||When we first meet Charlie he is about to embark on a compelling but dangerous journey from retardation to genius. He has only a vague understanding of what will happen, but he is aware that knowledge and the ability to write are of paramount importance. So he doesn't hesitate for a moment to cooperate in a radical experiment designed to increase his intelligence, the key - he hopes - to being valued as a human being and to being loved. Daniel Keyes's powerful and highly original story of a young man whose quest for intelligence and knowledge parallels that of Algernon (the mouse who is an earlier subject of a similar experiment) remains unique in imaginative literature. We follow Charlie Gordon's mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. We watch with excitement as he becomes the focus of attention by the scientific world, his intellectual capacities far surpassing those of the psychologists and neurosurgeons who engineered his metamorphosis. We also follow the progress of his romance with two women, one who knew him before the experiment as well as with another, who knows him only as the attractive, bright, and sympathetic man he has become. And, finally, we hope against hope that what happens suddenly, unexpectedly, to Algernon will not happen to Charlie.
||FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON has comfortably settled into the upper echelon of 20th century English literature, joining CATCHER IN THE RYE, LORD OF THE FLIES, and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as the books most likely to be force-fed to young minds by high school literature teachers. However, even for the most reluctant student readers, obligation soon gives way to fascination, as few can resist the engagingly merry and utterly unique main character, Charlie Gordon, a mentally-challenged janitor whose broken, misspelled English makes for a narrative voice as distinctive as Huckleberry Finn or Holden Caulfield. With the help of an experimental new surgery, something wonderful happens--Charlie begins to get smarter. His rapidly advancing mental abilities are foreshadowed and mirrored by that of a mouse named Algernon, the other recipient of the surgery. As the novel progresses, Charlie's journal entries reflect his accelerated mental development, as they gradually become filled with profound wisdom, scientific innovation, and philosophical inquiry. Eventually Charlie's intelligence surpasses that of the scientists who are using him as a subject, and his possibilities seem limitless. But when Algernon's newfound genius begins to disintegrate, both Charlie and the reader realize the heartache that is to come, as he resignedly recedes to his former diminished mental state. Daniel Keyes's masterpiece, which shared the 1960 Nebula Award as Best Novel, is also among the most frequently banned books of all-time, because of its depiction of Charlie's sexual confusion which arises as his intelligence is enhanced.