May 23, 2015

Flowers for Algernon: a book review

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - that best describes Charlie Gordon when we first meet him. His parents have disowned him, telling his sister that he had died. With an IQ of 70; most would call him mentally retarded. And most do. They laugh at him. Charlie sees it differently. He feels he has many friends and approaches all with candid curiosity.

Charlie is incredibly ambitious. He works at a bakery and attends special education classes. Because of his unwavering desire to be "smart", he is chosen for an experiment. An experiment that was previously performed on a white mouse; Algernon. Charlie becomes the first human this surgery is performed on.

Charlie goes from an IQ of 70 to 180. He surpasses his mentors, his former friends, most everyone he encounters. The more he knows, the more he sees, the more he discovers about his past, the more he understands; understands how cruel "normal" people are. As he grows more intelligent, Charlie`s childhood memories are our memories too. Some of our pasts are a part of his past. Charlie finally knows what we know and beyond. For a split second. Then they're gone again.

I found this one of the saddest stories I have ever read. I don´t like sad stories. But the way this story was written, and the tale it told, made me hesitate and anticipate at the same time, the words rushing off the pages into my eyes. The story asks you a question: is knowledge, enlightenment a bane or a blessing? For the protagonist - Charlie Gordon - with his steadfast thirst for knowledge, it is answered. The beauty of the book is each reader will find a different answer. 

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