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Flowers for Algernon Kindle Edition
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|Length: 228 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Following his doctor's instructions, engaging simpleton Charlie Gordon tells his own story in semi-literate "progris riports." He dimly wants to better himself, but with an IQ of 68 can't even beat the laboratory mouse Algernon at maze-solving:
I dint feel bad because I watched Algernon and I lernd how to finish the amaze even if it takes me along time.
I dint know mice were so smart.
Algernon is extra-clever thanks to an experimental brain operation so far tried only on animals. Charlie eagerly volunteers as the first human subject. After frustrating delays and agonies of concentration, the effects begin to show and the reports steadily improve: "Punctuation, is? fun!" But getting smarter brings cruel shocks, as Charlie realizes that his merry "friends" at the bakery where he sweeps the floor have all along been laughing at him, never with him. The IQ rise continues, taking him steadily past the human average to genius level and beyond, until he's as intellectually alone as the old, foolish Charlie ever was--and now painfully aware of it. Then, ominously, the smart mouse Algernon begins to deteriorate...
Flowers for Algernon is a timeless tear-jerker with a terrific emotional impact. --David Langford --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
From the Publisher
"A tale that is convincing, suspectful and touching..." -- The New York Times.
"Fascinating, agonizing... Superb." --Birmingham News.
"This novel should be on your 'must read' list." -- Palm Beach Post-Times.
"Strikingly original..." -- Publishers' Weekly.
"Absorbing... Immensely original... Going to be read for a long time to come." -- Library Journal. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- File Size : 396 KB
- Publication Date : December 1, 2007
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 228 pages
- Publisher : Mariner Books; First Edition (December 1, 2007)
- ASIN : B003WJQ74E
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #14,896 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In case you don’t know what the book is about, here is a brief synopsis. Charlie was a mentally challenged young man who wanted nothing more than to be smarter than he was. He volunteered for an experimental surgery that was supposed to increase his intelligence. The surgery had previously only been done on mice, and Algernon the mouse was the result of an earlier operation. When Charlie saw how Algernon navigated a maze with ease, he was convinced that the operation would be successful.
Charlie’s surgery was also a success, but his ever increasing intelligence caused difficulties in his relationships. His “friends” at work found out very quickly that he was no longer a target for their teasing, to which he had always been oblivious. They were so uncomfortable that they complained to the owner of the bakery he had been working at for years. He was let go.
He tried having relationships with women, but his emotional intelligence had not progressed on the scale of his intellect. The teacher who had taught him for years ultimately ended their budding relationship, because he was so far ahead of her intellectually, she could no longer keep up.
He reached a point at which he understood that his improvement was only temporary. He watched Algernon regress until all his progress was gone. Then Charlie himself began that backward slide.
I was heartbroken to see his realization that the people he thought were his “friends” were being cruel to him all along. Increased awareness and understanding brought him nothing but pain. I was almost thankful at the end when he reached a point of being somewhat stable, even though he may not have been even as intelligent as he was when he started.
I asked myself if he would have truly consented to the surgery if he had known what would happen to him afterwards. Did he actually have capacity to consent?
I don’t know if I was supposed to wish that increasing intelligence was a possibility for people with mental challenges, but I finished the book with a feeling of discomfort that his life was seen on the same level as that of a mouse in the eyes of the people performing the experiment.
It was ultimately a book that raised a lot of questions in my head and heart. There aren’t many answers to be found–just more questions.
As someone who's struggled with mental illness, confusing limitations, and my place in the world, as well as someone who later got me/cfs and lost even more independence, I relate so much to this book... Even though the main character is developmentally disabled, there's so much insight in this book.
I'll tell you, the end will seem sad at first, but has with it its own wisdom and inspiration. Reminding us like all things in this world, bittersweet is still sweet.
I hate sad endings to an extreme, but i don't regret reading this book.
Ironically, in Charlie's lostness, he found the wisdom he searched for all along & the journey is well worth the read!
A retarded man is given an operation to increase his intelligence. Algernon, a mouse, is given the same operation.
What makes the tale particularly poignant is the quotation at the beginning in which it is noted that one can be blinded either by going from darkness to light or from light to darkness--and others should not laugh at the traveller regardless of direction.
On one level the tale is simple. On another, it addresses emotional v intellectual growth, the complexity of families, the issue of how those who appear different are treated, and the question of what is ultimately important.
This is a classic, "must read" book for everyone.
One caveat is that it should not be enjoyed as an audio book alone, because much of the protagonist's development is given by the spelling and phrasing of his journal entries. Audio book plus print (as I read it this time) is wonderful.
A wonderful book that everyone should know
Top reviews from other countries
What i love about this book is that while the writing itself is simple and easy going, allowing the reader to just fall into the story without distraction, the story itself is incredible in its depth and scope.
I would definitely throw this book in with ‘Black Swan Green’ into the teenage education syllabus.
Essentially a man with an IQ of 70 is given an operation and turned into a genius after the incredible success of performing the same procedure on a white mouse named Algernon. But where an isolated laboratory mouse appears a total success, a human being with a very challenging past that the new found intelligence has to come to terms with while navigating his way into a new life that he is completely unprepared for in every way, is a totally different story altogether.
For the first 15 years of my life i lived with a very damaged heart and was extremely ill and disabled, only to have my heart fixed at 15 and then left to come to terms with all that had happened to me. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well. And reading this book about a child who was extremely mentally disabled who suddenly gets fixed brought a lot of those old feelings from my own experiences back. At one point i almost gave up reading it, it became so upsetting. But the book is so well written and i just had to keep going to find out what happens to Charlie. I’m glad i did.
There is so much truth in this book about the way people are and how they treat those they perceive as lesser than, and also those they perceive as more than. Add to all that, there are also many parallels between Charlie’s story and the changes between drug addiction and sobriety. Which, again, i know from experience. There is, quite simply, a great deal for everyone to learn from this book.
And there’s also so much in this book that leaves me looking forward to reading it again in the future — after its percolated through my conciousness for a while — as i really don’t think one reading can ever do it the justice it deserves.
And that ending…
"I just want to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of frends."
Despite his low IQ of 68, he is trying really hard to learn and become smart. Charlie agrees to have an experimental brain surgery previously tested only on a mouse - Algernon. Throughout the experiment, Charlie writes daily reports to document his progress and shift to the other side of the intelligence spectrum. It was both fascinating and also emotional to read how Charlie's perception of people close to him started changing with his increasing IQ and growing self-awareness.
"I never knew before that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me around just to make fun of me."
Charlie also notices that people start to behave differently around him once they realise he is no longer the dummy who sweeps the floors. They distance themselves as they don't recognise the new Charlie who lost his innocence and the friendly smiling face.
"I don't know what's worse, to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you've always wanted to be, and feel alone."
I can't quite believe this book was written in 1958. The story remains timeless and it's guaranteed it will break your heart and provoke many questions about humanity and our behaviour. Recommended to everyone.
I first read 'Flowers For Algernon' after my youngest brother told me about it, at the time he was reading it at school and he enjoyed it.
'Flowers For Algernon' is a great story, the story of Charlie and the changes he goes through spoke to me. Charlie (for me) is one of the memorable characters of literature, he's likeable, kind, determined, and that was before his life changing experiment, after the operation Charlie does change, he becomes aware, confident, learning new subjects and skills but I felt the essence of who Charlie was, was lost. Charlie also learns more about his past and its heart breaking to read, he was so misunderstood and so easily forgotten by his own family, he deserved better.
Charlie's plight shows how difficult it can be living in a world where you are an individual who may or not may be accepted, someone to be laughed at, I felt bad for Charlie as he realised the nature of his relationships with people he called friends but did not treat him like one.
'Flowers For Algernon' explores different subjects and it is a interesting read, you want Charlie to be happy and to find the answers he deserves. The ending will stay with you.
This is the kind of Sci Fi I like.
Charlie has a low IQ, but he's not aggressive (in fact, he's very nice and kind) and has the urge to better himself. He undergoes an experimental treatment to increase his IQ. The mouse that the treatment was tested on before Charlie is Algernon. At the start of the book, Algernon is able to navigate a maze faster than Charlie.
The story is told through Charlie's notes/ diary that he has to keep for the experiment. You see him go from being well meaning and confused, to increasingly intelligent until he's passed everyone he knows. The scenes where he realises that the colleagues who he thought were his friends and were laughing with him, were actually laughing at him, is heart breaking. Actually, quite a lot of the book is heartbreaking. You feel anguish for Charlie as he was and for Charlie as he has become. It's an incredibly moving book, quite sad, but thought provoking. I will be thinking about this one for days. I'll probably re-read it.
Category: Science fiction, Emotional
Synopsis: Algernon is no ordinary lab mouse – scientists have performed a pioneering experiment to exponentially increase his intelligence. Charlie is a man with learning difficulties working as a cleaner in a bakery. He longs for a higher IQ, believing it will make him feel more equal to those around him and is to become the experiment’s first human test subject. It opens up a world previously closed to him, but Charlie soon learns that increasing IQ is too simplistic an approach to solve the complexities of human emotions and relationships. With Algernon’s behaviour also becoming more erratic, Charlie’s future looks increasingly uncertain…
Why I Read It
I have mentioned previously on Miscellany Pages my prejudice against science fiction. Too often, I find the genre crosses a line of “weirdness” that alienates me. However, a friend at book club was so enthusiastic about Flowers for Algernon that I felt I had no other choice but to put aside my snobby sci-fi misgivings. I am so glad I did.
The unusual title of Flowers for Algernon immediately marks the book as something unique. I love titles that make me feel uncertain to start with but become clear and give more meaning towards the ending of the story. The unusual way in which the novel is written as a series of progress reports, from Charlie’s point of view, also created a feeling that I would enjoy the book as something fresh and new.
Far from the world of cold, hard science, Keyes writes in a beautiful style reminiscent of poetry and art. This is one of my favourite quotations, in which Charlie describes the experience of making love:
"The universe was exploding, each particle away from the next, hurtling us into dark and lonely space, eternally tearing us away from each other – child out of the womb, friend away from friend, moving from each other, each through his own pathway toward the goal-box of solitary death. But this was the counterweight, the act of binding and holding."
The sci-fi plot is far less central to the power of this novel than the ideas is allows Keyes to explore. There are so many ethical issues surrounding the experiment to increase intelligence, and it made me consider the concept in a way I never had before.
Can we measure intelligence?
Can we even truly define it?
Does our society place too much value on intelligence?
Many other issues are also explored in the story, particularly through the achingly sad exploration of loneliness. Charlie is alienated in so many ways, both before and after his operation, and at times his treatment is a harrowing example of the human capacity for cruelty. This made me question whether he was happier before the experiment, when he remained blissfully unaware of this cruelty. It is moving that he learns the value of human connection at the moments when it seems most to be slipping away from him.
Factors I normally look for in the ending of a book include how surprising or unpredictable it is. The ending of this story is neither, yet a sense of inevitability somehow enhances its power. My engagement did not waver for a moment – a testament to the allure of Keyes’ writing.
The way in which readers can only view the story through Charlie’s eyes adds to the absorbing way in which his character develops into an almost entirely different person throughout the novel. He forms very few new relationships, but those present from the beginning become irrevocably altered by his sudden spike in IQ. The complexity of these relationships, particularly between Charlie and his former teacher Alice, for me became the most enjoyable part of the story.
I use the light term ‘enjoyable’ advisedly. Flowers for Algernon is an intense, unrelenting emotional experience that made me shed genuine tears. I have never read a science fiction novel with so much heart.
"But I know now there’s one thing you’ve all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn’t been tempered by human affection isn’t worth a damn."