Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

May 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

I wanted to know more about Algernon.

That was my initial reaction, right after I finished reading the book. While Flowers for Algernon is not really a book about the said Algernon, and I can certainly appreciate it, nonetheless I found myself wondering, so what was Algernon thinking all this while?

Granted, Algernon is a lab rat (to put in crude terms), and really, in real life, lab rats are only ever mentioned when there is a point to prove. So what makes me think that it would be different in this book?

Flowers for Algernon is actually a book about Charlie Gordon, who becomes closely tied to this lab rat Algernon. Their fates were sort of intertwined with one another – what happens to Algernon could potentially happen to Charlie too. And for the life of me, I don’t understand why I wanted to read more about Algernon, than I wanted to about Charlie.

But in a way, I think Keyes did manage to present the story in such a way that, after having a silent moment or two, I figured out that whatever was going through Charlie’s mind, must have gone through Algernon’s mind too. And that got me thinking.

Algernon was merely a lab rat, an object that experiments were carried out on. And the minute I linked Charlie’s feelings and emotions into Algernon’s little figure, I found a little sadness in me. Like some part of my heart just sank to the ground.

Of course, Charlie’s story was heartbreaking in itself, but for some reason, I found myself less attached to him. He had people who he cared for, who cared for him, and who were there for him when he needed them. Not all of the time, of course, but at least he had people.

Algernon didn’t have anyone. Or anything. And that’s what makes me sad.

What gives us the right to use animals in experiments in which we have no idea what would happen? What makes us think that animals like Algernon do not go through the same heart-breaking emotions that we do?

What was it like for Algernon to have to learn to solve problems in order to get his meal? What would it be like for us to stare up and see only walls after walls of a maze, and know that there is food on the other side, only if you can find your way out?

Unlike what it was like for Charlie, who had wanted to get smarter, how about Algernon? Was Algernon just a regular rat who wanted to life a regular life? Did Algernon actively seek to be smarter? Did Algernon really want to increase his intelligence? Or was he made to have his intelligence increased by force, for the purpose of an experiment that would bring about development in the human world?

*

The story was moving, but I probably read it differently from most others. It’s not that I didn’t care for Charlie, I just cared less than I would have normally. Maybe it was because Algernon had a name. Maybe it was because Algernon had so many reactions that mirror us humans, that it’s just impossible not to think of him the same way I would Charlie.

Only Algernon wasn’t thought of, or about, most of the time. And that’s what makes me saddest of all.

The ending line was fitting:

P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.

 

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§ One Response to Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

  • Kristen M. says:

    This is one that I want to reread because we read it in the 8th grade (which was a very long time ago) and I’m sure I would get something completely different out of it now. I’m actually surprised to see it still being read!

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