Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon Summary and Analysis of Progress Report 13


Charlie is about to fly to the Psychological Convention in Chicago. For the sake of speed, he now uses a recorder to take down his Progress Reports, and then a stenographer transcribes the recordings. His thoughts about airplanes remind him of a memory in which his parents took him to a Dr. Guarino, who claimed that he could rid Charlie of his mental illness. Dr. Guarino is a fake, and pretends to use a machine (which sounds like an airplane) to conduct shock therapy on Charlie that will supposedly cure him; he lies to the child so that he can continue taking Charlie’s parents’ money.

Charlie and the researchers arrive in Chicago. There is a hotel mix-up and so for the first night, they stay in a less elitist hotel. There they have a chance to interact with some of the younger psychologists and psychiatrists. Charlie finds out from these interactions that Nemur does not know much else outside of his limited field of knowledge (and also does not speak many other languages — at least not compared to Charlie, who now speaks languages across continents, and also reads material quickly, so that he is more knowledgeable in Nemur’s field, currently, than the old psychologist himself). Charlie is unimpressed with the research that the other psychologists have been doing, feeling as though they are focusing on narrower and narrower subjects. When the time comes for Nemur to present his research, Charlie becomes too offended by the way Nemur discusses him as though he were not a human before the procedure. Charlie releases Algernon from his cage as retaliation. The whole convention goes berserk, all the while searching for the mouse. Charlie finds Algernon, puts him in his pocket, and flies out of Chicago back to New York. Charlie has realized, during Burt’s presentation about Algernon’s increasingly erratic behavior, that their enhanced intelligences are temporary and that soon, his will deteriorate like Algernon’s.


This entry takes place from June 10-11. While this Progress Report covers a very short amount of time, it is long because of how much Charlie contemplates about his current situation. This entry shows Charlie at his pinnacle of intelligence. As he gets on the airplane, he says, “The idea of going up into the air terrifies me… Brings to mind those discussions about God” (102). The idea of going up into the air can actually be read as a metaphor for Charlie’s going up in levels of intelligence, and how its artificiality naturally brings to mind the question of God, and how man might be tampering with God and God’s nature.

His memories about Dr. Guarino poses Charlie, explicitly, as a possible Christ figure. His father says, “When you’ve got a child like him it’s a cross, and you bear it, and love it” (110). Not only was Charlie a burden to his parents, but now he acts as a martyr for humankind, being a “sinless” and innocent man, taking on this experiment so that others in the future can have “new lives.”

Concerning Nemur, Charlie asks, “How can I make him understand that he did not create me?” (112), again evoking the feeling that Nemur has been playing God. When Nemur is asked a question from a younger psychologist, he is excited, and Charlie notes that this was the “chance he [Nemur] had been waiting for to show his authority” (113). During the entire conference, Charlie’s thoughts are swirling and confusing, although the way he relates the narrative is still clear. He leaves the party because he cannot stand the way Nemur and Strauss are acting. He says, “They had pretended to be geniuses. But they were just ordinary men working blindly, pretending to be able to bring light into darkness. Why is it that everyone lies? No one I know is what he appears to be” (116). This mass of thoughts brings the discussion to another central theme of the book: truth and the search for truth. The goal for increased intelligence is to discover something more about humanity, and to ultimately discover the truth. The goal for natural scientists, such as Nemur and Strauss, as well as philosophers such as Plato, is to discover and attain this truth. In fact, Charlie’s choice of words is a reference to Plato’s "Allegory of the Cave," a story which comes up in his treatise Republic. This same "Allegory of the Cave" is quoted in the excerpt at the beginning of the book, setting up a paradigm through which to view the entire story. Charlie soon learns that he will not be in the light for long, that the effects of this experiment will soon fade away, and that he will regress back into the darkness of the cave. As a result, he decides to pursue what he can while still in these upper, enlightened levels.