I hate school! I hate it! I’ll stop studying, and I’ll be a dummy
like him. I’ll forget everything I learned and then I’ll be just
like him.” She runs out of the room, shrieking: “It’s happening
to me already. I’m forgetting everything . . . I’m forgetting .
. . I don’t remember anything I learned any more!”
This passage, from Progress Report 12, is part of one of Charlie’s flashbacks to his childhood, in this case the incident when Norma demands her parents give her a dog because she has received an A on her history exam. After her father denies Norma the dog because she refuses to allow Charlie to help care for it, Norma angrily threatens her parents. She feels that Charlie is getting preferential treatment because he is intellectually disabled and she suggests that perhaps she should become a “dummy” like him to receive the same treatment. Though Norma is clearly being absurd and sarcastic, for a moment it seems that she genuinely envies Charlie’s intellectual disability—the only time in the novel when anyone perceives Charlie’s disability as an advantage. Listening to Norma rant, however, Charlie can hardly feel that he is in an enviable position. His disability, which he cannot help, makes his sister miserable.
Norma’s threat to lose her intelligence is meant to be just as ludicrous as the notion that Charlie could gain intelligence by his own will. Of course, many years later, Charlie does in fact gain intelligence. Norma’s remark—“I don’t remember anything I learned any more!”—is a cruel joke meant to upset her parents, but it also foreshadows exactly what happens to Charlie at the end of the novel.