As Algernon and Charlie undergo the same operation and the same testing, Algernon’s developments are good predictors of Charlie’s future. When Algernon begins to lose his intelligence, it is a chilling indication that Charlie’s own intellectual gains will be short-lived. Algernon also symbolizes Charlie’s status as a subject of the scientists: locked in a cage and forced to run through mazes at the scientists’ whim, Algernon is allowed no dignity and no individuality. Charlie’s freeing of Algernon from his cage and simultaneous decision to abandon the laboratory makes Algernon’s physical liberation a symbol of, and a precursor to, his own emotional independence.
Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge
The story of Adam and Eve, mentioned by Hilda, the nurse, and Fanny at the bakery, and then alluded to again in Charlie’s reading of John Milton’s
Many of Charlie’s childhood memories involve looking through a window, which symbolizes the emotional distance that Charlie feels from others of normal intellectual ability. Shunned by his peers because of his disability, he remembers watching the other children play through a window in his apartment. When Charlie becomes intelligent, he often feels as if the boyhood Charlie is watching him through windows. The window represents all of the factors that keep the intellectually disabled Charlie from feeling connected to society. Charlie’s increased intelligence enables him to cross over to the other side of the window, a place where members of society accept him. However, in crossing over, Charlie becomes just as distant from his former self as the children he used to see playing outside. When Charlie regresses into disability, he maintains an indefinable sense of his former genius self, but he says, “I dont think its me because its like I see him from the window.” The window is the unbridgeable divide between the two Charlies. The only point at which the brilliant Charlie feels that he is confronting the other Charlie face-to-face is when he drunkenly sees himself in a mirror, effectively a window to one’s interior self.