Please use this thread to discuss the August 2011 book of the month, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
. Do not read this thread if you have not already read the book because this thread will contain spoilers
What do you think of Flowers for Algernon?
I loved reading this book. The only thing I didn't like was that I couldn't get to sleep because I stayed up almost all night reading the book. Most books do not absorb me like that.
Especially at first, the narrative technique reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
, which also greatly engrossed me. In the case of this story, I think writing in the first-person particularly complimented the plot of this story since the reader can observe the changes occurring in Charlie even before Charlie or any of the other characters can see it themselves let alone mention it. With that, I think it also freed the story from needing out-of-place expositions.
There are many levels to this story, I feel.
Particularly at first, the story arouses sympathy for the mentally challenged and a condemnation of those who mock or take advantage of them. At a slightly deeper level, we are shown subtler cruelties towards the mentally challenged in the way that those who are outwardly polite to Charlie and help him still do not consider him-prior-to-his-operation and other mentally handicapped people to even be a real people
. Moreover, I think we are shown how their good treatment of him comes from more of a place of condescending self-righteousness.
On an even deeper level, I think the story of Charlie is meant to parallel that of the everyman. In my opinion, Charlie's rapid rise to intelligence mirrors that of almost everyone but simply at a faster and to a greater degree. For instance, one of the first things that comes from Charlie's growth in intelligence is embarrassment about his past actions and thoughts and almost feeling to be a whole new person. Does that not reflect the usual way in which people go from being a child to an adult? Even the way people speak of an inner-child reflects Charlie's externalization of his previous self. Moreover, Charlie's eventual downfall of course mirrors the way in which the elderly begin to revert often at their own frustration particularly brought to light when they cannot do something they previously could. Another point could be the theme of Charlie's emotional problems even when is at his highest intelligence are very similar to the way average adults are haunted, often subconsciously, by issues from their childhood, e.g. the way any psychotherapist can connect any person's troubles to their relationship with their parents and events in their childhood. To that last point, I am reminded of this quote from the book, "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."
I didn't feel resolution in regards to Charlie's relationship with his family, but maybe that's the point... ?
Here is another quote that I find interesting:
"This intelligence has driven a wedge between me and all the people I once knew and loved. Before, they laughed at me and despised me for my ignorance and dullness; now, they hate me for my knowledge and understanding."
"How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes - how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with low intelligence."
What do you think? Are there any quotes or short excerpts you like from the book? Please post them.