Abstract illustration of a mouse inside a white human head inside a red human head

Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes
Start Free Trial

In the story "Flowers For Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, what evidence is there that Charlie is superstitious in his progress report from March 10?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"Flowers For Algernon," a short story by Daniel Keyes, first published in 1959 and then later turned into a novel, is a work of science fiction that questions the role and ethics of science. It is unsurprising, then, that the theme of being superstitious is discussed, functioning as a...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

"Flowers For Algernon," a short story by Daniel Keyes, first published in 1959 and then later turned into a novel, is a work of science fiction that questions the role and ethics of science. It is unsurprising, then, that the theme of being superstitious is discussed, functioning as a means of comparing two ways of seeing the world: a scientific versus a superstitious mode of thinking. Even though it is not investigated in great depth, this character trait provides a contrast with the later development of Charlie’s character and therefore serves as a way to see how much he is changed by the scientific experiment being undertaken.

The story is divided into sections called "progress reports" written by the central character, Charlie, and follow his progress from before the beginnings of the experiment, during it, and after it. The progress report on March 10 marks an important moment in the story: it is the day of Charlie’s operation and thus the final day in his ‘normal’ life. Everything that happens to him after this time is influenced and changed by the experiment. It is therefore the last day that he is truly himself before being modified by the operation intended to make him more intelligent. By describing his superstitious nature, we get a chance to consider the contrast between his two modes of thinking.

This clash in modes of thinking—scientific versus superstitious—is summed up very clearly in a few lines in the progress report. Charlie writes:

I got my rabits foot and my lucky penny and my horse shoe. Only a black cat crossed me when I was comming to the hospitil. Dr Strauss says dont be supersitis Charlie this is sience. Anyway Im keeping my rabits foot with me.

Rabbits feet, horseshoes, and lucky pennies are all typical, recognizable superstitious symbols intended to bring good luck. The use of such talismans is associated with a superstitious belief system rather than a religious or scientific way of seeing the world. Later in the story, when he is becoming a genius, it is hard to imagine that he would pay any attention to superstitious beliefs or the idea of luck because his thinking becomes much more scientific and rational.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, we see evidence of Charlie's superstitious nature when he writes his progress report on March 10. He admits to being scared because he is about to have the operation that will change his life. In his progress report he writes about how the nurses, and the people who took part in testing him, brought him candy and wished him luck while he was waiting for the operation. 

Charlie is worried because on his way to the hospital a black cat crossed his path, and he is sure that will bring him bad luck. He also has taken with him to the hospital his rabbit's foot and lucky penny--both symbols of luck. Charlie writes about Dr. Strauss' reaction to his lucky symbols  and Charlie's own reaction to Dr. Strauss in his report. In his words: 

"Dont be supersitis Charlie this is sience. Anyway Im keeping my rabits foot with me" (Keyes 6).

Though Charlie trusts Dr. Strauss, he is not quite ready to give up this particular talisman!  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team