Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon book cover
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How does Charlie's view of himself change in the novel Flowers for Algernon?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Charlie starts out viewing himself as a child. He has little self confidence and little self-worth because of his lack of intelligence. He looks up to the adults in his life as godlike people who are far above him in status.

After the operation, as he becomes highly intelligent, Charlie gains self-confidence and begins to see the other adults around him as peers. He begins to perceive that they have flaws. They are no longer demigods that he reveres. For example, Miss Kinnian changes in his eyes from a revered figure to a woman for whom he has sexual feelings. He considers her enough of an equal that he can ask her out on a date.

Likewise, rather than looking up to Professor Nemur as before, Charlie realizes that Nemur took advantage of him out of ambition and used him as no more than a laboratory animal.

When he realizes he is going to lose his intelligence and go back to the way he was (or worse), Charlie experiences deep anger, an emotion he has not experienced before.

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shake99 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Charlie's view of himself changes significantly in Flowers for Algernon. Ironically, the more intelligent he becomes (as a result of the operation on his brain), the unhappier he becomes with his life.

The problem he experiences is that, as he gains intelligence, he becomes aware of several things that he wasn’t aware of before. For one thing, he realizes how slow he was mentally before the operation (or “operashun” as he wrote it). He looks at the man he was with something like disgust or shame. He also realizes that others who he thought were his friends actually took advantage of him and made fun of him at his expense. These realizations make it difficult for Charlie to feel true happiness.

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wanderista | Student

Hey there, Vocabulary,

You'll need to be a little more specific to which 'Charlie' from which text you're referring to. Unfortunately, there are too many characters named Charlie out there who change to specify the novel you're talking about.


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