Home Daniel Keyes "Flowers for Algernon"
(the Short Story)
Flowers for Algernon
(the Novel)
(the film)

Charly Themes

Plot Summary &
Comparison to
Keyes's Flowers






At a low intelligence state, Charlie is rather isolated. While he works at the bakery he has friends that he spends time with, but he is unable to grasp the meaning of their jokes. He is unable to find lasting relationships that do not revolve around charity. His low I.Q. essentially alienates him from being normal.

As Charlie's I.Q. dramatically increases, his intelligence isolates him once again. He can no longer discuss concepts with Alice because he surpassed her intellectually and she can no longer understand what he talks about. Charlie inadvertently alienates himself by becoming selfish and unpleasant, even though his frustrations are well justified. As Charlie begins to regress, he is once again alienated because no one can understand what he is going through and he is constantly forgetting everything he has learned. He shuts himself away to try to stop the regression from happening and to keep Alice and the scientists for feeling sorry for him.


At the beginning of the film, Charly and Alice have a student-teacher relationship. She is very supportive of his efforts and his motivation to learn. After the operation, Charly begins to look at Alice and becomes attracted to her. He has become aware of her age and beauty and decides to express his feelings for her by kissing her. After she rejects him, she is still engaged to a other man, she becomes sad and waits for him to return. Once he does, she expresses her love for him and they have their romantic get-away. Charly further shows his love for her by pushing her away after he proves the scientists' theory false. He does not want to keep her tied to him and would rather her remember him as being smart, rather than what he used to be.

Intelligence & Emotion

While at a low I.Q. state, Charlie is very friendly and warm hearted. He is very eager to learn and is respectful. However, as his I.Q. increases, he becomes more agressive and arrogant. He wants to be with Alice so bad that he assults her in her own apartment after her fiance leaves.

After the conference, he starts to distance himself from others and has a hard time communicating with them. There is an incompatibility of Charlie's intellect and emotion, specifically his sexual emotion and maturity. With Alice's help, he is able to incorporate intellect and emotion.


Biotechnology is "the use of microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeasts, or biological substances, such as enzymes, to perform specific industrial or manufacturing processes" ( The scientists in the story use a special technique involving enzymes to improve or enhance intelligence. This biological aspect enables the idea of "What if we could increase human intelligence artificially?" It also establishes a moral debate, making us question our motivation as well as our right to tamper with God's will. The scientists want to find a way to improve many people's intelligence, creating superhumans. Some will question their right to change the person from the way God made them. If the experiment were to have worked, there would need to be an ethical code regarding the use and manipulation of the technology to ensure stability and morality.



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