Flowers for Algernon is the diary of a retarded boy called Charlie Gordon. Charlie wants to read and write like all the other people he knows, so he agrees to participate in an experiment. Charlie has to take creative tests to determine if he is intelligent or really retarded. Charlie does not do well on the tests, so he is chosen as their first human subject for the experiment. The doctors have already done experiments on a mouse called Algernon. He is much smarter than other mice because he has had an operation. Charlie agrees to have the operation and his intelligence almost triples.
Charlie and Algernon develop a special friendship because they spend a lot of time doing tests together. Problems start because although Charlie’s intelligence has increased, his emotional level has not. He has a hard time socializing with girls, and knowing what to do in gatherings of people, because of this Charlie tends to make a fool of himself at a party when he drinks. Over a period of time he starts to remember things about his childhood. He visits his parents but his father does not know him, although his mother and sister do and are happy to see him.
He loses his job because the other works feel threatened by Charlie’s new powers. He realizes the friend he thought he had just used him and made fun of him. Towards the end of the books, Charlie is angry and tired of being put on display by the doctors. He is tired of being treated as an experiment instead of a person with feelings. At one of the conventions where Charlie and Algernon are on display, Charlie takes Algernon and runs away. Charlie knows that the consequence of his actions will mean that over a period of time he will lose his intelligence and would go back to being etarded.
Algernon lose the effects of the operation and dies. Charlie realizes that what has happened to Algernon will happen to him, and he considers suicide while he is still in control of his emotions. Day by day Charlie began to regress, he became angry at people very quickly. His new personality was a symptom of his regression, and people stayed away from him. Charlie became lonely in the last few weeks before he regressed fully, he starts to lose his memory, and reading and spelling become difficult again.
Charlie had always been alone, no one had ever really understood him, or taken the time to try, except of course his night school teacher Miss Kinnian. He was never accepted, as either a stupid or smart person. He never seemed to fit in to society. The doctors that conducted the experiments never really cared for Charlie, they used him for their own glory. His friends used him as a scapegoat, and as entertainment. The only two people in the story that cared for Charlie were Miss Kinnian and Algernon. The book leaves one wondering who were the stupid people.
Charlie in his retarded state, warm and caring, or the people around him, that used him, made fun of him, and were afraid of him. The last sentence in the book where he asks someone to put flowers on Algernon’s grave, shows that even in his present state, Charlie cared about Algernon. One has to think whether Charlie would have been better off without the experiment. He would have had his job, his friends, but most important of all a life. Who were the real losers in the book, Charlie who knew a normal life and lost it, or the people who never took the time to get to know Charlie?