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Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes

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How do Dr. Nemur and Dr. Strauss compare and contrast in Flowers for Algernon?

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Dr. Harold Nemur is a psychologist who comes up with the idea of Charlie's brain surgery to increase his intelligence, while Dr. Jayson Strauss is a neurosurgeon and psychiatrist who carries out the operation and later sees Charlie for therapy. As Charlie says at the beginning of the book, even when he can't understand everything the two doctors are saying, "it sounded like Dr. Strauss and Burt was [sic] on my side and Prof Nemur wasn't" (page 10).

As the story goes on, Dr. Strauss is more sympathetic towards Charlie than Dr. Nemur. Dr. Nemur sees Charlie simply as an experiment and forces him to go through mazes and take puzzles again and again, with little regard for how Charlie is feeling. Dr. Strauss, on the other hand, attempts to help Charlie and is attentive to how Charlie feels. Dr. Nemur grows frustrated when Charlie asks questions about how to use the special TV that is supposed to help him gain knowledge, while Dr. Strauss thinks it's important for Dr. Nemur to explain how it works to Charlie. Dr. Strauss also helps Charlie adjust the TV so that he can sleep (page 27), as the TV was keeping him awake.

Dr. Strauss is not afraid to show Charlie what he doesn't know. For example, he tells Charlie, "I'm an even worst linguist than he is," (page 138), referring to Dr. Nemur. On the other hand, Dr. Nemur won't show his vulnerable or human side to Charlie and continues to treat him like he is simply a lab rat. To Dr. Nemur, Charlie is merely an experimental subject, while Dr. Strauss treats Charlie like a human being.

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Nemur is a psychologist who develops the idea of raising a person's intelligence through surgery. Although he's intelligent, his ambitions to be recognized for his work get in the way of his humanity. The other scientists want to keep the experiment a secret, but Nemur can't wait to make it public and claim himself as the discoverer of the process of raising Charlie's intelligence. When Charlie becomes smarter than Nemur, he resents Charlie because of it and accuses Charlie of being egotistical and selfish. This is ironic since Nemur is the one who displays these characteristics. Nemur doesn't care about Charlie, only about his reputation and fame.

Dr. Strauss is a caring man who performs the surgery on Charlie. He remains concerned about Charlie throughout the experiment, even taking care of Charlie when he is no longer intelligent.



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What are the differences between Dr. Nemur and Dr. Strauss in Flowers for Algernon?

Dr. Nemur was not comfortable using Charlie as the subject for the experiment. However, Dr. Strauss was supportive of Charlie’s participation from the initial stages of the project. Strauss was supportive because he believed Charlie was sufficiently motivated for the experiment. Dr. Strauss was more patient compared to Dr. Nemur, who was more concerned with recognition than the experiment. Dr. Nemur wanted to publish Charlie’s test results soon after it was determined that they were making progress. He also wanted to take full credit for the experiment, which showed...

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he was selfish. Dr. Strauss was forced to remind him that he was the one who located and performed the operation on Charlie. He asserted himself as an equal partner in the project, which, if successful, would benefit people globally. Charlie realized that Dr. Nemur was ten years older than Dr. Strauss. At the end of the story, Charlie claimed that Nemur was an uptight person and suggested that he should loosen up.

Dr. Nemur wanted to publish the results of the experiment at the end of this month. Dr. Strauss wanted to wait a while longer to be sure. Dr. Strauss said that Dr. Nemur was more interested in the Chair of Psychology at Princeton than he was in the experiment. Dr. Nemur said that Dr. Strauss was nothing but an opportunist who was trying to ride to glory on his coattails.

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