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BANNED BOOKS GROUP READS > Flowers for Algernon General Discussion

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message 1: by Kelly H. (Maybedog), Big Kahuna, Ministry of Illicit Reading (new)

Kelly H. (Maybedog) (maybedog) | 623 comments Mod
This topic is for discussing Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I'm only creating one group because no one ever uses the first impressions groups when I create them.

message 2: by Kelly H. (Maybedog), Big Kahuna, Ministry of Illicit Reading (new)

Kelly H. (Maybedog) (maybedog) | 623 comments Mod
I have to say that this is one of my favorite books of all time. I've thought of it repeatedly over the years.

message 3: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 13 comments I read this one in high school. I remember reading it in one night. Unfortunately, when I do that, I don't retain the books very well. I remember thinking this book was "odd." Funny though, it's one of those books that often comes up in conversations.

message 4: by Satia (new)

Satia I am so excited to be rereading this book. I read it when I was nine. My son read it in high school and he still says that this is one of his favorite books. Even my husband, when he saw I was reading it said, "I read that for school and loved it."

You know, when two non-readers tell this book lover that they love a book she read when she was too young to really understand what she was reading . . . well, my enthusiasm is boundless. LOL!

I will say that although I very clearly remember the story including how it ends, the story is still compelling to read. Knowing what is to come hasn't detracted from the content in the least. I can see why my non-readers remember it fondly.

Has anyone seen the movie? I never have and I definitely want to see it although I suspect it won't measure up to the book.

message 5: by Julie (new)

Julie S. I read the short story in school, so a chance to read the expanded novel form was exciting. However, the novel, in my opinion, was not as good as than the short story. Maybe part of it was because I know the basic plot, but I think most of it was because it felt more clumsy.

Maybe this is not a popular opinion to have in a group about controversial books, but it felt almost like the author was including the more controversial stuff just for the sake of being "edgy." It felt more distracting.

I don't know if anyone else feels this way or if I am just randomly ranting, but I thought that I would throw that out there.

message 6: by Satia (new)

Satia Julie, I had never read the short story so I did a quick search and I found it online.

I'll read the short story after I finish rereading the novel. I am curious what "edgy" content was added. Thanks.

message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Vegan (lisavegan) I don't have time to reread this, but this book used to be a favorite and I reread it several times.

message 8: by Trisha (new)

Trisha I am excited that we will be reading this book! Not only is it on my lifetime reading list...but it is actually on my book shelf waiting to be read! I plan to start it this weekend :-)

message 9: by Mel (new)

Mel | 4 comments The short story was also required reading in my 7th or 8th grade English class and after reading and discussing the short story we watched the movie as class and discussed it in comparison to the short story. I never realized there was anything other than the short story but I've ended up referencing it in many a discussion and remember it being a favorite of my 7th or 8th grade year.

message 10: by Satia (new)

Satia I finished the novel a couple of days ago and read the short story as well. I even found a copy of the movie Charly at my public library. I did want to ask others who are reading the novel something but there are implied spoilers.


I wish now that I had made a list of all the books mentioned in this novel because there are some that are obviously meant to be symbolic. For instance, when Charlie reads Paradise Lost the immediate significance is there–fall from grace due to eating from the tree of knowledge, etc. But what about the fact that Milton’s version of this is misogynistic? (Yes there are those who contend he was not but I confess to reading Milton and being appalled by how he lays the blame for the fall on Eve and reading Samson Agonistes didn’t help me change my opinion so much as reinforced it. But I digress . . . )

Throughout the novel, the women are mostly unsympathetic, except for the idealized Miss (Alice) Kinnian. Charlie’s mother and sister are loathsome although the latter at least seems to have a moment of remorse. And there’s really no overlooking the Freudian imagery and implications of Charlie’s being so fearful of “losing his peanuts,” a blatant reference to “castration anxiety” where the male is swallowed/consumed by the female.

Did anyone else notice these themes at all or perhaps elsewhere in the novel? I may have been reading too much into it. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

I also noticed the whole Madonna/Whore contrast between Alice and the artistic neighbor Fay, how the more intellectual one is the less driven by emotions, one being more controlled and the other more spontaneous, etc. In some ways, this dichotomy in desire reminded me of Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, another novel that has a history of being banned as well.

On that note, I'll stop babbling. We'll probably watch Charly sometime next week. Have a great weekend everyone!

message 11: by Julia (new)

Julia | 62 comments I taught the novel and the short story a few years ago to emotionally disabled 9-12 graders. I personally prefer the short story, but even more than that I love the similarly themed The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.

message 12: by Satia (new)

Satia Oof. My husband and I just suffered through the movie Charly and I cannot begin to say that anyone who has read and loved the book and/or the short story should not see this movie. They add something to the plot that is not only completely unnecessary but offensive on so many levels as to be incomprehensible. Definitely another example of the book being superior to the movie.

message 13: by Julie (new)

Julie S. Satia, was it that bad? I'll have to avoid it.

message 14: by Satia (new)

Satia Julie, For some insane reason, the script writers decided to add a scene that is not in the book. Charlie is "hanging around" (some might say stalking) Alice Kinnian's home and watches as she comes home from a date with her fiance. He eventually enters her apartment and then attempts to kiss her (some might say rape) quite aggressively to the point that they are on the floor and she is fighting to get away from him.

Cut to the next scene and she shows up in his apartment and says "I'm here" which, by implication, means "I want to be with you." Fade to black and the movie then goes into a montage of romantic scenes of the two of them out on a date.

While I can understand the choice to remove the Freudian impotence Charlie experiences with Alice because it would be difficult to convey those inner emotions effectively on film. Difficult but not impossible. Regardless, adding an attempted rape scene is completely unnecessary to the character and/or plot development.

Also, there was a time when it was believed that "retards" had to be segregated from "normal" society because they were dangerous and rape was one of the things that was often brought up as the raison d'etre. It wasn't that long ago that people fully believed that a grown man, especially one without his full mental capacities, was likely to assault a woman because he lacked the intellect necessary to be moral.

In light of this book's intention, to highlight the prejudice directed at a community it is all the more an affront that this attempted rape scene is inserted. My husband was outraged and disappointed, almost as much as I.

message 15: by Julie (new)

Julie S. That is upsetting.

I was never a big fan of his relationship with Alice in the book, but this relationship in the movie seems worse.

I will strongly avoid this movie then.

message 16: by Trisha (new)

Trisha I finished reading this novel and I really loved it! I thought that it was incredibly well written in the form of his own progress notes and for the reader to see how his thought process was continuing to change throughout the story. I also found it interesting that the more intelligent he became, the more suspicious and judgemental he became of people. I really didn't find the book to be sexually explicit, but perhaps it was when it was first written. I have not seen the movie, though after all of these reviews< i am thinking that I may not rent it...

message 17: by Julie (new)

Julie S. Trisha, I think that people have a problem not so much with the sex in the book but the way that it was treated. Like that random lady in the park who was 5 months pregnant from a one-night stand but wanted to be with Charlie. Then, when he refused, she tried to make it look like he was trying to rape her.

That whole incident seemed really random to me, and I question why the author bothered to include this. The book was not overly explicit, but it was odd.

message 18: by Satia (new)

Satia Julie, I have to say that when you are wandering around in Manhattan (if I remember correctly, Charlie was in Central Park) you will run into some crazy people who say some ridiculous and outrageous things. Would this sort of thing really happen? In NY at night in Central Park? Yes. Even in full daylight, yes.

It struck me that this happened before he meets Fay and that he was interested in having sex with this woman until she reveals the pregnancy. (Now that I think of it, once again this reinforces that whole Freudian Madonna/whore syndrome to which I alluded previously. Hmmmm . . .)

In that respect, his running into this promiscuous and pregnant woman, it allows for foreshadowing of two later events: his consciously choosing to seek out his own mother and his ability to have sex with Fay, thus proving to himself that he can get an erection and that the problem is psychological rather than physical. And the reader needs to know this so that when he later encounters Fay his ability to perform makes more sense.

Trisha, You may want to see the movie anyway. I mean, one could argue that my husband and I esteemed the novel to such a degree we were unable to appreciate a cinematic digression. I know people who loathe the Harry Potter movies because they often cut out scenes that are in the book. My husband loves the animated Lord of the Rings movie but I hate them because they reduce the elegance of the books.

It could be that you would love the movie in spite of our finding them all so distasteful and another person might even see the attempted rape scene as necessary to the movie's plot development.

message 19: by Cindee (new)

Cindee  (cindeethevoodoocat) | 1 comments I was not aware that the book was created from a short story. I read Flowers for Algernon when I was a young teen and the memory still evokes some fairly powerful emotions.

Kinda sorta related but not really, has anyone ever read Tim by Colleen McCullough? This is another novel concerning the mentally challenged.

Petra X has the munchies (petra-x) I've read Tim. Its concept is pretty shocking, its execution anything but.

message 21: by M'rella (new)

M'rella (mrella) Sorry, kinda new here. Couldn't find anything in the comments to answer my question: um... why was it banned in the States?

message 22: by Satia (new)

Satia Mammarella,

According to wikipedia, the book has been challenged because Charlie struggles with his sexual feelings. It's also been banned in Canada because a parent said it is "filthy and immoral."

You can find the info here:

message 23: by Kelley (new)

Kelley | 4 comments Spoiler

I am new here and seem to be the only one who didn't like Flowers for Algernon. Although it is one of my least favorite books of all time, I in no way shape or form think it should be banned. I was terribly upset though because I work in special ed and found the fact that he improves then gets so much worse saddened me sooo much. I cried for three days when I finished it. Some of my friends who read it and liked it think I'm a weirdo, but I think because I know so many people who could be Charley, it touched me in an entirely different way.

message 24: by Cori (new)

Cori | 1 comments I absolutely LOVED this book. I was so thrilled at its format, progress reports from Charlie's point of view. I couldn't imagine a better way to tell this story.

**SPOILERS** and Response to Julie and Kelley

Julie: I didn't think the sex scenes were too obscene. It felt like the raw curiosity of a high schooler exploring his sexuality. And then a bored adult in a routine. That is what Charlie's journey is about, and sexuality is very human. Granted, I probably wouldn't rush to have young kids read it... I think this is the first book with sex in it written by a man I've read in a long time, so I always think that's an interesting perspective for me.

Kelley: I'm surprised you didn't like the book. When a book evokes that powerful of emotions in me I usually put those on my 'favorites' list

message 25: by Satia (new)

Satia Kelley, I was thinking about your powerfully visceral response to this novel and do you think that part of the reason you disliked it is because it evokes so much sadness? It's easy to say "I love this book because it made me feel laugh and I felt good while reading it" but to say the same thing about a book that makes you sad or even angry is something else entirely. (The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison upset me so much I nearly threw the book across the room but that kind of outrage made me realize just how powerfully the book was affecting me and increased my appreciation of it exponentially.)

The books I typically dislike are the ones that do not touch me on an emotional level or anger me with their stupidity.

message 26: by Kelley (new)

Kelley | 4 comments I have to agree that the books I typically dislike are ones that don't touch me emotionally or if I find them stupid. Even if there is somethng in it that angers me I can usually find an appreciation in a book. I also tend to be drawn to stories on the dark side so saddness isn't something I tend to steer away from typically. I think perhaps this story touched something in me about the unfairness of it all and how society feels the need to "fix" someone who isn't quite perfect. Then to have it backfire just made it so much more wrong. I can understand and accept that others really like the story, and I can honestly admit it is one that I find my thoughts coming back to in different situations. I also feel that while I disliked it, there is no reason that it should ever be banned.

message 27: by Julie (new)

Julie S. Corinne: I never said that I thought the sex in the book was obscence. My exact words were "The book was not overly explicit, but it was odd."

I understand that the author was using that to show his growth and decline as a person, but it just struck me as odd that the author chose that as the vehicle. It seemed real, but I think it had the unintended consequence of making Alice seem strange. It was almost like she was not a person but a simple way for the reader to measure Charlie's emotional/mental (sexual?) progress.

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