Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon Summary and Analysis of Progress Report 10


Charlie remembers how the different bakery workers treated him in the past. He decides to take Alice Kinnian to a movie, and as he is about to approach Nemur and Strauss about this idea, he overhears them arguing about how to present their research. Nemur insists that he has predicted correctly how the experiment will play out, and has already told the convention committee in Chicago that he will present the paper at a psychology convention soon. Strauss tells Nemur that it is too soon to know if the predictions are correct. Nemur says he is unafraid of “regression.” The two scientists call each other names, and Charlie realizes that they are just normal people, like himself.

Charlie dreams about his parents arguing, and his mother insisting that Charlie can and will “become normal.” He remembers their names: Rose and Matt.


Not only does Charlie remember events from the past, but he is also able to formulate reflections. When he remembers Gimpy and Frank trying to teach him how to make rolls, he thinks: “I never thought about it before, but that was a nice thing for him to do” (51), regarding Gimpy’s attempt at teaching and Gimpy finally giving him the promised reward of the medallion anyways. During the course of trying to teach Charlie how to make rolls, Frank comments that “it don’t stick” (50), concerning the information that is passed on to Charlie. Charlie, however, “wants it to stick” (50). This is a small incident which mirrors the larger arcs of the plot, and how Charlie’s enhanced intelligence will not stick despite his desire for it to.

On April 22, Charlie reflects that his increased intelligence has created resentment in his relationships, instead of the friendliness that he had envisioned would result from becoming smart. Even though he gets a raise, he says that “the pleasure is gone because the others resent me. In a way, I can’t blame them. They don’t understand what has happened to me, and I can’t tell them. People are not proud of me in the way I expected – not at all” (52). Charlie’s reflections and deeper understanding of the people around him, and their motivations, is again shown when he overhears Nemur and Strauss arguing. He goes out to walk around by himself to figure out why he was so frightened by their argument, and realizes, for himself, that it is because he “was seeing them clearly for the first time – not gods or even heroes, but just two men worried about getting something out of their work” (54). Even though Charlie realizes that Nemur and Strauss are not “gods” or “heroes,” the question remains whether or not these scientists have realized this about themselves. Nemur will continue to try to “play God” through the rest of the story, and often act towards Charlie in a manner implying a hero-complex.

When Charlie listens to the college students, he picks up proper names like: Shakespeare, Milton, Newton, Einstein, Freud, Plato, Hegel, Kant, and others. These names might not carry much significance in themselves; after all, they are simply great men in the Western tradition. However, many of these author’s works and their influences are featured in Flowers for Algernon. For example, the story begins with a quotation from a passage in Plato’s Republic. English playwright Shakespeare’s works, like this story, are known for the ways in which they attempt to illuminate a character’s true (or even self-deluded) motivations. English author Milton talks about the relationship between God and man and Satan, and religion features prominently in this story. Newton and Einstein were great natural scientists who made great leaps forward in history, although not always necessarily for the better. Freud’s influences are almost explicit; the great psychologist’s work in psychoanalysis are used in the ways the researchers assess Charlie. Furthermore, his considerations of the Oedipal complex, a strained relationship between mother and son, are demonstrated in Charlie’s relationship with Rose. Hegel, a German Romantic philosopher, wrote about the ways humans will try to achieve the sublime of perfection. Lastly, Kant was known for having an IQ of about 175, close to Charlie’s ultimate IQ of 185.

The college students also talk about how Shakespeare most likely did not write his plays because he never had the proper education to do so (54). These doubts are ones that are relevant to Charlie’s situation. Could an uneducated countryman really have written Shakespeare’s great plays? For those who cannot see Charlie’s improvements, and for those who are not aware of the experiment: could a nobody, a former janitor, really create the great works that the later Charlie (with an IQ of 185) does?