Charlie Gordon's Alternative Option - Review of the Novel Flowers of Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Charlie Gordon’s Alternative Option

Charlie Gordon, a thirty-two-year-old retarded adult, is chosen to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity of elevating his IQ to unbelievably high levels through a brain surgery. Flowers for Algernon, written by Daniel Keyes, is a moving novel that unfolds the story of protagonist Charlie Gordon, and his unexpected struggles with life after he receives an experimental brain surgery. Living life independently with much publicity from the Welberg Foundation, Charlie cannot be provided with nearly the amount of help he requires to succeed. The possible outcomes of the surgery are uncontrollable, and therefore Charlie should not have decided to undergo the experimental operation.

Although the operation appears to be a success at first, there are several obstacles that result as negative impacts on Charlie’s life. While Charlie assumes becoming more intelligent will solve his problems, he does not foresee the major loss of friendship that awaits him. Before his intelligence boost, Charlie says, “Some times somebody will say hey lookit Frank, or Joe or even Gimpy. He really pulled a Charlie Gordon that time. I don’t know why they say it but they always laff and I laff too.” (23). Truthfully, Charlie does not have friends, but his ignorance proves him otherwise. After Charlie witnesses Gimpy’s technique of theft from the bakery, he feels compelled to “take charge” and convince Gimpy that he must cease with his dishonorable actions. Of course, Gimpy is frustrated with Charlie because he has no alternative choice, so he is forced to stop, “Tell your friend the guy doesn’t seem to have any choice” (96). Next, Charlie’s father, Matt Gordon, is never revealed the true identity of his son due to Charlie’s current way of thinking. He believes that revealing himself may result in outcomes such as Matt not approving of the “new” Charlie. However, if the “old” Charlie’s mentality were faced with the same dilemma about whether or not to unveil his identity, he would have revealed himself, because Charlie was more ecstatic before the operation had taken place. Charlie was always motivated to make his parents proud, so obviously, Charlie would not have committed that mistake.

Finally, Charlie must cope with troubles that occur regarding his intellectual and emotional levels since they are unbalanced due to the procedure. Clearly, Charlie’s intellectual level has taken the “Beekman College elevator” for the reason that he surpasses his fellow scientists throughout the novel with his increasingly admirable knowledge. Emotionally, Charlie remains at the stage of an adolescent because he never receives the chance to experience real love and such, that is until Alice Kinnian, a teacher for retarded adults at Beekman College, steps right into his heart and leaves her unforgettable mark. Falling in love, Alice cannot handle this type of relationship with her former student because she fears the experiment is being tampered with, along with Charlie’s mixed emotions getting out of hand. Alice feels that Charlie is extremely smart as opposed to herself, which makes her feel stupid; this is very ironic because he used to be a student in her class for retarded adults. Considering Charlie’s difficulties and changes, the conducted experiment did not assist him as Professor Nemur or Dr. Strauss had predicted.

As a result of the experiment, Charlie sinks back down to his original level of intelligence proving that the operation is a failure. It is interesting to see that with his vast amount of knowledge acquired throughout the story, he is not satisfied with all he has accomplished. Charlie has experienced more unhappiness than he was prepared for, leaving him tangled with many questions for his family that may never be answered.