Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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Progress Report 7 Summary

Following the operation, Charlie’s eyes are bandaged for three days. It is not until March 11 that he can write another "progress report" (which Hilda, the nurse, shows him how to spell correctly). He tells of his fear prior to the procedure, of being wheeled into an operating room with tiers of doctors waiting to view the historic surgery. Dr. Strauss tries to calm Charlie, but when his arms and legs are strapped down, his fear increases significantly. After the anesthesia mask is lowered, Charlie calmly goes to sleep.

When Charlie awakens, he finds that his eyes are bandaged and he cannot remember the surgery at all. Burt monitors Charlie, taking his vital statistics, recording them for “science,” as Charlie says. Burt further explains the importance of the progress reports, which will record what Charlie thinks and feels as the experiment progresses. As Charlie rereads his reports, he cannot understand how they will tell anyone anything. He is looking forward to being able to carry on a conversation with his fellow workers at Donner’s Bakery. He has been watching and listening as they discuss religion, politics, and current events. He hopes that soon he will be able to take part.

Hilda, Charlie’s first nurse, says he is brave to have an operation on his brain, something that she would never allow. She questions the morality of the operation, telling Charlie that if God had wanted him to be smart, He would have made him so. She urges Charlie to pray for forgiveness for letting the doctors operate. Charlie, however, cannot see why it is sinful, but he becomes scared once again. The next day, Charlie has a new nurse, Lucille, to replace Hilda, who has been moved to the maternity ward because of her conversation with Charlie. Charlie asks Lucille where the babies in the maternity ward come from; she becomes embarrassed and leaves without answering his question. This is one of the things that Charlie hopes to learn when he becomes smart.

Charlie is frustrated to find out that he is not immediately smart after the operation, as he had hoped. Miss Kinnian tells him that he will become smart slowly and must work hard. This makes no sense to Charlie, who was working hard at being smart before the operation. Miss Kinnian explains that the surgery will allow Charlie to remember more of what he learns. He promises that he will try hard; Miss Kinnian expresses her faith in him.