What is Charlie's main internal conflict throughout the story in Flowers for Algernon?

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Charlie's main internal conflict comes from his relationship to the idea of intelligence and the value he ties up with it. This conflict develops over the course of the story as he experiences life with a different intelligence level but finds it very similar to the world he always knew. He initially is very excited for a scientific procedure that will make him more intelligent, but there are immediate side effects that Charlie never expected. For instance, once he becomes smarter, he has more painful memories to deal with. He also finds that many of the people who were mean to him when he was less intelligent are still mean to him after his surgery. This makes him question if he, or his intelligence, was ever really a problem. He continues to dedicate time to trying to rebuild relationships he had lost but learns that he was rejected because of other people's issues rather than because of his.

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Charlie Gordon's primary internal conflict concerns his struggle to become intelligent in order to assimilate into society as a typical, accepted individual. As an intellectually disabled man, Charlie struggles his entire to life to be accepted by his family members and peers. Charlie's struggle to gain acceptance is expressed through his desire to become intelligent.

Charlie reasons that if he were to become intelligent, he would gain admiration and respect from his family and peers. He demonstrates incredible ambition and work ethic as a mentally disabled man to increase his intelligence and even learns how to read after taking classes at the Beekman College Center. Charlie also hopes that the experimental operation will dramatically increase his intelligence, which will allow him to assimilate into society and be accepted by others.

Tragically, Charlie's operation leads to another significant internal conflict as he struggles with his traumatic past. After Charlie becomes a genius, he further alienates himself from his peers and society as he continues to deal with his acceptance issues. It is only after Charlie reaches his peak intelligence and grows emotionally that he is able to overcome his internal struggle to gain others' approval. Charlie finally gains self-assurance and embraces his past before he regresses back to a mentally disabled man.

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Charlie's primary internal struggle indicates that he is having issues with self-image, self-worth, and perhaps self-esteem. In his effort to be "like" others and to seek friends through obtaining some level of normalcy, Charlie reveals his own insecurities. He shows that he feels outcast and negatively different from the world around him, despite his revelation and response toward the end of this story.

He serves almost as a poster child for any modern-day adolescent wrestling with their own issues of image, value, and popularity in the above described sense.

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Charlie struggles so much with a need to be accepted and to be "normal".  He spent his childhood being abused by his mother because he was different and she couldn't face it.  As an adult, he hates that he is not equal to his "friends" and peers.  He wants the surgery because he wants to:

to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of friends who like me.

Like all humans, he just wants to be a part of a group.  However, when he is "smart" enough to understand what his peers are really like, Charlie starts to understand that being accepted isn't necessarily a positive goal.  Why desire to be accepted by people who aren't humane in their treatment of others?  However, he still desires to be "like others" and tries desparately to research and discover the flaw in the operation.  It is only when he realizes that there is no fix that he must face up to his internal problem.  It is then that Charlie overcomes his conflict and accepts himself and understands that other people will and this is enough.  He also learns from his own internal conflict to be accepting of other people who might be:

not so smart like you once thot they were.

 

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