Flowers For Algernon

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Algernon is a mouse. He’s a special mouse, Charlie Gordon

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is told, and it must be true, because whenever Charlie and

Algernon run a race (Algernon is in a real maze; Charlie has a

pencil-and-paper version), Algernon wins. How did that mouse

get to be so special, Charlie wonders?

The answer is that Algernon’s IQ has been

tripled by an experimental surgical procedure.

The scientists who performed the experiment

now need a human subject to test, and Charlie

has been recommended to them by his

night-school teacher, Miss Kinnian. Charlie’s a good candidate

for the procedure, because even though he currently has an I.Q.

of only 68, he is willing, highly motivated and eager to learn.

He’s convinced that if he could only learn to read and write, the

secret of being smart would be revealed to him.

Charlie wants to be smart because he works as a janitor in a

factory where he has many friends, but even as he goes along

with their hijinks, he suspects his friends mock him. The

opportunity to be made smart–really smart–is irresistible, even

though there’s a chance that the results of the operation will only

be temporary. Because Charlie wants his co-workers to accept


And therein lies the tale. Charlie does indeed get smarter. He

struggles to absorb as much knowledge as he can in whatever

time he has. He suggests a new way to line up the machines at

the factory, saving the owner tens of thousands of dollars a year

in operating costs, and the owner gives him a $25 bonus. But

when Charlie suggests to his factory friends that he could use his

bonus to treat them to lunch or a drink, they have other things to

do. Charlie’s too smart for them now. He’s even smart enough

to assist with the research on intelligence enhancement. He’s

smart enough to suddenly perceive Miss Kinnian with new

eyes…and fall in love.

Everybody is Charlie

Flowers for Algernon is such a beloved classic that it has

remained in print since 1959 and is now in its 58th edition. It has

received science fiction’s highest honors, the Hugo and Nebula

Awards. It’s been translated into dozens of languages, adapted

for TV, and performed on stage. Cliff Robertson won an Oscar

for his performance in the 1968 movie version, Charly.

Everybody loves Charlie’s story because Charlie is so

vulnerable, so representative of readers’ internal desires to fit in,

to be smart, to have friends, to love. Everyone carries the

ancient baggage of childhood, a time when others (adults, older

children) were the keepers of the secret knowledge of the

world. The revelation of Charlie’s raw hopes and dreams

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