In Flowers for Algernon, how can it be argued that Charlie is better or worse off after surgery?
The mental illness that defines pre-surgery Charlie allows him to function in society, but it prevents him from forming meaningful relationships with others. Many people mock him for his illness, while others are sympathetic but see no reason to form a friendship. After the surgery, Charlie becomes aware of the stigma of his mental illness, making him angry and bitter about his treatment.
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Obviously, Charlie's brain functions much better after the surgery. His reading skills are greatly improved and he has other academic abilities that he did not have before. However, with this knowledge comes a greater awareness of the world around him. For example, Charlie realizes that the people he worked with, whom he thought were his friends, were really making fun of him.After the surgery, Charlie is able to see the cruelty that is so rampant in the world. One could argue that Charlie was better off before his surgery, when he had his idealized view of society; hence the phrase "ignorance is bliss."