What is Charlie's IQ in the beginning of "Flowers for Algernon"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The use of IQ as a measurement of intelligence is highly controversial. There is by no means universal consent among scientists that it is the most effective means of measuring an individual's intelligence. For the sake of answering this question, however, let us assume that the IQ scale is largely...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The use of IQ as a measurement of intelligence is highly controversial. There is by no means universal consent among scientists that it is the most effective means of measuring an individual's intelligence. For the sake of answering this question, however, let us assume that the IQ scale is largely accurate. That being so, Charlie's IQ of 68 is pitifully low. Any IQ score below 70 is regarded as showing severe cognitive impairment as well as limitations in terms of learning, reasoning, communication, and self-help skills.

This would explain why Charlie is only able to hold down a menial job in a bakery and why he's the ideal candidate for ground-breaking neurosurgery designed to boost intelligence. It obviously wouldn't be much use for Charlie to undergo such a procedure if he weren't already low on the IQ scale.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Before Charlie has his operation in "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, he has an IQ of 68. The average IQ according to most psychologists is between 95 and 105, so Charlie's IQ is very low. He would be considered mentally handicapped and would have been in special education classes at school. Charlie is chosen for this surgical experiment because he is considered to have high motivation. Most people with an IQ as low as his do not, and the fact that Charlie went out and looked for a class to improve his intelligence makes him a good candidate for this operation. Charlie really wants to be able to learn, and he pursues an education even though he does not have to.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team