In "Flowers for Algernon," how do Charlie's feelings towards the doctors change after the operation?

Expert Answers

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

"Flowers for Algernon" tells the story of a simple man with a low IQ named Charlie Gordon who receives the opportunity to undergo an operation to increase his intelligence. When he is offered the chance to participate in the procedure, his attitude towards the two supervising doctors, Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur, is an overwhelming eagerness to please. He wants to get smarter so that his friends and acquaintances will like him more.

As Charlie's intellectual acuity increases after the operation, his feelings change toward the doctors. He begins to resent their condescending attitude towards him. Although his intelligence has increased remarkably, they continue to see him as a laboratory subject rather than a unique human being. When the doctors take him to the International Psychological Association convention, Charlie's resentment erupts into anger. By this time, his intelligence has surpassed that of Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur, and he realizes that their findings concerning the permanence of the surgery results are incomplete.

Charlie's feelings about the doctors evolve into contempt and condemnation. Ultimately, though, as Charlie conducts his own research, he realizes that they are just imperfect men who are unaware of the answers to the questions they are asking. He eventually has an opportunity to explain to them that intellect without human affection is worthless.

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

Before the operation, Charlie is blissfully ignorant of the intricate power relations between people. He saw the people at the bakery as friends, for example, even though they probably made fun of him and were often insincere with him. After the operation, Charlie sees the flaws in the doctors and sees them as they really are: humans with flaws and weaknesses like the rest. He always thought that his life would improve so much more if he were only smarter and intelligent like the doctors. What Charlie really gained after the operation was a whole other set of worries and stresses and problems because he is aware of so much more.

Eventually Charlie becomes smarter than Professor Nemur. When this happens, the "....hostility culminates in a shouting match between the two, during which Charlie accuses Nemur of treating him as less than a human being and Nemur accuses Charlie of having become "arrogant, self-centered," and "antisocial." Please see the Enotes available. They're full of great information.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial