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Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes

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In "Flowers for Algernon," how do Charlie's feelings towards the doctors change post-operation?

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"Flowers for Algernon" tells the story of a simple man with a low IQ named Charlie Gordon who receives the opportunity to undergo an operation to increase his intelligence. When he is offered the chance to participate in the procedure, his attitude towards the two supervising doctors, Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur, is an overwhelming eagerness to please. He wants to get smarter so that his friends and acquaintances will like him more.

As Charlie's intellectual acuity increases after the operation, his feelings change toward the doctors. He begins to resent their condescending attitude towards him. Although his intelligence has increased remarkably, they continue to see him as a laboratory subject rather than a unique human being. When the doctors take him to the International Psychological Association convention, Charlie's resentment erupts into anger. By this time, his intelligence has surpassed that of Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur, and he realizes that their findings concerning the permanence of the surgery results are incomplete.

Charlie's feelings about the doctors evolve into contempt and condemnation. Ultimately, though, as Charlie conducts his own research, he realizes that they are just imperfect men who are unaware of the answers to the questions they are asking. He eventually has an opportunity to explain to them that intellect without human affection is worthless.

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Before the operation, Charlie is blissfully ignorant of the intricate power relations between people. He saw the people at the bakery as friends, for example, even though they probably made fun of him and were often insincere with him. After the operation, Charlie sees the flaws in the doctors and sees them as they really are: humans with flaws and weaknesses like the rest. He always thought that his life would improve so much more if he were only smarter and intelligent like the doctors. What Charlie really gained after the operation was a whole other set of worries and stresses and problems because he is aware of so much more.

Eventually Charlie becomes smarter than Professor Nemur. When this happens, the "....hostility culminates in a shouting match between the two, during which Charlie accuses Nemur of treating him as less than a human being and Nemur accuses Charlie of having become "arrogant, self-centered," and "antisocial." Please see the Enotes available. They're full of great information.

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In Flowers for Algernon, how do Charlie's co-workers feel about Charlie having the operation?

Charlie's "friends" from his job as a janitor at the bakery were unaware that he had an operation to improve his intelligence. They have always enjoyed using him to be the butt of their jokes, and Charlie has always been oblivious of their selfish and cruel motives.

After the surgery, Charlie becomes aware of the true meaning of the teasing that has been done at his expense. As he advances at work, his co-workers are confused because they still do not know of the surgery. His friends who previously felt superior to Charlie, now resent his advancement and new-found intelligence. They resent it so much that they draft a petition to have him fired.

Ironically, what should have made his life better instead brings him sorrow. One of the old women at work wished that he would become "the good simple man" he was before.

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