Charlie Gordon, thirty-seven years old and with an IQ of 68, dreams of being smart. Intelligence, he imagines, lies somewhere in the domain of reading and writing—a belief that has made him the hardest-working pupil in Miss Kinnian’s class for slow adults. Charlie is so “motor-vated” that Miss Kinnian recommends him as a test subject for an experimental surgical procedure that promises a threefold increase in intelligence. Excited by the prospect of having his dream come true, Charlie begins his diary at the request of Dr. Strauss. Each “progris riport” reveals Charlie’s thoughts, feelings, and fears as his intelligence rises dramatically, then plummets.
With a childlike eagerness to please, Charlie faces psychologists who attempt to administer personality and intelligence tests. Try as he may, he can see neither pictures in the “raw shok” inkblots nor stories in the scenes of the Thematic Apperception Test. Charlie fares no better in his contests with a white mouse named Algernon. Algernon runs through a maze box as Charlie attempts the same maze with pencil and paper. Algernon always wins.
Charlie is troubled by preoperative fears, but his rabbit’s foot and a gift of candy see him through. The operation entails little discomfort and recovery is rapid, but Charlie is disappointed when he notices little immediate rise in his intelligence. Dr. Strauss advises patience, pointing out that Algernon’s progress was slow after he underwent the same procedure. Now the reason for the animal’s superior maze-running is revealed: “Algernon beats me all the time because he had that operashun too. That makes me feel better. . . . Maybe someday I’ll beat Algernon. Boy that would be something.”
Charlie returns to his job as a janitor at Donnegan’s Plastic Box Company. He is happy to be back with his friends, oblivious...
(The entire section is 763 words.)