Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon Summary and Analysis of Progress Report 12


Charlie and Nemur have a strained relationship leading up to the International Psychological Convention in Chicago. Nemur continues to address Charlie as a lab specimen, but Charlie knows that he was a human being even before the operation. He remembers that his parents treated the family differently after Norma was born, and how Norma abused him as well. Charlie decides to visit Alice as class is finishing at the Beekman School for Retarded Adults, and visit the facility as an unenrolled student. As he and Alice talk, he realizes that he has far exceeded her in intelligence and no longer loves her, although he would love to be. She is also upset that his intellect makes her feel inferior. They part ways. Charlie takes to walking around at night to search for himself. He meets a woman in Central Park with whom he nearly has a one-night stand. She, at the last moment, however, reveals that she is pregnant. When Charlie is disgusted with her desire to have sex while she is pregnant, she screams that he tried to rape her. Charlie runs and hides until nearby pursuers have gone.


This entry takes place from June 5-8. During Charlie’s strained relationship with Nemur, Strauss reminds Charlie that Charlie needs to write so that people will understand him. Charlie finds it ironic that he is now on the other side of the intellectual barrier. This raises the important point that the intellectual barrier goes both ways, and extreme intelligence (or extreme education) can be as much a driving factor of alienation as the opposite.

After a memory brought up by a dream, one concerning the image of a window, Charlie is hopeful about how one day he will be able to “explore not only the sum of my past experiences, but also all of the untapped faculties of the mind” (88). He realizes that he, as a person, is not only the sum of his past experiences, but also the abilities of his mind to create, explore, and expand. Therefore, he is the not only the sum of the past, but also made of the possibilities of the future.

When Charlie and Alice argue after he visits her, and they realize that he has surpassed her so that she feels inferior conversing with him, Charlie describes her crying: “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). Here Charlie describes the intelligence barrier as ice, and the ether of high IQ as the “open sea.” While he uses the metaphor of the ocean as a way to convey the endless bounds of the mind, and the seemingly infinite expanses of genius, it is also a dangerous metaphor. As discussed before, the sea is a powerful force of nature, and nature often acts as a counter against the mind (especially the artificially enhanced mind). Just as easily as Charlie’s mind is being swiftly swept into the sea, it can just as easily be swept elsewhere or back out.