Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon Summary and Analysis of Progress Report 14


After escaping the convention, Charlie withdraws his savings in New York, checks into a hotel, and eventually rents out a furnished apartment. When he gets to New York, he finds that the papers have reported on him, with hints to the whereabouts of each member of his family. He meets the neighbor who lives across the hall from him in the apartment building, a free-spirited but open and honest artist named Fay. Her apartment and Charlie’s are connected by a mere fire escape, and both of them become attracted to each other. Charlie builds another maze for Algernon to run in.

Charlie decides to visit Matt. He finds his father’s barbershop, and comes in for a haircut and a shave. His father does not recognize him. Charlie begins to tell him about himself, but realizes that nothing will come of it, and leaves without revealing his identity. During the haircut and shave, he remembers how Rose cast him out to be institutionalized one night, and how she had a knife on the kitchen table, ready to hurt him if things did not go right.

Fay brings Algernon a companion — a female mouse named Minnie. One night, she comes home after dancing and drinking with a random man named Leroy. They go into Fay’s apartment, and Charlie feels a stab of jealousy. However, Fay soon casts Leroy out, saying that she did not want to sleep with him but he was too “hungry.” Fay and Charlie admit their mutual feelings for each other, but he suddenly feels the shift in perspective he felt before — he sees himself as a teenager watching him together with a woman — and is unable, again, to make love to Fay. Instead, they drink together; she gets him drunk on gin and when they wake up in the morning Fay says that he acted out a hilarious “moron act” when he was drunk. Charlie realizes that the old Charlie, the mentally disabled Charlie, is still with him, and comes out during moments like this.

Charlie goes on an anti-intellectual binge, watching trashy movies. He goes to a restaurant, where he sees the maltreatment of a mentally disabled boy. He is reminded of himself, yells out angrily in the restaurant against those making fun of the boy, and walks out without eating his food. He realizes, after this day, that he needs to stop being so concerned with himself, and wants to give back to others.

Charlie calls Alice and she comes over to his apartment. She is relieved because many people thought he was dead. They are close to making love again when Charlie again realizes he cannot. He tries to imagine that Alice’s body is Fay’s body, but this does not succeed, and he is disgusted with himself for trying such a method. After Alice leaves, Charlie decides that he is going to try again with Fay. This time, he succeeds, realizing that he never feels any fear or panic when he makes love to Fay because their relationship is purely physical. Charlie decides to finish all the projects he started before the convention. He eventually gives Fay a key to his place. Fay continues to take Charlie out drinking and dancing, but he also continues his studies, and even composes a piano concerto which he dedicates to her.

Algernon’s behavior begins to become erratic again and Minnie seems afraid of him. Finally, on July 9, Algernon bites Fay when she tries to play with him. They find Minnie bleeding through a gash on her chest. Charlie decides that he needs to call Nemur and Strauss.


This entry takes place from June 15-19. This Progress Report covers a great expanse of time and also a lot of Charlie’s changing thoughts and attitudes. He really develops his fullest sense of self in this entry, especially the realization that he wants to give back to others. After Charlie escapes back to New York, the first headline he reads about himself is "Moron-Genius and Mouse Go Berserk" (127). This headline, in its conciseness and ridiculousness, actually foreshadows the erratic behavior which comes before the mental degeneration already happening to Algernon and which will happen to Charlie. The newspaper also reaches out to his family, who did not even know he was alive. Memories about them come back to Charlie. He again comments on the difficulty of reconciling reality and memory, present and past: “Even as I try to get her [Rose] out of my mind, the memories seep back from the past to contaminate the here and now” (130).

When Charlie meets Fay Lillman, it is clear that she is not on his intellectual or education level, but she strikes him as the most open person he has ever met, as well as full of life and excitement. Despite Charlie’s alienating intellectual abilities, Fay also has a unique artist’s way of viewing the world. For example, she jokes that Algernon’s maze is a “sculpture with living element” and that his “work of art attains immortality” (138). This illuminates the issue of the general temporality of all lives — even the most intelligent will die one day, but the work that they made while living will be remembered. This is something Charlie understands and acts on during his short-lived intelligence.

When Charlie visits his father, he ultimately finds himself unable to reveal his identity. However, he does watch his father while Matt gives him the haircut, and realizes that he just wants more affirmation that he is a person. Telling Matt, and Matt recognizing Charlie as his son, would somehow make everything “real” (143).

While Charlie and Fay do not have a successful one-night stand the first time they try, Charlie learns a lot about himself after Fay tells him about his drunken behavior. He realizes that he has almost become a substitute for the old, mentally incapacitated Charlie. Furthermore, he is moved to once again search for himself among the audiences of trashy movies, realizing that he wants to give back to others. He realizes he needs human connection, which cannot come through increased intelligence. He always felt lacking in both human connection and intelligence, and so foolishly thought that by becoming smart, others would love him. He says, “In my mental blindness, I had believed it was somehow connected with the ability to read and write, and I was sure if I could get those skills I would have intelligence too. Even a feeble-minded man wants to be like other men… This day was good for me. I’ve got to stop this childish worrying about myself – my past and my future. Let me give something of myself to others” (153). Again regarding his older self, he considers that “Charlie Gordon exists in the past, and the past is real” (154). Despite the past being real, Charlie discovers that he can still shape this narrative of the past, and take control of who he is, at least for now. He ultimately is able to have sex with Fay, casting off the panic-inducing presence of the old Charlie.