Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon Summary and Analysis of Progress Report 9


Charlie starts a new job in the bakery working the dough mixer when Oliver, the old mixer, quits. His coworkers try to play an April Fool’s joke on him by making him work the mixer, but Charlie works it successfully, and even better than Oliver did. This angers his coworkers, who have already begun to suspect that he is getting smarter. Alice Kinnian tells Charlie that he is learning very quickly. Charlie learns to use punctuation. Then he reads a grammar book, understands it, and his writing errors clear up on April 8.

Charlie begins to understand now that his “friends” at the bakery might be laughing at him in a mean way. They take him to a party and aggressively set him up with a girl, Ellen, and then make fun of him when he is uncertain of what to do or how to feel. He has a wet dream and feels badly about it, and tells Dr. Strauss, who assures him that things are alright. Charlie becomes cognizant of becoming smarter. He stops going to work at the bakery because of how hollow he feels about his “friends” making fun of him. More and more memories come back to him.

He has a nightmare which causes him to remember how he had to transfer schools because of a girl named Harriet, and how the boys in his class tricked him by writing a dirty note to her on behalf of him. Charlie was beat up by Harriet’s older brothers.

Charlie is asked to take a Rorschach test again, and becomes furious when he realizes that there were never any pictures hidden inside the inkblots. He listens to tapes of himself from the past, and is stunned to realize that he once sounded like that. He becomes wary about writing down all his full thoughts when he knows that the researchers will read them, and wonders about how this realization never bothered him before.


This progress report is the longest thus far, and takes place from April 1-18. Charlie’s actions show his intellectual growth more than his diary entries. He is able to work the dough mixer before he learns proper grammar. He doesn’t fully understand the “joke that backfired” (29) on Joe and Frank yet, but he realizes that his coworkers, like Professor Nemur, do not like being “laughed at” by other people. Through associative memory, when he sees Miss Kinnian, Charlie remembers his mother bringing back Norma, and how Rose beat Charlie when he tried to pick the baby up. The thought of women always brings Charlie back to his mother and his sister.

On April 6, Charlie learns to use the comma, and this entry reflects in “real story time” his excitement at learning about this punctuation; the entry is dotted with excessive commas. On April 7, Charlie learns the rest of the punctuation symbols, and uses these incorrectly and excessively as well. On April 8, Charlie calls himself a “dope” for the first time and says that he’s read Alice’s grammar book and understands now how to properly write (at least, in terms of mechanics). His ability to soak up information has also increased significantly, as he just read the grammar book last night and has already learned to apply everything the next day.

After the pain of the party and his coworkers’ abuse, Charlie is told by Dr. Strauss a line which could be a thesis of the story: “The more intelligent you become the more problems you’ll have, Charlie” (36). Specifically, in Charlie’s case, this is because his “intellectual growth is going to outstrip [his] emotional growth” (36). He is still a boy when it comes to women. It does not help that all of his past experiences with girls and women have been largely negative, including an incident with a girl named Harriet in elementary school.

When Charlie is asked to take the Rorschach test again, he demonstrates his now developing ability to question authority. He also begins to become suspicious of elemental human motivations, both of himself and others. He asks, “How could they know I wasn’t making fools of them by saying things I didn’t really imagine?” (45). This provocative question recalls that “being a fool” is a large theme in the story. Now, Charlie realizes that he can also make fools of others, and that perhaps he is not the only fool in the world.