Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Flowers for Algernon
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on August 11, 2000
I read this book for school when I was in 7th grade, and just finished re-reading it ten years and a degree in biology later. I loved it when I was a teen, and (after forcing myself to ignore my instinctive scientific skepticism) still love it today.
It's a very thought-provoking story, all the more so when you consider that it was written about 40 years ago when society was a bit less tolerant of the mentally retarded than it is now. Charlie is a man in his 30s with an IQ of 68 when the book starts; through a controversial experimental operation, his IQ gets higher and higher until it soars at one point to 185. The story is told through the journal entries that he is told to keep for the researchers in charge of the study. Through Charlie's words, you can see how sharply his intellect grows and how difficult it is for him because as smart as he becomes, his *emotional* intelligence is still that of a child.
Charlie's emergence from ignorance is painful for him; imagine learning all of life's hard truth's in a matter of weeks rather than the normal development from innocent child to worldly adult. And the ending of the book is heartwrenching. Everyone should read "Flowers for Algernon" at some point in their life. It's a classic.
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on May 7, 2007
I was so surprised by this book. Flowers For Algernon was one of the best books I've read this year and I really wasn't expecting it.

It is the story of Charlie Gordon, a man in his thirties with mental retardation. Charlie is the subject of a psychological research project at a university that is examining the effects of a new surgical procedure on mental retardation. Charlie's estranged sister gives the university permission to perform the procedure on Charlie. The procedure proves to be at least a temporary success and Charlie goes from having mental retardation to having an IQ of 185 in a manner of weeks.

The experiment is initially tried on a white mouse named Algernon. Algernon is tested through a complex maze where he is rewarded by food after reaching the end. Charlie races Algernon with a maze of his own and receives a shock if he goes the wrong way. At the beginning of the book, Algernon beats Charlie to the finish line every time. But Charlie soon soars past Algernon and through the process grows close to the mouse.

The book is written in the form of journal entries kept by Charlie for the experiment. At the beginning of the book, words are misspelled, ideas are vague, and relationships are simple. As the book progresses, so does Charlie's thought process and so do his relationships. Charlie learns what true love is as he falls in love with his teacher, Alice. He learns what physical love is as he comes into contact with his artistic and eccentric neighbor, Fay. And he learns the pains of relational love as he relives memories of his family and friends.

What was most touching to me about this book were these flashbacks and moments of recognition. When Charlie was still mentally retarded, he didn't realize when people were laughing at him or making fun of him. He didn't realize that when his mother was crying it was because she was ashamed to have him as a son. But now that he has had this operation he is able to look back on these situations and realize what was going on. You can imagine the pain of this.

Charlie is initially excited about "becoming smart". He's been teased throughout his life for "being a moron" and has been the subject of people's amusement. What Charlie soon finds is that acceptance is a hard thing to come by. Charlie goes straight from mentally retarded to genius. As a genius, he is seen as arrogant and absurd and is once again estranged by his peers.
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This is a wonderful and highly original novel about a mentally challenged man named Charlie who wanted to be smart. One day, his wish was granted. A group of scientists selected him for an experimental operation which would to raise his intelligence to genius level. Suddenly, Charlie found himself transformed, and life, as he knew it, changed.

His story is told entirely through Charlie's eyes and perceptions in the form of progress reports. The reader actually sees the change in Charlie take place, as his progress reports become more complex, well written, and filled with the angst of personal discovery and growth, as well as with his gradual awareness of his amazing and accelerated intellectual development.

The progress reports are a wonderful contrivance for facilitating the story, and the reader is one with Charlie on his voyage of self-discovery. What happens to Charlie in the long run is profoundly moving and thought provoking. It is no wonder that this author was the recipient of the Nebula Award, which is given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for having written the Best Novel of the Year. This is definitely a book well worth reading and having in one's personal collection. Bravo!
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on October 17, 2001
Charlie Gordon's "progris riports" make up the majority of the text in Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon. In his early thirties, mentally challenged Charlie works at a bakery, cleaning up and running errands. The only thing that Charlie has ever wanted in life is for people to like him. He thinks that if he were smart, people would want to be his friend. Charlie tries hard to learn how to read and write, but it is a long, ongoing process. Charlie decides to take part in a study conducted by some professors at the school he attends. The experiment involves Charlie's having an extraordinary brain operation that will help him to become extremely intelligent. After the operation, Charlie's new IQ helps him to understand how common it is for people to be cruel to others. Charlie soon realizes that all his life, people have been laughing at him, not with him. As Charlie becomes smarter, vivid memories of his childhood begin to disturb him. Unfortunately, after a few months Charlie's intelligence begins to fade and he regresses to a worse mental state than before the experiment.
This book truthfully portrays how people treat others different from themselves and how unkind we can be to each other. We are able to get a glimpse of what it feels like to be made fun of and looked down upon by others.
Unfortunately, this book is on the Banned Book List. Censors claim that "explicit love scenes were distasteful." It also contains limited profanity and references to drinking. I believe that these scenes are essential to understanding how Charlie is progressing mentally as well as emotionally. They also are necessary to help us understand the characters' personalities. I feel certain that eight graders and above would be able to handle this book. I would certainly recommend it to adults as well as young people.
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This is a wonderful and highly original novel about a mentally challenged man named Charlie who wanted to be smart. One day, his wish was granted. A group of scientists selected him for an experimental operation that raised his intelligence to genius level. Suddenly, Charlie found himself transformed, and life, as he knew it, changed.

His story is told entirely through Charlie's eyes and perceptions in the form of progress reports. The reader actually sees the change in Charlie take place, as his progress reports become more complex, well written, and filled with the angst of personal discovery and growth, as well as with his gradual awareness of his amazing and accelerated intellectual development.

The progress reports are a wonderful contrivance for facilitating the story, and the reader is one with Charlie on his voyage of self-discovery. What happens to Charlie in the long run is profoundly moving and thought provoking. It is no wonder that this author was the recipient of the Nebula Award, which is given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for having written the Best Novel of the Year. This is definitely a book well worth reading.
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on May 3, 2002
I saw this book at the store and picked it up so I mite be smart in reeding it. It looked nice. I reed it when I was littel but didnt remember. So I picked it agin.
The storie unfoles like a flower. Witch mite be how it got the titel. I'm still not sure on that. I know that Charlie Gordon isn't to smart in the begining but later he starts to get smarter. I liked that part. It was after some sort of operashun to his brane.
And then Charlie's knowledge base begins to expand and things start to become clearer. But with this improved clarity comes a realization that previously held friends may not have been so friendly. And growing up as a moron wasn't necessarily such a bad thing. Does he have friends now that he's getting smarter?
Charlie begins his ascent into genius level as his IQ passes 150. But the accumulated knowledge that he soon possesses can't prepare him for the retarded emotional state that he still finds himself in. The barriers he must break down are monumental and seemingly insurmountable. Can he do it? Does he want to do it now that he knows more about the world around him?
Is the operation a success? Or a failure? Will Charlie remain at genius level or slide back into idiocy?
Reed the book to find out more. Its a good book to. I like it a lot. I think Ill reed it agin sumtime. Now I just have to remember were I put it...
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on August 28, 2012
Charlie is an adult male with learning disabilities, perhaps mild or moderately retarded. His burning desire in life is to learn and read. He hears of a research experimental surgery that could possibly make him smarter. Even knowing it might kill him, Charlie does it anyway. The reader follows Charlie's struggles by watching Algernon, the mouse who had the surgery first. Charlie uses him as a measure of his own success and possible outcome. There is lots of symbolism if you're in to that sort of thing.

This book reminded me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button just a bit. Two people circling around one another, prevented from making a true connection by circumstance, almost able to line up, but in fleeting moments..........The tone and voice of the book was masterful. How the author switches from speaking as a mentally disabled adult to a near genius and then making it all sound so natural was incredible. It was a sad, but sweet, story.

Warning: This book comes with a sad ending, but of course the reader expects it all along. It deserves the classic rating.
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on February 7, 2006
Flowers for Algernon is the story of a man named Charlie who works in a factory. Charlie was eligible to partake in an experiment which would make him smarter. He was deemed low-functioning when he was approached about participating in the study and the researchers assured him that undergoing the operation in conjunction with the study would improve his cognitive capacity threefold. What he did not know was what the long-term repercussions of having this operation would be and whether the results would be permanent or not. The entire story line parallels the experience of Algernon- the mouse who the experiment is performed on at first. As the reader, we see Charlie's rise and subsequent deterioration follow that of the mouse.

The story follows Charlie's journal entries from the time he was a man with an IQ of 68 approaching the operation, to when he becomes a practical genius, having tripled his initial IQ. The story resolves itself as the reader follows the disintegration of Charlie's intellect back to the base from where he started, with the potential to drop even lower.

I think that this book is perfect for middle school-aged children because of the variety of issues that it addresses-both scientific and psychosocial. After Charlie undergoes the operation and his intellectual capacity nears its peak, Charlie's awareness of his self and the way that others perceive him, and did perceive him when he was low-functioning, becomes apparent to him. Charlie realizes that his coworkers made fun of him and he grapples with his ability to stay at a place where he had been treated with such little respect before.

Reading the story with middle schoolers, lends itself to discussing issues of tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion. It creates a forum to talk about disabilities and how to treat people we encounter who have disabilities. It forces the children to examine the idea of inclusion versus isolation and what that means and how that can impact children who exhibit no disabilities at all. The story also calls on readers to be critical about their own situations-how they perceive themselves, and what their level of awareness and consciousness is with respect to their peers and the social dynamics of their communities.

The story is also a great book to read with middle schoolers in the technology era because it lends itself to creating interdisciplinary units. The book is perfect for bringing in issues of medical ethics. It's possible to discuss topics with students like cloaning and cryogenic freezing-even robotics and reconstructive surgery. When do we take science too far and when does it do more harm than good?

Finally, this book is a great means for studying literary devices-like symbolism, metaphor, etc. Overall, the book is timeless in its application to life because it will only grow increasingly relevant as technology continues to confront us with moral and ethical dilemmas. The lessons that it teaches young teenagers about acceptance and tolerance are also invaluable.
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on June 27, 2009
I just finished reading this book today and all I can say is that this story will truly stay with you. The story is about Charlie Gordon who is moderately retarded and his wish to one day be "smart". The narrative is told through a series of progress reports that Charlie is instructed to write by a group of scientists who are considering using Charlie as the first human subject of an expiremental surgery / procedure that has been shown to increase cognition and intelligence in animals and has been particularly effective and possibly permanent in a mouse named Algernon. Once Charlie is selected and operated on we begin to see his awareness and intelligence increase at an astounding rate. The author easily conveys Charlie's increased intelligence and perception by having Charlie's progress reports become noticeably more grammatical and with improved spelling and puncuation. But, what becomes interesting is that with the increased intelligence Charlie's life does not necessarily become easier. If anything Charlie tackles Herculean psychological and physical obstacles that would ruin a normal man and yet he endures.

That's really all I think the reader should know about this book before reading. However I did want to say that Daniel Keyes has done an exceptional job writing the character Charlie Gordon. Charlie is psychologically two different people in this book and Daniel handles this absolutely perfectly. Charlie even begins to talk about the pre-operation Charlie as almost a totally separate person altogether! The struggle that ensues between the two Charlie's in multiple segments of this book is fascinating and disturbing at the same time.

I highly recommend this book and am sure that I will read it again.
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on October 9, 2006
I don't know how I missed this jewel until now, but I'm glad I finally found it. I haven't been this moved by a work of fiction in a long, long time. I found myself so drawn to Charlie and to what was happening to him, to his longing for acceptance and love, and to his quest to make sense of his world. The desire for acceptance and love--from oneself and from others--is something all people have in common regardless their IQ. I cried as Charlie regressed, all the while knowing what was happening to him, realizing the profundity of his loss, yet finally being grateful for the short period of intellect and what that contributed to science.

I can't disagree more with the reviewer who says the book's ending was predictable. For a while, I thought the book would be about the trick of combining great intellect with human love. When Fay put the female mouse in with Algernon, I kept waiting to see if this theme would be played out, first with the mouse, later with Charlie. One possible ending would have been to let Charlie have his high IQ but, unlike Algernon, be able to integrate intellect with emotion. Another ending would have been to go back to the lower IQ, and have a completely sterile existence devoid of anyone. This of course did not happen as the people at the bakery also showed growth by the book's end and were able to truly take Charlie in and befriend him. I think the author came up with a good ending by causing Charlie to lose the intellect, but to have gained self-love and the love of others, things he did not have at the start of his journey.
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