Does your IQ have anything to do with your number of friends? This is a key question explored in Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keys, as Charlie, the main character, investigates his relationships between friends and family. The characters and their reactions are a very important part of this tragic, brilliant, and heart warming novel about an experiment gone wrong. As Charlie’s IQ fluctuates, he learns that he still has problems in life, even though he is smart, a conclusion he doubted he would come to. Flowers for Algernon follows Charlie’s thought stream as he explores the world and the people of the smart.
Although Ralph Nelson’s movie version of Flowers for Algernon fully tells the core of the story and builds up on some of the major characters, the book gives it another dimension as it further explores and describes the characters and their worlds, which is what makes it so fantastic. Ralph Nelson’s version of Flowers for Algernon lacks some important scenes, but Nelson really focuses on and adds some scenes to emphasize Charlie’s interactions and relationships with the other major characters in the book. Nelson builds up the characters more than Daniel Keys does in his book.
For instance, there is a scene when Charlie and Alice, the love of Charlie’s life, meet up in the park when Charlie is on his downward streak, Charlie tells Alice to leave him, since he will soon not even remember who she was. This scene is not in the book. This scene really shows how much Charlie cares for Alice and how determined Alice is to keep Charlie hers and alive. This is an example of where Nelson added a scene to enhance the relationship between the reader, Charlie, and Alice and make the movie just that much more tragic.
Nelson also expands and inflates Alice’s anger with Charlie in the scene in the classroom. This adds to the emotional stress of the movie and makes you feel bad for the two of them, enlarging your bond with these characters. I like how Nelson did this to his movie because although Key’s book is more descriptive, Nelson’s movie makes you feel way more in touch with the characters. Oh sure, Nelson does sometimes stray off the books main topic, but I like how he enhances the story by adding another layer to Daniel Key’s original characters.
The book, Flowers for Algernon, really explores minor characters, the operation, and the college as Charlie starts learning new things. I remember that in the book, Charlie goes to a party and has a deep discussion and a slight disagreement about the operation with Professor Nemur’s wife. Not only did Nelson leave out many details about the operation, but he never even introduced Nemur’s wife. I thought this scene seemed pretty important on forming Charlie’s aspect on his life and deterioration, but Nelson obviously didn’t think this scene was very important, and it wasn’t included in the movie.
Professors Nemur and Strauss were also very important in the book, and you see them in the movie, but you don’t really get to know them. Nemurs distinct personality is not emphasized as much in the movie as it is in the book, and Nemur’s personality is one of the few humorous things in the tragic story, so I wish Nelson had further described Nemur. This is one of the biggest problems with the movie version of Flowers for Algernon. Nelson leaves out some key information on minor characters so he could zoom in and build up the major characters.
The most important character in Flowers for Algernon is also altered from the book to the movie. Charlie Gordon, the main character of Flowers for Algernon, is actually also the one who tells the story through his progress reports. This helped the reader really follow and connect with Charlie, a fun, lovable, and eager to fit in guy. In both the movie and the book, the reader sees Charlie’s IQ take a drastic leap up and then fall right back down. Oh sure, Nelson showed Charlie’s jump and fall, he had to, since it was the main plot and problem of the book, but he didn’t really emphasize Charlie’s feelings on the matter of the operation.
I wish that Nelson had further investigated and gotten to know Charlie, because he is one of my favorite characters. He is funny, nice, and forgiving. Charlie Gordon was a highlight in the book who would really enhance the movie. Next time you decide to not befriend a mentally disabled person just because they are different, remember that they just want to fit in, as Flowers for Algernon proves. Their IQ doesn’t affect their desire to have friends or their personality, so when you see a mentally disabled person, give them a high five. They just want to have friends and be treated like everyone else.