“Flowers for Algernon” tells the story of Charlie, who is a mentally challenged man and the subject of a scientific experiment. Charlie lives with his pet mouse, Algernon. The mouse is subjected to a modification of its brain which makes it very intelligent. The scientists responsible for the operation later perform the same operation on Charlie. From an IQ of 68, his intelligence triples (Keyes, 10).
Charlie has always believed that, by being more intelligent he will be loved more, and he will have more friends. This is however not the case as he understands from his co-workers at the bakery. They are afraid of him in his new state, and lobby for his firing. They eventually get their way, but in the process offer Charlie a glimpse of life as an intelligent person. He understands that the people he thought were friends were actually not, but only people who wanted to make fun of him (Keyes, 32).
Charlie has also formed a relationship with his teacher. He treasures this relationship but soon learns that he has to give it away. His old self understands that he cannot go back to being mocked and pitied, especially by Alice. He therefore makes the decision to leave his old and new found live, and become institutionalised. Here, he is able to better understand the challenges that people like him go through (Keyes, 47).
The movie with the same title is derived from the book. While it has the same story line, it has subtle differences for the benefit of the audience. The most apparent of these is the ending, which in the book is really sad but has been made to have meaning in the movie to assuage viewers.
Keyes, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon. Oxford : Heinemann, 1959.