In "Flowers for Algernon", what does Charlie realize about his "friends" Joe Corp and Frank Reilly? Explain what happened.

Expert Answers

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

When Charlie is mentally handicapped, he calls Frank and Joe his best friends. He doesn't realize that when they laugh, they are laughing at him, not with him. He doesn't understand that they are making him the cruel butt of their jokes. For example, once they have Charlie show some girls at a bar after work how he uses a mop to clean out the toilets. They also get him drunk and abandon him to get home on his own. Nevertheless, he still believes they like him.

As he gains intelligence, Charlie realizes his co-workers, including Joe and Frank, seem afraid of him and are not so friendly anymore. Finally, Charlie recognizes that Frank and Joe used to laugh at him and never were his real friends. He feels foolish for being deceived by them. He writes:

It's a funny thing I never knew that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me around all the time to make fun of me. Now I know what it means when they say "to pull a Charlie Gordon."

I'm ashamed.

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

After his operation, he realizes his so-called friends, Joe and Frank were really making fun of him instead of being his friend. The moment of realization comes when Joe tries to make a fool of Charlie by getting him to use the machinery to make the dough. Before his operation, this would have been impossible and, as Joe says, Charlie would make such a mess "they would call get the day off." However, Charlie has been watching the operation and been able to memorize how the machines work. So, he is successful at a task that took Joe quite a while to learn. After that experience, Charlie is no longer the butt of jokes but he does become an outcast at work because the men are both jealous and afraid of him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial