What are some quotes from Daniel Keyes's Flowers For Algernon about intelligence?

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Charlie initially sees Miss Kinnian as someone who is much more intelligent that he is. After learning about punctuation from her (initially misusing it as we see in the following quote,) we see him wishing in his journal that he could emulate her intelligence.

She"s a gen'ius! I wish? I could be smart – like – her; Punctuation, is? fun!

After Charlie's intellectual development starts progressing rapidly, Miss Kinnian tells Charlie she thinks he will soon surpass her in areas of intelligence. She believes this because Charlie already reads much faster than she does and completely retains the information he reads. He responds,

I don't feel intelligent. There are so many things I don't understand.

Charlie's newfound intelligence brings up a lot of feelings for him, including joy, confusion, and sadness. When Charlie is fired from his job because his intelligence frightens the people who used to work with him, he feels rejected and shamed. In this next quote, we can see these feelings clearly.

Once again now I have a feeling of shame burning inside me. This intelligence has driven a wedge between me and all the people I once knew and loved.

Charlie is sitting in a diner when he notices a mentally retarded man working there drop some dishes that he was carrying on his way into the kitchen to wash them. Other patrons in the diner notice, too, and begin to laugh and make fun of him. Charlie is furious and disgusted to see people act this way. At the same time, he realizes he was once laughed at in that very same way, which leads him to see the contrast between his past self and his current self. Charlie wonders why people feel ashamed making fun of a blind man but somehow feel differently about a mentally retarded individual.

How strange is it that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes – how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with low intelligence.

In this next quote, Charlie continues a thought process that began with the incident at the diner. While others may have thought Charlie was unaware he was different from anyone else pre-surgery, he tells us he was aware of his differences at the time.

I have often reread my progress reports and seen the illiteracy, the childish naivete, the mind of low intelligence peering from a dark room, through the keyhole, at the dazzling light outside. I see that even in my dullness I knew that I was inferior, and that other people had something I lacked – something denied me.

This next quote is from The Algernon-Gordon Effect, the results of a research paper Charlie wrote to determine why Algernon's intelligence and condition were deteriorating. He discovers that the rate of artificially increased intelligence's increase is proportionate to its later deterioration. The following is a cold, clinical assessment of what happened to Algernon and what is going to happen to Charlie, written by Charlie.

Artificially increased intelligence deteriorates at a rate of time directly proportional to the quantity of the increase.

Read the study guide:
Flowers for Algernon

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