Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon Summary and Analysis of Progress Report 16


Charlie visits Warren State Home. He is given a tour with the head psychologist Mr. Winslow. He is explained that Warren is not a prison. Thelma, a house-supervisor for some of the young boys at Warren, appears during this tour, as well as the principal of the school connected with Warren State Home. Charlie’s visit ends badly, with Mr. Winslow expressing how there are not many people willing to do the hard work that the psychiatric facility requires, thinking that Charlie does not understand how it feels to have to take care of severely mentally impaired people. Charlie realizes that Warren is a place of waiting, and cannot stand it. Algernon, also, has given up on running the maze and lost general motivation. Charlie realizes he needs to cut down on going out with Fay and drinking.

Alice visits Charlie, and she and Fay end up meeting. The encounter goes well, despite Charlie’s initial fears. Charlie tells Alice that he is involved with Fay but does not love her, and that Alice is the only woman he has ever loved. Alice tells him to cut down on the drinking. Charlie is working faster and more prolifically now. He has a cot moved into the lab, realizing that spending time with Fay wastes his time now. Fay gets a new boyfriend. Algernon makes mistakes running in the maze, and when he does, he eventually gives up and reacts violently. Charlie wants to work to figure out the reason for this regression.

Charlie feels at the peak of his physical and mental state during these days and he works furiously to explain the mental regression of Algernon (and soon of himself). On August 11, he takes a break and goes to Mrs. Nemur’s cocktail party, thrown in honor of two men on the Welberg Foundation board. Charlie goes with the intention of being friendly, but soon gets into an argument with the sharp-tongued Mrs. Nemur, and then with board member Mr. Raynor. Nemur comes over and argues with Charlie. Nemur says that Charlie has become an arrogant and selfish young man, while Charlie protests against Nemur’s treatment of him as a guinea pig for his experiment. Charlie gets drunk and speaks to his “old self” in the mirror.

The answer to the problem comes to Charlie, and he writes a letter to Professor Nemur, the Welberg Board, and Dr. Strauss. He explains what he calls the Algernon-Gordon Effect, which hypothesizes, “Artificially induced intelligence deteriorates at a rate of time directly proportional to the quantity of the increase” (195). He prepares for his inevitable regression, and finds himself becoming generally more absent-minded. Algernon dies on September 15.

Charlie visits Rose and Norma on September 24. He sees his mother wiping the glass outside the house, and finds himself unable to approach her with the eloquence he had planned. Instead, he scares her back in the house, and has to break in and tell her he is not going to hurt her. When he gets in the house, he finds that she shows signs of dementia. Furthermore, she is still in shock and disbelief that Charlie has become who he has. Norma comes home and she and Charlie talk about their memories. Norma says that living with Rose has been terrible, and they really need someone to help support them. She is apologetic and ashamed of the way she used to treat Charlie as a child. Charlie says that he cannot stay and help them, but will send them money. Rose, out of her mind, sees Charlie and Norma close together, and thinks Charlie is threatening Norma. Rose picks up the kitchen knife and points it at Charlie, just like she did the night he was sent out of the house.


This entry takes place from July 14-September 27. Charlie describes his visit to Warren State Home as somewhat like seeing his coffin before he will be put in it, but he still wants to know about the feel of the place and the people who work there. In dramatic irony, Mr. Winslow is just short of accusing Charlie of not understanding how to work with mentally impaired people, when Charlie not only knows all about it on an intellectual level, but also on a personal level.

Charlie works around the clock to discover the answer to the questions about his and Algernon’s regression. He says, “Time assumes another dimension now… The only real things are the cages and the mice the lab equipment here on the fourth floor of the main building” (182). Again, time seems to have a quality of either making things real or eliminating them from reality. The subjective view of the individual works together with the passage of time to determine what is real and what is not. This has been the same phenomenon with Charlie’s memories. Charlie’s work is fueled by the knowledge that he can help others in the future. Indirectly, he makes a Christ reference concerning himself when he says, “Whatever happens to me, I will have lived a thousand normal lives by what I might add to others not yet born” (184).

During the party, Charlie delivers another statement which acts as a thesis of the story: “Here in your university, intelligence, education, knowledge have all become great idols. But I know now there’s one thing you’ve all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn’t been tempered by human affection isn’t worth a damn” (191). This is a conclusion that all of Charlie’s personal life has been working towards until this point. It also again returns to the question of who holds authority, and what role does a God, or multiple gods, play in the role of a human life. Charlie recognizes that people can hold false idols, and suggests that human affection is one of the true gods. He further expounds this point: “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” (191). While he presents this as a hypothesis, it reads rather like a conclusion. Charlie has experienced much of this himself, and thus he has empirical evidence, to some degree, to back up these statements.

With emotion now playing such an important role, and emotion as something that is not quantifiable or as directly measurable as IQ, Charlie now recognizes the importance of relativism. “Who’s to say that my light is better than your darkness? Who’s to say that death is better than your darkness?” (193), he asks. This is another (first oblique, and then explicit) reference to Plato’s "Allegory of the Cave" with its distinct levels of darkness/light and advancement.

Charlie’s visit to his mother and his sister results in him crying afterwards, but also resolves his personal issues involving his sexuality. It liberates him from his panic attacks when he wants to make love to someone he truly does love. There is something incredibly Oedipal about how a son visiting his mother solves sexual problems, and yet Charlie’s mental-sexual issues also involve his sister, and how his mother was always afraid Charlie would harm Norma sexually. The window through which Charlie always sees young Charlie watching from becomes a thing of the past. Instead of being someone who only watches, Charlie now participates in life. At the same time, the clearness and directness of the window reminds Charlie that the past is always there, and one look brings back all of the memories it holds.