Presentation on theme: "Flowers for Algernon A Short Story by Daniel Keyes."— Presentation transcript:
Flowers for Algernon A Short Story by Daniel Keyes
Background Information Flowers for Algernon is a science fiction short story and subsequent novel written by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1960. The novel was published in 1966 and was joint winner of that year's Nebula Award for Best Novel(with Babel-17). Algernon is a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence by artificial means. The story is told as a series of progress reports written by Charlie, the first human test subject for the surgery, and touches upon many different ethical and moral themes such as the treatment of the mentally disabled. Although the book has often been challenged for removal from libraries in the US and Canada, sometimes successfully, it is regularly taught in schools around the world and has been adapted numerous times for television, theatre, radio and as the Academy Award winning film Charly.
Idea Behind the Story The ideas for Flowers for Algernon developed over a period of 14 years and were inspired by numerous events in Keyes's life, starting in 1945 with Keyes's personal conflict with his parents who were pushing him through a pre-medical education in spite of his own desire to pursue a writing career. Keyes felt that his education was driving a wedge between him and his parents and this led him to wonder what would happen if it were possible to increase a persons intelligence. Another important moment came in 1957, while Keyes was teaching English to students with special needs; one student asked him if it would be possible to be put into a regular class if he worked hard and became smart. Different characters in the book were also based on events and people in Keyes's life. The character of Algernon was inspired by a university dissection class, while the name came from that of the poet Algernon Charles Swunburne. Nemur and Strauss, the scientists who develop the intelligence enhancing surgery in the story, were based on professors Keyes met while studying psychoanalysis in graduate school. In 1958, Keyes was approached by Galaxy Science Fiction magazine to write a story, at which point the different elements of Flowers for Algernon fell into place. On submitting the finished story to Galaxy, however, the editor suggested changing the ending so that Charlie retained his intelligence, married Alice, and lived happily ever after. Keyes refused to make the change and sold the story to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction instead. Keyes worked on the expanded novel between 1962 and 1965 and first tried to sell it to Doubleday, but they also wanted to change the ending. Again, Keyes refused and gave Doubleday back their advance. Five different publishers rejected the story over the course of a year until it was taken on and published by Harcourt in 1966.
Preview Charlie Gordon is a man with low mental ability. A kind teacher recommends that he undergo an operation that has already tripled the intelligence of a white mouse. Charlies doctors ask Charlie to write progress reports that would show the changes in his intelligence.
Synopsis The story is told through a series of journal entries written by the story's protagonist, Charlie Gordon, a man with an IQ of 68 (average IQ is 100)who works a menial job. He is selected to undergo an experimental surgical technique to increase his intelligence. The technique has already been successfully tested on Algernon, a laboratory mouse. The surgery on Charlie is also a success and his IQ triples. Charlie falls in love with his former teacher, Miss Kinnian, but as his intelligence increases, he surpasses her intellectually and they become unable to relate to each other. Also, his new intelligence scares his co- workers at his job; they start a petition to have him fired and, when Charlie finds out about it, he quits. As Charlie's intelligence peaks, Algernon suddenly declines losing his increased intelligence and dying shortly afterward. Charlie discovers that his intelligence increase is also only temporary. Unable to do anything to prevent the change, Charlie ultimately reverts to his original mental state in a swift reversal of his original growth. He tries to return to his original life and job but cannot stand everyone feeling sorry for him so he decides to move away. His last wish before he leaves is that someone put flowers on Algernon's grave.
Themes Important themes in Flowers for Algernon include: 1)The treatment of the mentally disabled 2)The conflict between intellect and emotion or happiness 3)How events in the past can influence a person later in life.
Style Both the novel and the short story are written in an epistolary style (literary device that is constructed in the form of a series of letters or journal entries), collecting together Charlie's personal "progress reports" from a few days before the operation until his final regression. Initially, the reports are full of spelling errors and awkwardly constructed sentences. Following the operation, however, the first signs of Charlie's increased intelligence are his improved accuracy in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and his word choice. Charlie's regression is conveyed by the loss of these skills.
Main Characters Charlie Gordon is the novel's main character. He is a 32-year-old janitor employed at a bakery. At the beginning of the novel, Charlie has a very low IQ but attends remedial night classes for reading and writing at Beekman School for Retarded Adults, part of Beekman University in New York. He attends the classes because he has always had a desire to learn. Though he is of limited intelligence, Charlie is a hard-working, honest man. He lives on his own and feels that he has true friends at the bakery. Unfortunately, he is gullible and is frequently the butt of jokes by his co-workers. Charlie agrees to participate in an intelligence-enhancing experiment and undergoes an operation. The procedure dramatically increases Charlie's intelligence, tripling his IQ. As a result, he experiences a tremendous change in his intellectual ability. At the same time his emotional and personal life are also radically transformed, causing him much mental pain and anguish. Unfortunately, the procedure's effect is not permanent, and Charlie eventually regresses to his original state of mind. Rose Gordon is Charlie's mother. For the first few years of Charlie's life, she desperately wants to see her son as normal and steadfastly defends him. She takes Charlie to numerous doctors in an attempt to improve his mental ability. However, when Norma, Charlie's sister, is born, Rose's position reverses; she begins to distrust and to even dislike her son. She eventually forces her husband to remove Charlie from their home and remand him to the care of the Warren Home. Matt Gordon is Charlie's father. Matt is more realistic than Rose about Charlie's abilities and is more comfortable with Charlie as he is. In the beginning of the novel Matt is a salesman of barber shop supplies. He eventually leaves Rose and Norma and opens his own barber shop. He does not recognize Charlie when Charlie returns to visit him. Norma Gordon is Charlie's younger sister. Other children tease her about Charlie; as a result, she develops a strong dislike of him. When Charlie visits his mother and sister late in the experiment, Norma is shocked, stating that Rose informed her that Charlie had died years ago at the Warren Home. Norma tells Charlie that she would welcome his return to the family.
Main Characters Algernon is a mouse that earlier underwent the same operation as Charlie. Algernon becomes an expert at running highly complex mazes. Charlie competes with Algernon in maze races. As the experiment progresses, Algernon's demeanor becomes unpredictable and aggressive. This signals a problem with the experiment. Eventually, Algernon's abilities radically regress, and he dies. Charlie comes to love the mouse and buries Algernon in his backyard, often placing flowers on the mouse's grave. Mr. Donner is Charlie's boss and the owner of Donner's Bakery. He hires Charlie at the request of Charlie's Uncle Herman, promising that as long as he lives Charlie will have a job. Donner believes in Charlie, but eventually dismisses him at the request of his other employees. Gimpy, Joe Carp, and Frank Reilly are Charlie's co-workers at the bakery. Initially, these men delight in playing pranks on and making fun of Charlie. They resent the more intelligent Charlie when he returns to his job after the operation and eventually get Charlie fired. However, at the end of the novel, when Charlie's intellectual level has dramatically receded and he returns to the bakery, they defend and vow to protect him. Dr. Guarino is a doctor who Charlie is taken to at his mother's insistence. Guarino claims he can enhance Charlie's intelligence with a procedure that involves strapping Charlie to a table and subjecting him to a visual/auditory stimulus device. Charlie later comes to view Guarino as a charlatan (person who makes elaborate, or fraudulent claims to skill or knowledge; a quack or fraud).
Main Characters Uncle Herman is Charlies uncle who is overweight and a house painter. He is responsible for getting Charlie discharged from the Warren Home and for getting him the job at Donner's Bakery. Hilda is Charlie's first nurse after his operation. She suggests that perhaps the operation should not have been performed because it was tampering with God's will. Miss Alice Kinnian is Charlie's teacher at Beekman School for Retarded Adults, where Charlie attends remedial night classes in reading and writing. She develops a close personal relationship with Charlie and eventually falls in love with him. Miss Kinnian enjoys their relationship in the initial stages of Charlie's intellectual rising, but feels alienated when his intelligence surpasses her own. Though they become estranged, she returns to take care of Charlie when his intelligence eventually declines. Fay Lillman is Charlie's artistic neighbor at his second apartment in Times Square. She is a painter, and Charlie finds her attractive. They engage in a whirlwind romance predicated on nightly drinking and dancing in local clubs. As Charlie's time runs out, he tires of the routine and spends less and less time with her. Charlie attempts to reconnect with Fay when his intelligence begins to recede, but she is frightened of him.
Main Characters Bertha Nemur is Professor Nemur's overbearing wife. She has played a large role in her husband's career and is responsible for procuring the funding for the experiment from the Welberg Foundation. Professor Harold Nemur is a psychology professor at Beekman University and is the senior scientist in the experiment. Nemur is somewhat insecure personally and professionally, and he enjoys taking credit for Charlie's enhanced intelligence. He usually treats Charlie more as a test subject than an individual human being. Burt Selden is a graduate student majoring in psychology at Beekman University. He administers various tests to Charlie throughout the experiment. Selden seems to genuinely care about Charlie as an individual. Dr. Jay Strauss is a psychiatrist and neurosurgeon at Beekman University. He is a colleague of Professor Nemur and is co-director of the experiment. He performs the operation on Charlie and also psychoanalyzes Charlie throughout the experiment.
Flowers for Algernon VOCABULARY
Absurd Adj Completely stupid or unreasonable The mans mullet was absurd.
Introspective Adj tending to think deeply about your own thoughts, feelings, or behavior The eighth grader sat alone and was very deep and introspective.
Proportional Adj In the correct or most suitable relationship to it in size, amount, importance The mans head was not proportional to his body.
Shrew Noun an unpleasant woman who always argues and disagrees with people The mean old woman down the street was a shrew.
Syndrome Noun an illness which consists of a set of physical or mental problems Stockholm Syndrome is when a person who is kidnapped shows loyalty to the kidnapper.
Naïveté Adj not having much experience of how complicated life is The country bumpkin showed his naiveté when he went to the big city.
Regression Noun the act of returning to an earlier condition that is worse or less developed The boy regressed when his little sister was born.
Specialization Noun limiting ones interests or activities to one particular subject The doctors specialization was feet.
Tangible Adj clear enough to be easily seen or noticed There is no tangible evidence of Caseys guilt.
Hypothesis Noun Idea or guess about something that has yet to be proven The idea that Sasquatch is real is only a hypothesis.
Impair Verb to damage something or make it not as good as it should be The illness had impaired his ability to think and concentrate.
Opportunist Noun someone who uses every opportunity to gain power, money, or unfair advantages The dishonest kid was an opportunist.
Sensation Noun a feeling that you get from one of your five senses, especially the sense of touch One sign of a heart attack is a tingling sensation in the left arm.
Statistic Noun A set of numbers which represent facts or measurements Statistics show that 50% of new businesses fail in their first year.
Vacuous Adj showing no intelligence or having no useful purpose The kids vacuous expression showed he wasnt very bright.