protagonist and author of the progress reports that form the text
of Flowers for Algernon.
Charlie is a thirty-two-year-old
mentally retarded man who lives in New York City. At the start of the novel, he works at Donner’s Bakery
as a janitor and delivery boy. Charlie’s friendliness and eagerness
to please, along with his childhood feelings of inadequacy, make
him the hardest-working student in Alice Kinnian’s literacy class
for retarded adults. When Charlie undergoes an experimental surgery
to increase his intelligence, his IQ skyrockets to the level of
a genius. His obsession with untangling his own emotional life and
his longing to reach an emotional maturity and inner peace to match his
intellectual authority inform many of the novel’s primary concerns.
in-depth analysis of Charlie Gordon.
teacher at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults. Alice
originally recommends Charlie for the experimental operation because
she is impressed by his motivation. Although she is not one of the
scientists who perform the experiment on Charlie, she acts as an
unofficial member of the team because of her concern for him. She
is interested in intellectual pursuits but is ultimately more motivated
by emotion. Alice is the one woman with whom Charlie briefly finds loving
in-depth analysis of Alice Kinnian.
Professor Harold Nemur
- The scientist in charge of the experiment that heightens
Charlie’s intelligence. An arrogant and career-obsessed man, Nemur
treats Charlie as a laboratory animal rather than a human being.
Nemur has a tendency to imply that he created
as if his mentally challenged patient is not a human. Nemur is tormented
somewhat by his wife, who seems even more fixated on his career
than he is.
neurologist and psychiatrist who performs the experimental operation
that raises Charlie’s intelligence, and Nemur’s partner in the experiment. Dr.
Strauss conducts therapy sessions with Charlie after the operation.
Unlike Nemur, Dr. Strauss maintains interest in and concern for
Charlie’s emotional development.
friendly graduate student who is working on his thesis and who assists
Strauss and Nemur in conducting the experiment. Burt oversees the
testing of both Charlie and Algernon. He introduces Charlie to some
of the students and faculty at Beekman College.
white mouse that is the first successful test subject for the experimental
operation Charlie later undergoes. The operation makes Algernon
three times as intelligent as a normal mouse and enables him to
solve complex puzzles.
neighbor in the apartment building that he moves into after running
away from the scientific convention. Fay is an attractive, free-spirited,
and sexually liberal artist whose favorite pastimes are drinking
and dancing. She embarks on a brief affair with Charlie, knowing
nothing about his background.
mother, a domineering woman terribly ashamed of Charlie’s retardation.
In the early part of his childhood, Rose refused to accept that
Charlie was abnormal, despite her husband’s appeals for her to be rational.
Rose finally had another child, Norma, on whom she focused all of
her energy. Rose routinely punished Charlie for any sign of sexual
interest, as she could not accept the notion of her retarded son
having any form of sexuality.
in-depth analysis of Rose Gordon.
father, a barbershop-supply salesman who always wanted to open his
own barbershop, and eventually does. Although Matt tried to protect
the young Charlie from Rose’s hostility, he gave in too easily to
younger sister, who grows up to act as caretaker for their mentally
unstable mother. During their childhood, Norma resented Charlie
for getting what she perceived as special treatment and was cruel to
him. When she reencounters Charlie as an adult, however, she is
glad to see him and regrets her
uncle, who took care of Charlie after Rose expelled him from her
home. Herman was generous to Charlie, protected him from neighborhood bullies,
and set him up with his longtime job at Donner’s Bakery. At the
beginning of the novel, Herman has been dead for years.
owner of the bakery where Charlie works. A friend of Uncle Herman,
Mr. Donner agreed to hire Charlie so he would not have to go to
the Warren State Home upon Herman’s death. Donner gave Herman his word
that he would look out for Charlie’s interests. Donner stands by
his pledge faithfully and treats Charlie like family.
Frank Reilly and Joe Carp
- Two employees at Donner’s Bakery who often pick
on Charlie. Frank and Joe play tricks on Charlie and make him the
butt of jokes that he does not understand. However, Frank and Joe
think of themselves as Charlie’s friends and defend him when others
pick on him.
baker at Donner’s Bakery who secretly steals from his boss. Gimpy
got his nickname because of his limp. His relationship with Charlie
is much like Frank and Joe’s relationship with Charlie.
only bakery employee who is consistently nice to Charlie. Fanny
does not like to see the others pick on Charlie because of his disability.
When Charlie becomes a genius, Fanny is glad for him but is highly suspicious
and wonders if he has made a deal with
quack doctor to whom Charlie was taken as a child. Dr. Guarino promised
Rose that he could scientifically increase Charlie’s intelligence,
but his methods are a complete sham. Guarino, however, was kind
nurse on duty while Charlie is first recovering
from his operation. Hilda believes that Charlie
may be defying God’s will by trying to gain
ordinary female mouse Fay purchases so that Algernon can have a
brutish new employee at Donner’s Bakery who is working there when
Charlie briefly reassumes his job after losing his temporary intelligence.