Shawn Lynch's Reviews > Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
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Oct 26, 2013

really liked it
Read on October 26, 2013

The beauty of Flowers for Algernon is found in the language used by the protagonist and narrator, Charlie. The progression of intelligence used in the writing, the peak of that language and the subsequent regression of the intelligent language used. Through this carefully orchestrated melody of words, we see the changes Charlie undergoes as he is a mentally handicapped janitor given the chance to become a genius through a scientific experiment and then his decline back down into a level of intelligence that leaves him unable to survive in the world he had come to know.

Personally, I found the book to be packed with Buddhist concepts and philosophy. From the focus on the interconnectedness of all living things (Charlie and Algernon, the mentally handicapped and geniuses), the absence of fear of death but the need to learn from life (Charlie's hallucination in the room with Strauss "I am afraid. Not of life, or death, or nothingness, but the wasting it as if I had never been.") and the desire to not cause suffering (never seeing Alice again after coming into her classroom).

We walk with Charlie as he discovers a range of human experiences that no one could dream of experiencing and he goes from what most would think of as a sad existence (ridiculed by "friends" as a janitor at a bakery) to one of high esteem (leading a research team studying the effects of artificial intelligence acceleration) and we see through Charlie's eyes how the desire for "normal" and "comfort" and "acceptance" are not the things that make us happy.

In the end, Charlie asks that someone remember to put flowers on Algernon's grave, because even though he had lost all that he had gained from being at the top, he knew that he and Algernon were the same.
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10/26/2013 marked as: currently-reading
10/26/2013 marked as: read

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