Should Charlie Gordon have gotten the operation?  

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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a difficult question, and one I think only Charlie could really answer. As readers, we can make judgments about the pros and cons of Charlie's surgery, but in the end we don't get to decide whether he was better off for having it. Let's consider some of the pros and cons of Charlie's surgery and discuss whether he was better off with it.


  • Charlie's IQ improved and he was able to perform better in his skill tests
  • Charlie helped the doctors to understand how this surgery affected human subjects
  • Charlie developed new relationships


  • The effects of Charlie's surgery eventually wore off, causing him lots of anxiety
  • Charlie became aware of how people he thought were his friends were actually quite mean to him
  • Charlie might eventually die from the surgery, like Algernon
  • Because Charlie had low intellectual function to begin with, he may not have fully understood the implications of his surgery and have been coerced into deciding to have the operation

In order to decide whether or not Charlie should have had the surgery, we need understand Charlie's values. Which did Charlie value more- being smart or being happy? I think that more than anything, Charlie valued being helpful to others. At the end of the story, Charlie writes that we should not be sad for him and the fact that the effects of the surgery wore off. He writes that we should be happy for him as being someone who was able to benefit the scientific community and the world. I think that if Charlie feels it was right for him to go through the operation because he played a vital role in benefiting others who might later have similar surgeries or treatments.

Read the study guide:
Flowers for Algernon

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