The Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon Essay
A poignant, unsettling tale is the novel, Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes. Charlie, a mentally retarded man, is given the opportunity to undergo the same surgery that Algernon, the mouse has had that increased his intelligence in the “mouse world” of research. Charlie’s writings of his transformation to a mental genius and back again the form plot of this story. During his transformations, Charlie is able to recall and understand the treatment he received at the hands of others, especially his mother, and his attempts to correct everyone’s perceptions of him tend to fail, until he returns to his old self again. Then, for example, his fellow employees at the bakery are ready to accept him again. Charlie’s sojourn into love and sex also provide him experiences that finally allow an understanding of his inability to relate in a sexual way with Alice and a romantic way with Fay.
In many respects this is a novel of a man who finds himself only to lose himself again. And in his despair over the failure of the experiment and the death of Algernon, Charlie sees what lies before him before he descends back into his world of mental retardation. This realization causes him to retreat from the world, as he checks himself into a home for mentally disabled adults.
Finding Topics for a Flowers for Algernon Essay
No one can read this novel without an emotional response. While we all root for Charlie, the inevitable failure of the experiment dooms him to his original state, and we all hope that he will at least be able to remember some of the marvelous experiences he had as the “smart” one. But, Daniel Keyes was saying much more in this book. Here are some topic ideas for an essay:
- What does Charlie learn from Fay?
- What is the significance of Charlie’s flashbacks? Do they assist him in his ultimate understanding of his world?
- Is Charlie the same at the end of the novel as he was in the beginning? Why or why not?
- Compare Charlie’s plight with the plight of the mentally handicapped in the real world today? How do we continue to treat those with mental disabilities?
- Nemur and Fay can be seen as extremes of intellect and emotion. Who is happier?
- There is a famous saying, “We are all victims of our past.” How has this held true for Charlie, especially in terms of his relationship with Alice?
- Contrast the characters of Alice and Fay? Which woman taught Charlie more, or was it just different?
- Contrast the personalities and goals of the two researchers.
Each of these Flowers for Algernon essay questions would make an excellent essay. You may be able to think of more after reading this list, but his wil give you a start.