Essay: What Is the Conflict in 'Flowers for Algernon'

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In all of Charlie's life, he had wanted to be smart and not dumb, it was his wish that he worked so hard for but because of his disability, there was little hope. Until it happened, however, it was for a short period of time. Although the experience was short, he had noticed the effects he had on himself and the people around him due to his craving for intelligence.

Motivation and pride can be both someone's redemption as well as their downfall. Without Charlie's motivation and pride, Dr. Nemur would have never chosen to make him a genius. Charlie fought to become intelligent his entire life; for example, he enrolled himself in an adult night school and was asked about how he found it he said, 'I askd pepul and sumbody told me where I shud go to lern to read and spell good.' (Page 286.) When he was given the opportunity to get a surgery to make him smarter, he never thought about the consequences he only had his mind set on risking it all to be smart. Charlie Gordan is a 37-year-old man with an extremely low I.Q of 68 and thought only of the operation being successful and he assumed, 'maybe I'll be like everyone else and people will like me and be friendly.' (Page 293.) Charlie's assumptions were wrong.

Think before you do something that would change your life forever. Algernon symbolizes Charlie. Algernon is a white lab mouse that went through the same operation that Charlie did first. This mouse suffered protracted symptoms of widespread neurological collapse, so as time went by Algernon lost all his memories and the ability to moderate his behaviour; it started when Algernon bit Charlie as he went to take the mouse out of his Cage and was unusually disturbed, vicious, and refused run the maze that he must complete in order to eat. (Page 300.) After seeing Algernon react that way, Charlie decided to find out why and carry on with the research to see if he would start reacting the same and when. (Page 301.) Algernon died along with Charlie's predictions being right, he had been starting to encounter the first symptoms of emotional instability and forgetfulness because of Algernon's death it is assumed that Charlie would pass as well. (Page 302.)

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Our humanity is not measured by how smart we are, but rather by our kindness, love, and interaction with others. Charlie desired respect, intelligence, and prestige. He never reflected on his actions and didn't notice what a jerk he was being to his friends, family, and the woman he turned a liking to. In the movie, Charlie yelled at Miss Kinnian, paid no attention to his family, and was showing off his intelligence at work making everyone seem dumb which caused him to lose his job. Though the people at his work kind of deserved it, his 'friends' from there treated Charlie like a toy that they could just take advantage of e.g., they invited him to a party, and he was told to dance and while he was dancing everyone was putting their legs out tripping Charlie, everyone was laughing at him, and he liked it because he didn't understand. Joe and Frank, later on, asked him to go out and buy a newspaper and coffee for them so he did, and they ditched him. (Page 290.) On page 305 when Charlie lost all the memories of the day he misbehaved at work, everyone felt sorry for him except for this one guy that was clueless the guy said something cruel to him, and unexpectedly Joe and Frank stood up for Charlie.

Society nowadays is disgusting. Nobody that mistreats disabled kid that was born that way shouldn't just get away with it like the time when a new boy was working at a corner diner that was disabled and people were making fun of him because he dropped dishes on the floor (page 298,) Charlie also laughed at the boy and the boy looked at everyone and didn't understand what was going on, Charlie observed that and noticed that he used to be just like the boy being laughed at, giving the same reaction as the boy and shouted, 'Shut up! Leave him alone! It's not his fault he can't understand! He can't help what he is! But for God's sake . . . he's still a human being!' Charlie was ashamed of himself. (Page 299.) There's over a billion of the world's population of people with some form of disability and that is the number of people that are being mistreated each day. (Disabilities | WHO | Regional Office for Africa)

Being smarter is not the key to happiness and acceptance, and everyone that is struggling to see that should face a reality check. For instance, look at Charlie his involvement in the surgery helped him to realise to be thankful for what he has. The story plus the movie explores the cycle of life, the limits of science, and whether knowledge is truly more valuable than happiness.

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