Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
(Harcourt, 1994, 311 pages)
This classic text stands up each time I read it and I feel like I get something new out of it every time. I had to re-read Flowers for Algernon for a class that is discussing the text and while I wasn’t necessarily eager to read it again I quickly found myself sucked back in to the story.
Originally published as a short story this book follows Charlie, a man in his early 30s who is mentally disabled. He has always been motivated to try and learn so he can “be like other people” and it was because of this motivation that his teacher suggested him as a good candidate for an experiment at a local college aimed at increasing intelligence. After the surgery we see the changes in Charlie through the text of progress reports he submits to the professors in charge of the experiment.
There are more changes in Charlie than just what we see on the intellectual front. He is also tapping into his past and how his family affected him and led him to where he came to be in the present day. The book tackles a lot issues with an emphasis on humanity and respect. It’s a heart-breaking book and while there are dated aspects to it (and a few things that led me to raise my eyebrows) I think it’s a valuable text that prompts good reflection and discussion.