thrown naked into the war. If hurt is unknown, it should never be taught.
“What did I do to make them hate me so?” Though Charlie never had true friends, was he not still happy with them? Was it truly horrible for him to believe he was well liked? The operation caused people to become frightened of him and separate themselves from him. He becomes progressively more lonely and confined. “I find that I don’t communicate much anymore.” The only reason Charlie wanted the operation was to communicate with others on a higher level; but it did just the opposite!
Shame, loneliness, and a general lack of caring are the opposite of what a person wants to feel. If a person isn’t happy with who they are, there is no guarantee that they will be happier as someone else. Charlie should have made the best of who he was, whether good or bad. Getting the operation didn’t make anything better in the end. I could go on forever about what a mistake it was, but I think Charlie says it best: “Now I’m more alone than ever before…”
View Full Essay
Speculative fiction, Fiction, Literature, Censorship in Canada, Flowers for Algernon, Charlie Harper
More Free Essays Like This