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Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes
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In Flowers for Algernon, do Doctors Strauss and Nemur have Charlie’s best interests in mind when they conduct the experiment?

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In Daniel Keyes's celebrated novel Flowers for Algernon, Dr. Harold Nemur is a psychologist who develops the idea of the experimental brain surgery to dramatically increase Charlie's intelligence, and Dr. Jayson Strauss is a neurosurgeon and psychiatrist who performs the surgery and sees Charlie for therapy. One could make the argument that Dr. Nemur does not have Charlie's best interests in mind and is primarily concerned with becoming famous for the miraculous experiment. Dr. Nemur is depicted as a selfish, arrogant individual who hopes to gain recognition throughout the scientific community for developing the cutting-edge experiment to dramatically increase one's intelligence. In Progress Report Ten, Charlie overhears Professor Nemur arguing with Dr. Strauss regarding whether or not it is too soon to label the experiment a success. During their argument, it becomes clear that Professor Nemur is only interested in fame and recognition.

In contrast, Dr. Strauss is depicted as a more humble, concerned individual who genuinely cares about Charlie's well-being. Unlike Professor Nemur, Dr. Strauss sympathizes with Charlie and fears that his emotional maturation cannot keep up with his rapidly developing intelligence. Dr. Strauss also helps Charlie identify the subconscious sources of his anxiety and insecurity during their therapy sessions. While it would be unfair to say that Dr. Strauss does not recognize that his efforts will bring him recognition, he demonstrates genuine sympathy for Charlie and seems to care more about his well-being.

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