This past Saturday the I Read Banned & Challenged Books Club had it’s first book discussion and it was great.
My Thoughts on Flowers for Algernon
I have to ashamedly admit that I have never read Flowers for Algernon, until now. Not sure why. I’ve heard people talk about it and it’s been recommended reading from several friends. Perhaps I never read it because it’s classified as Sci-Fi and that’s not a genre I typically gravitate to or maybe it was because I didn’t want my heart strings tugged at because someone with an intellectual disability was being mistreated and abused. Whatever the reason, I hate it took me so long to read it.
I absolutely loved that Keyes chose to tell Charlie’s story thorough his Progress Reports. I didn’t think was going to enjoy that form of story telling, but I did and found myself much more vested in Charlie’s story. It was like reading the pages of someone’s diary. As I read I wanted to slap the tar out of some of the “normal” IQ people and give Charlie a great big hug, but then as Charlie’s personality began to change because of his increasing IQ, I wanted to slap the tar out of him. As Professor Nemur says,
We had no control over what happened to your personality, and you’ve developed from a likable, retarded young man into an arrogant, self-centered, antisocial bastard.
One of the things Charlie kept trying to impress upon Professor Nemur is that he was an individual, a human being and not just an experiment. Prior to Charlie having the surgery he had feelings, which got hurt but he wasn’t able to articulate it.
I’m an individual . . ., and so was Charlie before he ever walked into your lab. Suddenly we discover that I was always a person . . . and that challenges your belief that someone with an I.Q. of less than 100 doesn’t deserve consideration
When I read that I started to think that we as a societal whole still don’t really treat people with intellectual disabilities like their people. And they’re is still a negative stigma associated with their disability.
At the bakery Gimpy, Frank Reilly, and Joe Carp are in a sense Charlie’s friends. They tease him and make statements like that was a real Charlie Gordon, but then at the same time they defend him and protect him from others that pick on him.
Charlie’s father as far as I’m concerned was a colossal failure. Now granted compared to his wife, Rose, Matt was a saint. At least he was realistic about Charlie’s intellectual disability and didn’t want to push him to be something he couldn’t and wouldn’t be. However, Matt never stepped in to protect Charlie from Rose’s brutal beatings and when he did step up to tell Rose to stop pushing Charlie, she would berate him and he’d slither away.
Group Discussion Summary
Everyone has had their moments of being ostracized and deemed a social outcast, and for one group member Charlie’s plight brought back the memories and emotion of just that. She said:
even the geeks teased me. My friends were the teachers.
We questioned why there was such an emphasis on Charlie remembering the past and if the story arc really served any purpose other than to show the reader how shitty Charlie had it growing up or if it has direct bearing on who he is today — pre/post surgery. There was a lively discussion about lobotomies and I don’t remember how it came up
Questions I wanted to ask, but we ran out of time
1. Do you think the senility Charlie’s mother was suffering is payback
2. Is ignorance bliss? And is Charlie happiest before or after the surgery? (We started to touch on this but didn’t really get an opportunity.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on Flowers for Algernon.
- What did you think Keyes was trying to say about intelligence
- What’s the moral implications of doing something like what Charlie had done