What is the style of the story "Flowers for Algernon"?

Expert Answers
ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The style of the story is probably the most important narrative technique that the author uses to characterize Charlie and give perspective to the events of the novel. Daniel Keyes, the author, uses a first-person narrative point of view. The style of the narrative changes dramatically as Charlie changes. The story is told in Progress Reports that are supposedly written by Charlie to the people in charge of the "experiment" to increase Charlie's intelligence.  In literary terms, this would be called an epistolary style.

When the story opens, the reports are full of non-standard English and grammatical mistakes. This style would be typical of a mentally handicapped adult. For example, at the beginning, Charlie writes:

Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on. I dont no why but he says its importint so they will see if they can use me.

However, the sentence structure and thought processes gradually become more and more complex as Charlie's intelligence increases. He eventually writes:

I've got to realize that when they continually admonish me to speak and write simply so that people who read these reports will be able to understand me, they are talking about themselves as well.

This statement reveals that his writing, and therefore his intelligence, is surpassing the ability of the scientists who operated on him so he must write "simply". However, even more poignant is the rapid deterioration that occurs in the final writings in the Progress Reports. Charlie's operation has failed and he has lost his extraordinary intelligence. By the last Progress Report, it is clear that Charlie's has returned to the semi-literate person he was. However, Charlie sadly observes,

"If they make fun of you dont get sore because you remember their not so smart like you once thot they were."

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flowers for Algernon is written in the form of a journal that Charlie, the main character, writes. Charlie is an adult man with mental retardation. Because of his extreme drive to do well, he has learned to read and write. It is also for this reason that he is chosen to undergo an experimental procedure to increase his intelligence. Because the journal is kept before, during, and after the experiment, it reflects Charlie's improvement in all areas of his intellect. It also reflects the problems this causes him socially, as he begins to realize that things he accepted as true were not; for example, people he considered friends used him as the butt of jokes. The journal shows Charlie's pain at these realizations, and at his growing awareness that his intelligence will not last--Algernon, the mouse undergoing the same procedure, deteriorates. The style was very effective for this story, as it showed all of the above, but also Charlie's improvement in basic writing and spelling skills.