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Flowers for Algernon (Finding and Proving Theme)

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Lauren DeBoe

on 3 October 2014

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Transcript of Flowers for Algernon (Finding and Proving Theme)

Flowers for Algernon
Finding and Proving Theme

Charlie Gordon's Thoughts on
Intellect and Love
“Intelligence is one of the greatest human gifts. But all too often a search for knowledge drives out the search for love. This is something else I've discovered for myself very recently. I present it to you as a hypothesis: Intelligence without the ability to give and receive affection leads to mental and moral breakdown, to neurosis, and possibly even psychosis. And I say that the mind absorbed in and involved in itself as a self-centered end, to the exclusion of human relationships, can only lead to violence and pain.”

In the story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes main character mentally disabled Charlie Gordon discovers the theme that a person’s intelligence has little value without a sense of heart and good morals to give guidance to their actions. In the story it is shown that when an intelligent man has a lack of heart, his actions and discoveries are do not carry far and are devoid of meaning.

Lauren DeBoe
Period 4

How does the main character change?
How is the conflict resolved?
What does the title suggest?
What, in general, does the story reveal about life or people?
Textual Evidence
Textual Evidence
Textual Evidence
Textual Evidence
How the Theme is Supported
How Theme is Supported
How Theme is Supported
How Theme is Supported
"I wasn’t his son. That was another Charlie. Intelligence and knowledge had changed me, and he would resent me—as the others from the bakery resented me—because my growth diminished him. I didn’t want that."
At the beginning of the story Charlie starts out with the emotional level of a child. he is kind, hardworking, and innocent. In this quote he is acknowledging how all this has changed. Now he is rude, arrogant, and his views of the world are cold and bleak. The contrast between these two kinds of personality traits shows exactly how much he changes. So much that he decides his own father would not want to see him as he is now, but rather as he was when he was dumb, but loving.
The theme is supported by how Charlie changes and in the way he begins to notice what is different about himself. At first, although unintelligent, Charlie was one of the kindest people to be around. After, with all the brain power he could ever want, he finds that something is still missing. Through this we see that all this intelligence has little capability to bring happiness and fulfillment without the kindness that Charlie of the past was so accomplished at.
“...Don't feel sorry for me. I'm glad I had a second chance in life like you said to be smart because I learned a lot of things that I never knew were in this world, and I'm grateful I saw it even for a little bit.”
The conflict is resolved when Charlie is able to look at both the future and the past and be content with the outcome of both. The excerpt from the text is and example of how Charlie is grateful for the experience even if it could not last. The understanding that the value of the surgery comes not from intellectual knowledge, but from the relationships formed, the past he came to peace with, the contributions to science, and a small taste of a world he would of never seen otherwise. When saying goodbye to Alice he even goes as far to state he would do it all over, showing how at peace he is with his fate and putting an end to the long lasting internal conflict he has faced throughout the story.
The conflict resolution supports the theme by showing how once his intelligence was no longer the most important thing to him and instead his relationships and attitude is. This change results in a much happier Charlie. This is evidence to the theme since he was happier without the chaos and pressure of his intellect showing it has no meaning without a heart to support it.
“P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.”
The title "Flowers For Algernon" is a reference to the lab rat, Algernon, who stood as a symbol for Charlie. When asking Alice to leave flowers on Algernon's grave when he is no longer able he is symbolically asking Alice not to let himself be forgotten. Placing flowers on a grave is a people say goodbye to a loved one while still keeping them in their head. It also signifies Charlie's attachment to the mouse. By having Alice visit Algernon he is ensuring that both he and the mouse, along with their contributions, stay in the minds of all involved. So overall the title is a clever way to describe Charlie, his fears, and what he values most to those who read the story and can afterward appreciate the deeper meaning behind.
The title supports the theme when you look at the deeper meaning behind it. Charlie's last favor to ask of Alice was nothing to do with the experiment. Instead it was a request to be remembered. Not by his intellectual achievements, but by the emotional impact he had. This places a greater importance and the effect a kind heart can have over that of a smart mind. Even after all his studies, what was important was the love he learned to give and receive, supporting the theme.
“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.”
The story seems to have many different things to say about life and people. From targeting how the mentally disabled are mistreated to the idea that a person's past shapes who you are today. Most importantly shown throughout is the conflict over the bliss of ignorance and the unhappiness of knowledge. The quote shows Charlie's indecision on which is better becomes a large basis of the story's conflict, our main character comes to understand a balance between the two is crucial, leading to the significance of the theme.
When the story reveals that happiness and kindness is needed by people to give balance to mental capability, the them is also proven. Through use of characters like Dr. Nemur we can see the mind by itself leads to unhappiness. Fay being the complete opposite, acts immaturely. With Alice we can see how well these characteristics work when together. To put it simply, a person’s intelligence has little value without a sense of heart and good morals to give guidance to their actions
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