Abstract illustration of a mouse inside a white human head inside a red human head

Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes

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Progress Report 12 Summary

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It is June 5, one week until the convention in Chicago, and Charlie has not filed any progress reports for two weeks. Professor Nemur is upset because he feels Charlie is jeopardizing the presentation. Charlie understands this, especially now that the Welberg Foundation is paying him a salary. But he is irritated that Nemur keeps referring to him as a "lab specimen." Charlie reminds him that he is a person.

Dr. Strauss suggests that Charlie learn how to type, since Charlie is frustrated that his thoughts now come much faster than he can write them down. He does not pursue a romantic relationship with Alice Kinnian, but he is still tormented by dreams of the teenage Charlie. He remembers when his sister Norma came home with an A on a test, which meant that she could have the dog her mother promised. When Charlie offered to help Norma take care of her dog, his sister became upset, either wanting the dog all to herself or not having it at all. Charlie later overheard her tell friends that Charlie was not really her brother, just someone they took in because they felt sorry for him. Charlie regrets all that Norma lost by having him as a brother.

Charlie decides to pick up Alice at Beekman University. When he goes into the classroom to see his old classmates, Alice is clearly annoyed. A quarrel ensues, and Alice says that Charlie is so far above her intellectually that he seems condescending and bored when she does not follow his conversation. Charlie, she thinks, has changed from the warm, loving person he used to be into a cold, smug intellectual. She is constantly insecure around him, trying to study at home to keep up at least an appearance of an intellectual relationship. When Charlie leaves, he realizes that she is right: he has grown beyond her. While he feels a sense of relief that the relationship is over, he feels sad that he is no longer in love with her.

In a fit of loneliness, he walks from Washington Square to Central Park where he meets a woman. She tells him her life history of being married to an abusive sailor and her subsequent infidelities. Charlie feels an animal attraction to her and responds to her invitation to go somewhere for sex. As they walk to his rooms, she opens her coat to reveal that she is five months pregnant. Charlie is repulsed, seeing only his mother when she was carrying his sister. He explodes, telling her she is filthy. He grabs her shoulder and she screams. He runs away, but several men respond to the woman’s cries and chase him. When he finally reaches home safely, he is overtaken by the shadows of his past, realizing that he wanted the men to catch him and punish him.

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