In the novel "Flowers for Algernon", how does Charlie's view of intelligence change as to before, during, and after he becomes intelligent?

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lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before taking part in the experiment, Charlie doesn't really understand what "intelligence" means. He only knows that it is something that his mother wanted for him above all else. He always did everything he could to try to please his mother, and worked as hard as he could to be "smart".

During the experiment, Charlie sees that the people he used to think were smart had serious flaws, not only that they were not as intelligent as he had assumed, but that they had been cruel to him. His new analysis of what his childhood and adulthood had really been like changes his relationships with those from his past.

When he loses his intelligence, he understands that the people he met during the experiment are unhappy now that he has changed back. He doesn't understand the extent of it, but realizes he needs to remove himself from where he used to live. Charlie's empathy is stronger than that of a lot of the characters in the book, and I think one of the questions Flowers for Algernon raises is that of what intelligence really means.

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Flowers for Algernon

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