Intelligence and Happiness in Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon examines the connection between smart and unintelligent individuals, or for the most part, between the superior and inferior, as well as whether or not Charlie recognizes the power and superiority complexes at play. Since Charlie Gordon goes between these two universes—shifting from being intellectually disabled to being brilliant, and eventually reverting back to intellectually disabled—he sees the manners by which individuals taunt and ridicule their scholarly inferiors, partially because of the savagery within human nature, but mostly because of self-doubt. The issue with mental impairments is that since they cannot be physically seen, and can only be sensed through tasks that involve the brain, it gives people “the right” to perceive mental disabilities as a ‘lesser’ kind of disability, and therefore put below physical disabilities. It’s less demanding to comprehend what can be seen and not felt. Charlie confronts this idea (Matos 2).

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Individuals of ‘normal’ intellect bully the disabled due to the fact that they need them to help themselves remember their place in the ‘pecking order’ (Banwen 35). Charlie’s at the mercy of his co-workers when they subject him to a sequence of remorseless tricks and jokes that strengthen the reader’s perception of Charlie’s ineptitude, awkwardness, and naivety. It’s significant that Charlie’s co-workers never become weary of pulling tricks on him even after 10 years. By mocking Charlie for his ineptitude, the co-workers are viably praising themselves for being more astute than Charlie— yet, none of them are actually intelligent, but at least they aren’t seen as the ‘remainder’ of society, the bottom of the pyramid. However, due to his lack of self-awareness, Charlie does not realize that they are mocking him. This all changes once Charlie transforms into a genius. Once the tables have turned, his former tormentors declare that they’re avoiding him since they don’t need a walking reminder of their mental mediocrity: they would prefer not to associate with somebody who makes them feel inept.

The superiority complex is also evident with his advisers, Professor Nemur and Doctor Strauss. It seems that the whole scientific community struggles to accept their mental mediocrity when compared to postoperative Charlie. When a video is shown of Charlie before the operation, Nemur’s fellow workers all laugh at the low-IQ janitor. However, after meeting the new Charlie, they start to reject him very quickly because he possesses superior intellect compared to them, which intimidates the academics. Indeed, even Charlie himself begins to think he is more dominant than his scholarly inferiors. Keyes seems to propose that people tend to be cruel to individuals who are more vulnerable and those same people tend to obey those who are stronger. Consequently, as Charlies transforms into a genius, his self-awareness grows but turns him into a somewhat overconfident and arrogant man (Shaman 1). There is a juxtaposition created because Keyes sends a message that being oblivious means being ridiculed while not understanding it, but being self-aware means being arrogant due to understanding. A question is proposed: Do readers prefer the former or the latter? The bigger message seems to be that there is no win-win situation in life, but this is especially true for the intellectually disabled, who do not have a choice or say.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time:

Clark provides a derivation of Christopher’s lack of wisdom and experience by arguing that they are caused by the inability to communicate and coordinate properly; problems that are at the core of being a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome (Clark 7). This implies that Christopher conveys what needs be said in a basic and different way and cannot comprehend regularly acknowledged methods of signaling. Christopher having such a syndrome permits Haddon to remove the norm that language has embraced throughout the years and to strip it exposed to an authentic shape; according to society, people need to collaborate specifically with the words that are verbally expressed and not with the suggestions of these words. Christopher’s experiences challenge that criterion, enabling readers to see the world in another and crisp light. However, this may be interpreted as an unfavorable trait because this misunderstanding towards language is what allows Christopher to become naive and not acknowledge his limitations.

Christopher’s desire to become an astronaut is firmly connected to his condition, especially considering the hardships he faces when it comes to social situations. Christopher, who acknowledges that his condition makes him unique—and in certain individuals’ eyes, less fit—than the normal kid his age, frequently underscores that he is no less capable than any other person, and throughout the novel readers see him looking for a job where he feels good and esteemed. He says: “I think I would make a very good astronaut. To be a good astronaut you have to be intelligent and I’m intelligent. You also have to understand how machines work and I’m good at understanding how machines work…” which further emphasizes his confidence in his potential success (Haddon 50). Additionally, He detests his school because he feels undesirable and awkward, as he supposes he’s better than the other students. Being in school with them suggests he is, by one way or another, less significant as an individual. Being an astronaut would demonstrate his value by enabling him to utilize his knowledge and scientific capacities as well as by turning his lack of social abilities, which cause him to favor being isolated, into an advantage. Here, his condition would make him significant. “It is these plans that demonstrate Christopher’s naivety in the early part of the novel, a limitation brought about by his autism.” (Clark 7).

Clark’s argument poses the question of if Christopher eventually realizes his weaknesses and whether he addresses them or not. The answer is yes, he does acknowledge them and chooses to make significant decisions because of them. After Christopher reasons that he should leave and live in London with his mother, he understands that he cannot become an astronaut since it would mean being very far from home, which alarms him since he has already experienced feeling such separation from his home in Swindon. This little yet telling contemplative disclosure enables the reader to comprehend that Christopher has started to understand his very own limits and to think outside his own psyche, despite if it is just inside the extremely troublesome limits of his autism that confines him. The story closes with Christopher wanting to take more A-level tests in science and math, and after that go to a college in another town (Haddon 221). He knows, because of having fled from home before in the book, that he almost certainly won’t adapt without a grown-up present; he is likewise mindful that going into space is totally impossible. It is this new mindfulness that gives the concentration to the idea of awareness as a basic subtext. Christopher’s activities and revelations in solving a mystery, composing a book, and discovering his mom, albeit partly effective, have driven him to the conceptualization of his own defects as a vital part to his extended comprehension of the world at large.

Despite being on the less severe end of the autism spectrum, Christopher is still restricted in his ability to behave; he has issues with emotional attachments, sympathy with other individuals is limited, and slight distinctions in verbal dialogue and facial expressions can easily be confusing for him. This failure to think outside the impediments of an inflexible, deliberate structure fills in as a marker of his incapability to get a handle on the concept of the brain, a normal consequence of Asperger’s Syndrome and one of the traits of autism that makes emotional interpretation and sympathy troublesome, and sometimes even impossible. Christopher’s weaknesses are social and emotional, unlike many characters in literature in which they are either mentally handicapped or have a physical deformity; it is through the occasions of the novel that he understands the confinements he will always be facing. He is set apart from other autistic characters because he was able to become aware of his differences.

Social Interactions

The theme of social interactions envelops all parts of kinship: desires, observations, and its significance. Charlie’s co-workers — Gimpy, Frank, and Joe — are the perfect subjects to investigate the concept of ‘friendship.’ Prior to the medical procedure, these men were Charlie’s closest companions. He adores their company and anticipates investing his time with them. After the procedure, Charlie can see their relationship from an alternate perspective and comes to acknowledge that these men were not companions. They ridiculed him and he was regularly utilized exclusively for their enjoyment (Keyes 33). As his realization comes to life, his friendship with them dies. But when Charlie gets reverted back into his original state, it is these ‘companions’ who welcome him back, having acknowledged him for who he is again.

When Charlie wakes up from his operation, he picks up the book Robinson Crusoe, and as he deciphers it, the book is about an intelligent man on an island (31). Charlie pities Robinson Crusoe in light of the fact that he is isolated and has no companions, which foreshadows Charlie’s own battle with his own friends and society.

The power of friendship is analyzed in Charlie’s connection with Algernon. The tiny white mouse gifts Charlie with what the world could not gift: genuine and unequivocal companionship. Charlie finds his own destiny through Algernon. When Charlie relapsed to a point that was beneath where he started, readers see the power of companionship, not just in the kinship that existed among Algernon and Charlie, but among everyone else. By the end of the novel, Charlie is unfit to recollect numerous things from the past and he knows that his relapse is disappointing to other people, particularly to Miss Kinnian, whom he thinks about as a companion, so he admits himself to the Warren State Home out of thought for his companions (156). What’s more, genuinely a dependable companion himself, Charlie’s last desire in his report asks that somebody makes sure to place flowers on Algernon’s grave.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Christopher’s failure to express his sentiments of adoration and love in the ‘stereotypical’ way can feel isolating. Be that as it may, Christopher shows readers the significance of reassessing society’s definitions of terms. Despite the fact that he doesn’t care to be physically embraced by his dad and despite the fact that he hints at no care towards his mom, Haddon figures out how to build a world in which readers are really moved by Christopher’s genuineness. Recalling his mom, he discloses that she smelt lovely which is such a particular recollection, that it invokes a picture of Christopher being physically near his mom and feeling consoled and soothed by her recognizable and distinct smell (Haddon 19).

The enormous slip-up that Christopher’s dad makes is to conceal the detail from Christopher that his mom is leaving them since he needs to ‘secure’ his child. Apparently stressing that Christopher will feel neglected and abandoned, he conceals this fundamental detail from him. Christopher’s reaction to this isn’t as one may expect – when he, in the end, reunites with his mom, he isn’t furious that she left. His relationships are directed uniquely in contrast to what society wants them to be. Additionally, Christopher demonstrates that he is more compassionate than the vast majority who express their adoration in the standard ways when he sees that Toby is gone. He risks his own safety so as to spare and protect him (181).

Indeed, Christopher causes readers to challenge how relationships should be seen. Society forces people to show love through conventional ways, like hugging and kissing, but Christopher defies those norms and chooses to love in other terms.

God

The talk of God often is brought up with regards to religion but is more frequent when the extent of power is challenged. Power is firmly attached to the topic of the intellectually disabled which challenges who should have control of the mentally ill individual and why they should. Does God have the control and the last word? Charlie first was introduced to religion when he heard his mom frequently pray to God in hopes of ‘fixing’ her son. After he becomes a genius, he overhears several students conversing about governmental issues and religion. This is the first time he ‘heard anyone say that there might not be a God. That frightened me because for the first time I began to think about what God means’ (Keyes 66). He was told all his life that God holds all power and so the possibility of God not having absolute power terrifies Charlie—and appropriately. He comes to loathe Professor Nemur, on the premise that Nemur does not regard him as an individual until after he becomes a genius. Nemur is trying to act like God. He actually believes that he made Charlie and when Charlie notices this, he argued at the Psychological Association, saying: ‘How can I make him understand that he did not create me?’ (134). Nemur keeps on parading his power at the meeting, and when he poses an inquiry, Charlie says that ‘it was the chance he had been waiting for to show his authority, and for the first time since we’d known each other he put his hand on my shoulder’ (135). Nonetheless, Charlie develops to understand that he doesn’t generally mind if a God exists or not, and embraces an unbiased view, realizing that people make their own idols in their heads for themselves. Consequently, Charlie sets up the harmony between knowledge and love as his new god. Later on at a party, he ‘sermonizes’ to the people, saying that at a basic level, faith consists of learning, knowledge, and intelligence, but these things do not merit anything without adoration and feeling. At long last, when Charlie is asked by Dr. Strauss who he fears more: God or nothing, he responds saying he is not afraid of either, but rather is scared of wasting life.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Christopher considers God an outlandish and superfluous thought. He talks pompously of individuals who have faith in God, recommending they do so simply because they need a basic clarification for complex issues, for example, the presence of life. Christopher thinks that anyone can clarify life and complicated matters without carrying God into the talk (Christopher’s thinking reviews the idea of Occam’s razor, which says one shouldn’t assume anything unless there is a simple explanation). Christopher believes it’s just good fortune that there’s a reality on earth, and not on different planets (Haddon 164). For life to appear, there must be duplication (making replicates through sex), mutation (little changes in the duplicates), and heritability (those changes being transferred to the reproduction) (165). Many don’t trust that the unpredictable parts of life can happen by some coincidence, but rather happen because of evolution. Essentially, religious individuals believe that people are higher intellectually than other creatures, but the missing link is that humans will evolve into another animal and then that animal will treat the humans as inferiors. Christopher again shows his abhorrence of anything imaginary or miraculous. He binds the very presence of life, a standout amongst the most apparently secretive wonders, with logical standards. In spite of the fact that other individuals regularly consider themselves to appear as something else or superior to Christopher, they all happened through science. Christopher appears to discover some fulfillment in the way that, over the long haul, self-righteous people are not self-righteous after all because a human is judging a human, which is a limitation in itself. He additionally communicates his fondness for animals again by guarding them against humans’ seemingly dominant and arrogant ways of life (165).

Conclusion

In both works of literature, the themes of pity, self-awareness, social interactions, and God are very clear and all of them are used to highlight the different and unorthodox views of Charlie and Christopher. However, the bottom line is that disability is a “social construct” (Ray 1). The word ‘normal’ isn’t objective, it is a ‘social construction’ that reflects more about other people and overall society, than an individual’s psychological or physical characteristics. Such a message contradicts the ‘true’ way of thinking, which demands that there is only one method for knowing the world, which by default means that there are a few people who understand the world better than others. With this logic, the disabled are disabled in the first place because they do not have entry to this information and truth. They are determined by a scale of potential and capacity, and are, in this matter, considered abnormal. It is very clear that Charlie and Christopher are different than those who are not autistic and is not considered to be normal, but since when were there requirements to be ‘normal?’

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Intelligence And Happiness In Flowers For Algernon By Daniel Keyes. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved December 1, 2022 , from
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