A Critique of Flowers for Algernon, a Short Story by Daniel Keyes

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You may fall further when being pulled up. This is exemplified in the science fiction short story “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. A mentally disabled man named Charlie is operated on by Dr, Strauss to make him not only smart but a genius‘ Charlie is aware that this experiment is the first of its kind and that it may be dangerous but no one knows what the side effects will be. The operation’s negative aspects largely outweighs its positives because of the frustration, and realizations it gives him. One negative effect of the operation is that Charlie finds out the people he thought were his friends actually think of him as a clown One day after a party Charlie writes, “its a funny thing I never knew that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me around all the time to make fun of me” Here Charlie has just left a party to throw up and go home after making a fool of himself only this time he was aware of it.

This is obviously negative because when someone loses all their friends, some morale leaves too The next day Charlie makes his shame clear by saying, “still didn’t go into the factory”. That was part of his progress report the next day. This shows that Charlie’s realization may cost him his happiness or at least his pride‘ Another set of negative events caused by the experiment are that he ends up losing all the knowledge he has fought to learn and he has a high chance of dying, Two or three weeks after his intelligence starts to regress he realizes that “most of the books I [he] have are too hard for me now. I [he] get[s] angry with them because I [he] know[s] that I [he] read and understood them just a few weeks ago”ю This is when Charlie explains that he has no more entertainment now that his special night learning tv is broken‘ This is quite sad for Charlie because even a small regression is very frustrating for anyone; and he has forgotten how to read

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and write in multiple languages over the course of just a few weeks. Charlie finds out that “Algernon died two days ago”. This makes him very sad for Algernon the mouse and he buries him in the backyard. This is bad news for Charlie too because Algernon had the same experiment done to him just a couple of weeks before Charlie meaning he might die too. The side effects of the operation like rapid mental degeneration and a chance of death neglect the use of the experiment because there is no point in being a dead genius or a genius’ living remnant All in all, the worst things caused by the operation are the loss of knowledge brought upon Charlie after just a few weeks of glory and the high probability of his death. This shows that sometimes pulling on the rope might only make it break.

In conclusion, “Flowers for Algernon” is a poignant and well-written story that raises important questions about the nature of intelligence, ethics of scientific experimentation, and relationships between intelligence and happiness. However, it has been subject to criticism for its portrayal of mental disability, its treatment of women, and its simplistic treatment of the ethical implications of scientific experimentation. Despite these criticisms, the story remains an important and enduring work of science fiction that continues to spark discussion and debate among readers.

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A Critique of Flowers for Algernon, a Short Story by Daniel Keyes. (2023, May 11). Retrieved from


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