Essay: Analysis of Charlie – Flowers for Algernon

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  • Subject area(s): English literature essays
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  • Published on: January 12, 2020
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  • Analysis of Charlie - Flowers for Algernon
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Science says; “Intelligent people get more depressed than others because they are more conscious of how the world truly works”. I will base the following focus on the short story “flowers for Algernon”. In the short story, intelligence is the main desire for the main character Charlie. Charlie Gordon is a mentally retarded 37 year-old man with an IQ of sixty-eight. Although Charlie might not have been smart, I think that Charlie was the definition of happiness. After Charlie undergoes an experiment surgical technique that triples his IQ, his life changes for the worse. Charlie learns that the grass is not always greener on the other side, which is why I believe that intelligence and happiness are inversely proportional.

Firstly, for Charlie, Ignorance is bliss. Charlie’s lack of intelligence has made him a trusting and friendly man, as he assumes that the people in his life, most noticeably, his co-workers at the factory—are as well intentioned as he is. Charlie’s “friends” laughs at him because he was cognitively impaired, and in the beginning, he was not sure why so he just laughed along with them. The truth is we live in a world full of people who are constantly stepping all over each other for any chance to get ahead. It is a crushing realization to come to. Therefore, when his intelligence grows Charlie gains perspective on his past and his present. He realizes that people have often taken advantage of him and have been outright cruel to him for fun, knowing that he would not understand. Likewise, he also becomes aware that when people have been kind to him, it has been out of condescension or out of an awareness that he is an intellectual inferior but also less of a human being than they are. “Now I’m more alone than ever before,” Charlie says on April 30th. This shows that he was happier before. Before he became smarter, even the simplest things in life were good enough for him. As a genius, none of those things mattered to him anymore. As a result, he felt alone, which shows one aspect as to why intelligence and happiness can be inversely proportional. Therefore, it shows that happiness is a result of acceptance. Those who operate with greater mental limitations, for whatever reason, sometimes seem to have an easier time accepting their circumstances, their environment, and themselves, because they cannot understand that much. A simple minded person can shrug their shoulders and carry on, accept what is, and that is what creates the entrance for the experience of happiness.

Secondly, nobody really expects Charlie to do anything with his life, and anything he accomplishes is automatically above expectations. However, someone who shows obvious signs of intelligence has it a lot harder. It can seem like no matter what you do, there is at least one person who thinks you are not living up to your “true potential”. Smart people have to be smart, but “dumb” people like Charlie have the option of going either way. If they do something good, pats on the back, if they do not, that is fine too because nobody really expected that success out of them either way. Interestingly, the operation elevates Charlie’s intelligence to such a level that his new intelligence distances him from people, instead of giving him a chance of actually getting a real life and real friends. He realizes that he has lost all the people he knew “Once again now I have the feeling of shame burning inside me. This intelligence has driven a wedge between me and all the people I once knew and loved. Before, they laughed at me and despised me for my ignorance and dullness; now, they hate me for my knowledge and understanding” This proves that he was happier before he became more intelligent. Before the operation he worked happily at the factory, was motivated to learn, had hope to become smarter and be accepted as an ordinary man. Earlier people saw him as an inferior individual and did not have any expectations to his accomplishments. In short, you can prove that intelligent and happiness is inversely proportional.

Thirdly, intelligence is more than just a high I.Q. People develop along four streams: intellectual, physical, emotional and social. In classrooms, the smartest kids tend to be left out of more activities by other children than they are included in. They are “social outsiders”. In other words, they do not develop socially as well as they may develop intellectually, where opportunities may exist for more improvement. Charlie was initially warmhearted and trusting, but as his intelligence increases, he grows cold, arrogant, and disagreeable. The more he understands about the world, the more he recoils from human contact. This has something to do with the fact that he does not have good intrapersonal intelligence. We can see that before the operation, he was better at being together with people but because that only his logical intelligence increased, he changed drastically. But why? The answer to that is simply the fact that when the four streams: intellectual, physical, emotional and social was regular before the operation, the contrast between his logical and intrapersonal intelligence was at a minimum, but as soon as he got the operation that increased mostly his logical intelligence, the contrast was more substantial. Before the operation, although he wants to become “smart” and feels the effect of his limited intelligence, he is a generally happy person. He values friendship and sees the good in others, even when they are not particularly nice to him. As Charlie becomes more intelligent, he begins to understand that to one of the scientists he is no more than a test subject like the mouse, Algernon. The people in the factory are no longer comfortable having Charlie around them, because they know he is now smarter than they are. Charlie begins to feel alone and isolated from the others. This leads Charlie to the following statement:”I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.” This statement shows us that the more Charlie knows about the world around him, the less happy he will be and that proves that happiness and intelligence is inversely proportional.

This short story makes a definitive statement about the role of intelligence in human life that I have interpreted. Intelligence does not lead to more happiness, in fact I believe I that it is quite the opposite, by pointing out that Charlie was happier before the operation, even though he was not intelligent. Moreover, he did not have problems socially before the operation. Many people wonder how their lives would be affected by becoming more, or less, intelligent, and Keyes gives us a glance into what a journey that would be like. Though Keyes’s background is in science fiction and the short story undoubtedly belongs to that genre, it think it also transcends the limitations of the genre. Keyes uses science fiction as a springboard for an exploration of universal human themes such as the nature of intellect, the nature of emotion, and how the two interact. People get more depressed than others do because they are more conscious of how the world truly works and I believe it holds some truth to it. Because how would the world be, if everyone could get an operation to make them more intelligent and along with that more depressed?

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