Compare and contrast the relationships Charlie has with Alice and Fay.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charlie's relationships with Alice and Fay mostly contrast with each other, just as the women contrast with each other. Alice is genuine, kind, sincere, altruistic, interested in other people's welfare, compassionate, respectful, loving. Fay is flamboyant, selfish, self-centered, immoderate, passionate but not loving, disinterested in anything that isn't immediately interesting. Charlie's relationships with them reflects their characters. In fact, Charlie is rather like a mirror in relation to them, reflecting whatever they are in his own behavior.

Starting with Fay, When Charlie's intelligence raises enough, he lets her involve him in a physically intimate relationship even though he had great difficulty because of his mother's fear of his physical development considering his mental retardation. Fay engages Charlie in her world of drinking and partying and carelessness. When Charlie moves to the lab so that he can concentrate on his work, her interest in him ends. Her friendship and intimacy evaporate with the fumes of her next drink.

Alice, on the other hand, is Charlie's true and enduring friend. She was genuinely interested in him when he was mentally retarded and she remained genuinely interested in him while his intellect grew to being that of a genius. All throughout, Alice wanted to help and did help wherever she could. She was understanding, kind, encouraging. She was Charlie's true friend. As his mental abilities grew and they had more and more in common and more grounds for emotional connection, the friendship that had always stood between them blossomed into a romance, which, even though it was as short-lived as Charlie's exceptional intellectual gains, was genuine and a source of a new self-respect once his mental powers again faded to retardation.