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Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes

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In Flowers for Algernon, what is the "Algernon-Gordon Effect"? How do Charlie's co-workers react when Charlie returns after the operation?   

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The "Algernon-Gordon Effect", in Charlie's words, is "the logical extension of the entire intelligence speed-up", which can be described in the following terms:

"Artificially-induced intelligence deteriorates at a rate of time directly proportional to the quantity of the increase".

In other words, the smarter a subject becomes after the experimental operation, the faster that newly-gained intelligence will eventually disappear.

At the height of his intelligence after his operation, Charlie studies his own and Algernon's progress, collecting data and performing mathematical analysis on what he has found.  He is disturbed because he has observed that Algernon's development suddenly begins to deteriorate, and, knowing that the same thing is going to happen to him, he struggles to find out why, while he still has the mental capacity to do it.  Charlie does indeed figure out the reason for Algernon's, and eventually his own, precipitous decline.  He writes up his findings in a report which he sends to Professer Nemur, which affirms that "the surgery-and-injection techniques develooped by (the Professor) and Dr. Strauss must be viewed as having little or no practical applicability, at the present time, to the increase of human intelligence".  In laymen's terms, the experiment is a failure (August 26).

When Charlie returns to work immediately after his operation, his co-workers treat him as they always have, some with an attitude of friendly comaraderie and others with cruel teasing.  Charlie has not yet noticed any changes as a result of the surgery and has been instructed not to tell anyone what the operation was supposed to do, so his co-workers do not know that anything might be different about his intelligence.  When it soon becomes evident that Charlie is becoming smarter and better able to understand the various facets of his job, his boss is amazed, and gives him more responsibility.  As he begins to advance in the business, however, some of his workmates, specifically those who had treated him so badly before, react with jealousy and resentment (March 21, April 1).

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