Discussion Prompts: Flowers for Algernon

So, let’s get the Flowers for Algernon juices flowing with a couple of discussion prompts from Charlie’s Progress Reports (PR) 1-13.

The only thing I ask is: No spoilers, please.

P1: Did Keyes’ use of spelling and grammatical distracting and does it help or hinder the story?

A1: In the beginning I was a bit overwhelmed with Keyes writing and found it a distraction, but I chalked that up to being an English Lit major and former 9th grade English teacher. I wanted to take a red pen to it and make corrections. However, as I read kept reading the spelling and grammatical errors fell to the background. I still noticed them though.

Those errors helped me get a sense of Charlie’s voice. His mental capacity and mental age vs. physical age.

P2: Are there any passages that strike you as insightful or profound? Why?

A2: There were several quotes that struck me as insightful or profound.

I want to be smart. (Charlie)

The only thing I could think of when I read this was, ‘who doesn’t want to be smart?’ It’s just one of those things. You want fit in and the best way to fit in with the masses is to be, for Charlie, smart — of normal intelligence for the rest us.

We who have worked on this project at Beekman University have the satisfaction of knowing we have taken one of nature’s mistakes and by our new techniques created a superior human being. When Charlie came to us he was outside of society, alone in a great city without friends or relatives to care about him, without the mental equipment to live a normal life. No past, no contact with the present, no hope for the future. It might be said that Charlie Gordon did not really exist before this experiment (Professor Nemur 161).

When I read this passage, I was absolutely floored. It’s bad enough that I didn’t like Professor Nemur to begin with, but this . . . Charlie was living a normal life — his normal, not Professor Nemur’s or Dr. Strauss’ or Burt’s or Alice’s. His. And he was doing quite well at it.

I already had a feeling that Professor Nemur had a God or hero complex and this statement sealed the deal for me.

I have a lot more to say, but let’s hear from you. What are your thoughts on the discussion prompts or let us know you think about Flowers for Algernon in general? If you have any questions you’d like to pose for discussion, please feel free.

happy reading

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