“When I touched her shoulder she stiffened and trembled, but I pulled her toward me. Then it happened. It started as a hollow buzzing in my ears… an electric saw… far away. Then the cold: arms and legs prickly, and finger numbing. Suddenly I had the feeling I was being watched. A sharp switch in perception. I saw, from some point in the darkness behind a tree, the two of us lying in each other’s arms. I looked up to see a boy of fifteen or sixteen, crouching nearby. 'Hey!' I shouted. As he stood up, I saw his trousers were open and he was exposed.” (77)
Charlie’s first hallucination of his former self occurs with Alice at a Central Park concert when they realize that their feelings are mutual. However, he is unable to even kiss her because of his unresolved sexuality issues. This scene conveys a sense of discomfort and even eeriness; it might even make readers shiver just as it makes Charlie shiver. The objective depiction of the image of the hallucinated boy is also rather shocking.
Alice and Charlie Drifting Apart
“The ice had broken between us and the gap was widening as the current of my mind carried me swiftly into the open sea.” (96)
Charlie uses a metaphoric image to convey the breach that happens between Alice and himself when his intellect far exceeds hers. He uses “ice,” a term which is usually used as a cliché between two people who do not know each other well. Even though Charlie and Alice did know each other well, they are now drifting apart and knowing each other less and less well.
“The place was a shambles. There were dozens of little folding snack-tables, all covered with twisted tubes of paint, most of them crusted dry like shriveled snakes, but some of them alive and oozing ribbons of color… Three overstuffed chairs and a mangy green couch were piled high with discarded clothing and on the floor lay shoes, stockings, and underthings, as if she were in the habit of undressing as she walked… A fine layer of dust covered everything.” (133-4)
Charlie has to use Fay’s apartment to get back to his after he locks himself out. He describes her apartment as a place that is alive, personifying items as small as the paint tubes and brushes. This place, although dusty (like Fay’s mind and deeper understanding), is nonetheless alive and bursting with color, like Fay herself.
“Upward, moving, like a leaf in an upcurrent of warm air. Speeding, the atoms of my body hurtling away from each other. I grow lighter, less dense, and larger… larger… exploding outward toward the sun. I am an expanding universe swimming upward in a silent sea. Small at first, encompassing with my body, the room, the building, the city, the country, until I know that if I look down I will see my shadow blotting out the earth. Light and unfeeling. Drifting and expanding through time and space.” (216; hallucination continues until 218)
This is the first image of Charlie’s mystical experience in Dr. Strauss’s office. The scene conveys a brightness and lightness which aids readers in understanding Charlie’s out of body experience, as well as strange visuals paired with feelings. He uses extensive metaphors to explain the expanding capabilities of his mind, and the dark feelings of his awareness that he will regress soon.
Visiting Marks Street
“There were no children playing on Marks Street – not at all like the mental picture I had brought with me of children everywhere, and Charlie watching them through the front window (strange that most of my memories of the street are framed by the window, with me always inside watching the children play). Now there are only old people standing in the shade of tired porches. As I approached the house I had a second shock. My mother was on the front stoop, in an old brown sweater, washing the ground floor windows from the outside even though it was cold and windy. Always working to show the neighbors what a good wife and mother she was.” (199)
Charlie’s image of his older house, as well as his mother, are striking because he has now come face to face with the reality (rather than just his memories) of them. He realizes that things can change a lot from what they were in the past, and yet little things will still link reality to memory. For example, his mother still wants to show off to others, but it is an almost painful observation, since it is about her character and not the scene itself.
Flowers for Algernon Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Flowers for Algernon is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Charlie is asked to take the Thematic Apperception Test, in which he comes up with narratives for pictures. He is afraid he has failed this test too. Burt, a graduate student who administered the Rorschach test as well, takes Charlie to a room...