Flowers for Algernon
by Daniel Keye
New York : Harcourt Brace, [199-], c1966.
Flowers for Algernon is no stranger in the world of books. Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Award, it probably sits on many on those “books to read before you die” kind of list. I concur wholeheartedly.
Algernon is a mouse, not just any mouse but a hyper-intelligent mouse with problem solving abilities and advance cognitive skills. But Algernon was not born that way. It became so because of a scientific experiment meant to increase intelligence by an operation to the brain.
Imagine what a breakthrough it can potentially be if such an experiment works on humans. Every parent whose child has a less than average I.Q. will now have the hope of bringing up a normal child. All the researchers need is to have a real human to experiment on, to show that it is possible to exponentially increase the I.Q. of a retarded person permanently.
Charlie is 32 years old with an I.Q. of 68. He wants desperately to be smart so that people will like him. He is the perfect candidate for the experiment. Charlie is put through the same operation as Algernon and soon proves the experiment to be a success. From an I.Q. of 68, he soon develops an I.Q in excess of 180, far more than the researchers who performed the operation on him. Old retarded Charlie is now genius Charlie, the ultimate lab specimen of a successful experiment.
All is well and good, save for Charlie’s struggle to have his E.Q. catch up with his I.Q. and his struggle between being a human and a lab specimen, UNTIL Algernon’s intelligence suddenly deteriorates drastically. Charlie realises that it would not be long until he too has to return to being retarded, worse now that he knows what it means… not unless he can use his own intelligence to find a cure.
Written in the form of a diary, Flowers for Algernon, explores the mind of Charlie, his mental thoughts and emotions as he grows from being ignorant to having a profound capacity for knowledge. Certainly the book explores moral issues and questions about what science can and should do, but at its heart, it is an immensely touching story about the struggle of boy given a chance to be something he is not and the realisation that some things are never meant to be. Flowers for Algernon is a book everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.
~ Contributed by Felicia Chan
Have you read these books? Do you have something else to recommend?
Post your comments, or send a longer book review to HBeditor@nlb.gov.sg