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Flowers for Algernon

Daniel Keyes

Progress Report 17

Summary Progress Report 17


Its easy to have frends if you let pepul laff at you. Im going to have lots of frends where I go.

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Charlie contemplates suicide but decides he must keep writing his reports for the sake of science. At a therapy session with Strauss, Charlie has a hallucination in which he seems to fly into the center of his own unconscious, represented by a red, pulsing flower, and then imagines himself being battered against the walls of a cave. When Burt tests Charlie on his ability to solve mazes in the lab, Charlie has difficulty and gets frustrated. Charlie then finds himself perplexed by the Rorschach test. He tells Burt that he will no longer come to the lab.

Strauss tries to visit Charlie at his apartment, but Charlie refuses to let him in. Charlie picks up his copy of Paradise Lost, and though he knows he loved the book only a few months before, he is now unable to understand it. He flashes back to a time when his mother, frustratedly trying to teach him to read, had insisted to his father that Charlie was not retarded but merely lazy. Charlie tears the copy of Paradise Lost apart.

Alice comes to stay with Charlie. She says she wants to spend as much time as possible with him before the effects of the operation recede completely. She holds him, and for once he does not feel the old inner panic. They make love for the first time, and it is a transcendent, spiritual experience, unlike the purely physical sex Charlie has had with Fay. Despite their happiness, Charlie cannot bear the thought of Alice witnessing his descent. He tells Alice that he will probably ask her to leave soon, and he makes her promise that when she does leave, she will never come back.

Charlie picks up his paper on the Algernon-Gordon Effect and is unable to understand it. He can no longer remember the languages he taught himself. His motor control begins to deteriorate, and he finds himself watching television all day. Alice tries to help by tidying up Charlie’s apartment, but her actions anger him because he wants everything left as it is, “to remind me of what I’m leaving behind.” Charlie also gets upset at Alice for trying to encourage him to pursue intellectual activities in which he is no longer interested. Alice’s denial of Charlie’s condition reminds him of his mother. He asks Alice to leave and, devastated, she does.

Charlie wonders if he can stall his deterioration. He knows that he cannot keep himself from forgetting things, but wonders if he can still learn and retain new things, thus maintaining a steady level of intelligence. However, in his entry of November 1, Charlie’s punctuation is flawed, and soon he loses accuracy in grammar and spelling as well. He describes voyeuristically watching a woman bathing in the apartment across the courtyard. Alice comes to see Charlie but he refuses to let her in.

Having regressed almost completely to his original state, Charlie returns to the Donner’s Bakery and gets his old job back. He refuses to accept money from Alice and Strauss. When a new employee named Meyer Klaus picks on Charlie and threatens to break his arm, Joe, Frank, and Gimpy come to Charlie’s rescue. They tell him that he should come to them for help if anyone ever gives him trouble. Charlie is grateful for his friends.