Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the significance of the title of Daniel Keyes story, "Flowers for Algernon?" 

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write9,549 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In this very sad story, the mentally handicapped Charlie Gordon undergoes an operation that makes him highly intelligent. He bonds with a mouse named Algernon, whose seemingly successful operation to enhance his mouse intelligence leads to Charlie's own operation. 

Through studying Algernon, the newly intelligent Charlie discovers that the experiment will fail, and that like Algernon, he will lose his intelligence. Charlie identifies with this mouse, as he realizes both are nothing more than lab experiments to the scientists studying them. He grieves when Algernon dies, and when he begins to lose his own intelligence, Charlie asks that flowers be put on Algernon's grave. The flowers represent mourning and memory. This gesture suggests that Charlie also wants to be remembered when he dies: it is himself and his own losses he mourns for as much as the mouse's. 

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

grammargator eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write69 answers

starTop subject is Literature

In the story "Flowers for Algernon," the main character, Charlie Gordon, is a mentally disabled man who undergoes an experimental procedure to triple his intelligence. Scientists have previously tested the surgery only on lab mice. The mouse who has "stayed smart" the longest is named Algernon.

Although Charlie at first resents Algernon for beating him at maze tests, over time Charlie develops a bond with the lab mouse. As the story progresses, first Algernon and then Charlie gain intelligence rapidly, then begin to deteriorate. Ultimately, Algernon dies and Charlie ends up back where he started--with an IQ of 68 and a job as a janitor in a factory. Naturally, Charlie forgets most of what he learned with his artificially enhanced intelligence, but he remembers Algernon fondly as a fellow "guinea pig" and asks that the mouse be honored by placing flowers on his grave.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial