Daniel Keyes began writing science-fiction stories in 1952, during a brief career as an editorial associate with a fiction magazine. He began to write soon after receiving his college degree at the age of thirty-three. None of his stories gained critical notice, however, until his short-fiction piece “Flowers for Algernon” was published in 1959.
“Flowers for Algernon” tells the story of Charlie Gordon, a thirty-year-old man with an IQ less than seventy. Charlie has, however, an intense desire to learn and to become more intelligent. He is chosen to be the first human subject in an experiment aimed at surgically correcting the brain in a way that is hoped will triple Charlie’s IQ. The same technique appears to have been successful on a white laboratory mouse named Algernon. The entire story is told through the journal written by Charlie, documenting his feelings and experiences as he increases in intelligence to genius level, then slowly and tragically returns to his former intellectual abilities.
The story brought immediate attention to Keyes, earning a Hugo Award as the best short science fiction in 1960. The story was innovative in style and content. The challenging technique of telling the story entirely in Charlie’s words is extremely effective. In addition, Keyes’s portrait of the nature of intelligence differs greatly from those in numerous previous science-fiction stories. Keyes portrays low intelligence in a sympathetic...
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