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 4 Summary

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On March 6, Charlie reports that he returned to the lab for more tests. The lab tester tells Charlie that he is going to take a “Thematic Apperception Test.” Charlie asks her how to spell it for his report, which shows that even before the operation, Charlie is “trying hard” to be smart. His focus is now on doing the “right” things in order to be viewed as a fitting candidate.

In the Thematic Apperception Test, Charlie is shown pictures of people. Initially, Charlie thinks this test will be easier than the Rorschach Test because he can actually see what is in the picture, unlike in the inkblots. The tester tells him that he must make up a story about the people in the picture, but Charlie refuses, believing that “telling stories” is the same as lying. He offers to tell her stories of his family, since he knows they are real, but the tester wants him to tell stories about the people in the pictures. When Charlie refuses, she angrily puts the pictures away. Charlie declares his indifference, hiding the fact that he too is becoming frustrated with his failure.

Charlie then meets with "Burt Seldon," making note of the name that he could not remember the day before. Burt gives Charlie a sheet of paper containing a maze (or as Charlie thinks, “amazed”), telling him to draw a line from start to finish. Charlie is unable to accomplish this, so after numerous tries, Burt takes him to the animal testing center. He shows Charlie a maze on a wooden table and introduces Charlie to Algernon, a mouse who has had the operation that increases intelligence. Burt shows Charlie how Algernon can run through the maze, testing false leads, until he successfully reaches the end and emits a squeak of satisfaction. Burt then has Charlie use a similar maze equipped with an electric stylus that will give a small electric shock when he goes down the wrong path. Algernon’s maze is set up to replicate the one used by Charlie, and the man and the mouse race against each other. Charlie is amazed that Algernon beats him every time, but eventually Charlie learns to complete the maze, although not as fast as Algernon. Charlie is astonished that “mice are so smart.” Even though he is beaten by Algernon, the tests show that Charlie is able to learn at some level, making him a more fitting candidate for the intelligence enhancement surgery.

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