Flowers for Algernon' Comparative Analysis Essay

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Nonetheless, Keyes stresses another predominant theme: that self-awareness, the ability to acquire knowledge about one’s self, ultimately decides an individual’s identity. As the experiment progresses and Charlie’s academic knowledge, and personal understanding increase, a sense of inner confinement emerges. This interior conflict is apparent when there is a “sharp switch in perception” as the narration alternates between first-person, and third-person (page 100). This change of perspective elucidates how Charlie considers himself as two, distinct people; as if “the old Charlie was struggling for control of the [new, post-surgery] body” and is detached from himself (page 248). Looking at a mirror, Charlie remarks that there are: “endless corridors of myself… looking at myself… looking at myself… Which one was I? Who was I?” (page 186). The use of parallel structure conveys the repetitive, inner struggles Charlie is attempting to overcome. By asking rhetorical questions, Keyes emphasizes the protagonist’s inability to distinguish himself, thus emphasizing an inner dispute. This interior conflict is also expressed through cage imagery. Charlie finds himself “behind the mesh of the cage [the scientists] had built around him”, confined within the societal mistreatment mentioned previously (page 162). Keyes also refers to the streets of New York as the “endless labyrinth, … the neon cage of the city” which is ironic as cities are typically connoted with freedom, independence, and leading to a world of opportunity (page 127). This cage imagery represents that as Charlie becomes more intelligent, the inner feelings of restraint become more apparent. Needless to say, these “cages” may have existed before, yet only with intelligence could they become “visible.” It is evident through perspective, rhetorical devices, and cage imagery that by gaining more intelligence, Charlie’s personality is altered because he has become internally detached.

A progressing intellect also gives rise to the protagonist’s isolation. His separation from society and peers leaves him feeling “lost and alone in the great wilderness” of the world (page 101). Charlie is known as a dedicated employee; yet becoming

Nonetheless, Keyes stresses another predominant theme: that self-awareness, the ability to acquire knowledge about one’s self, ultimately decides an individual’s identity. As the experiment progresses and Charlie’s academic knowledge, and personal understanding increase, a sense of inner confinement emerges. This interior conflict is apparent when there is a “sharp switch in perception” as the narration alternates between first-person, and third-person (page 100). This change of perspective elucidates how Charlie considers himself as two, distinct people; as if “the old Charlie was struggling for control of the [new, post-surgery] body” and is detached from himself (page 248). Looking at a mirror, Charlie remarks that there are: “endless corridors of myself… looking at myself… looking at myself… Which one was I? Who was I?” (page 186). The use of parallel structure conveys the repetitive, inner struggles Charlie is attempting to overcome. By asking rhetorical questions, Keyes emphasizes the protagonist’s inability to distinguish himself, thus emphasizing an inner dispute. This interior conflict is also expressed through cage imagery. Charlie finds himself “behind the mesh of the cage [the scientists] had built around him”, confined within the societal mistreatment mentioned previously (page 162). Keyes also refers to the streets of New York as the “endless labyrinth, … the neon cage of the city” which is ironic as cities are typically connoted with freedom, independence, and leading to a world of opportunity (page 127). This cage imagery represents that as Charlie becomes more intelligent, the inner feelings of restraint become more apparent. Needless to say, these “cages” may have existed before, yet only with intelligence could they become “visible.” It is evident through perspective, rhetorical devices, and cage imagery that by gaining more intelligence, Charlie’s personality is altered because he has become internally detached.

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A progressing intellect also gives rise to the protagonist’s isolation. His separation from society and peers leaves him feeling “lost and alone in the great wilderness” of the world (page 101). Charlie is known as a dedicated employee, yet becoming aware of his traumatic past causes him to “stay home from work on purpose” for the first time in his career (page 40). The protagonist cannot cope with the realization that he is being teased by the colleagues he considers friends. Conscious of his previous adversities, Charlie succumbs to despair, believing that “solitude gives [him] a chance to read and think” about the fabricated lies he has accepted for decades (page 172). This separation is also identified through the form of Keyes’ writing. The author detaches the flashbacks from the rest of the journal and this style reinforces the protagonist’s separation from other characters.

The protagonist’s reserved and docile nature is also destroyed when he reaches a greater intellectual level. In fact, “anger and suspicion were [the] first reactions to the world around” him (page 58). Charlie’s dialogue becomes aggravated until “suddenly everything exploded… [He is] sick and tired of people making fun” of him (page 56). The recognition that people are not always as they appear has commenced; therefore, it is difficult for Charlie to manage his recently developed awareness of the truth. He does not “recall ever being so angry before” because this suppressed rage is finally being released (page 107). His voice transmutes into something impatient and infuriated when he “ripped out a handful of pages, and flung them and the book across the room” (page 290). Directing this antipathy to a lifeless object is peculiar and suggests Charlie is becoming irrational from his anger. Violent diction such as “ripped” and “flung” implies he is becoming frustrated after learning about his past and himself. Moreover, he feels ashamed once he returns to work and learns that his co-workers have come up with a saying based on him: “Now I know what they mean when they say “to pull a Charlie Gordon”. I’m ashamed” (page 33) Melancholy and disappointment is also sensed when Charlie realizes how his alleged friends felt about him: “I never knew before that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me around just to make fun of me” (page 33) Despite this, his colleagues wish he would “go back to being the good simple man [he] was before,” (page 107) acknowledging how intelligence has transformed this kind-hearted individual into an enraged man. The infuriated diction indicates how the protagonist is developing an uncontrollable rage as his calm façade dissolves. Consequently, the character becomes less personable from his surroundings which leads to a different type of mistreatment than before the surgery, however, still judgmental.

In contrast to Charlie’s increasing temper, a significant decline in the protagonist’s euphoric personality presents itself when his intellect is amplified. Charlie’s desolation is presented through Keyes's personification of the past. A bleak tone is produced when the protagonist believes that the “shadows out of the past clutch at [his] legs and drag [him] down” from a world of delight and fulfillment (page 132). This dark imagery refers to the progressing depression Charlie is experiencing. A disharmony of sounds adds to the unpleasant tone and disquiet he is feeling, relating to the fact that intellect deprives Charlie of experiencing joy. He also explains being surrounded by a “cold grayness… The feeling was of living death” (page 230 – 231). Using melancholy phrasing, “cold,” “grayness,” and “death,” creates a mournful tone that is not present before the operation. Charlie even contemplates “suicide to stop it all while [he is] … aware of the world around” him (page 278). This demonstrates the severity of his depression since the protagonist cannot cope with the foreseen “psychological pitfalls” he predicts will occur in his near future and the unexpected conduct of the ones he cares about (page 257). Overall, the protagonist realizes that “intelligence… leads to mental and moral break-down” (page 249). Charlie’s understanding of his future and past causes him sorrow and emotional strain. Thus, Keyes implies that “ignorance is bliss,” and that a sufficient amount of knowledge can cause misery.

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Flowers for Algernon’ Comparative Analysis Essay. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/flowers-for-algernon-comparative-analysis-essay/
“Flowers for Algernon’ Comparative Analysis Essay.” Edubirdie, 09 Feb. 2024, edubirdie.com/examples/flowers-for-algernon-comparative-analysis-essay/
Flowers for Algernon’ Comparative Analysis Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/flowers-for-algernon-comparative-analysis-essay/> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2024].
Flowers for Algernon’ Comparative Analysis Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Feb 09 [cited 2024 Apr 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/flowers-for-algernon-comparative-analysis-essay/
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