In the novel Flowers for Algernon, one theme that comes out clearly is the understanding of self. Charlie was forbidden by his mother to lay an eye on any girl with sex on his mind comes to realize that there are two women who notice him to be attractive but he is not in a position to deal with change. Charlie has an IQ of 68 which is way below the average and as the story progresses, we note that he is different from the one who happens o be a genius. He had been considered sub human by his surgeons but surprisingly he goes ahead to become one with the capability of detecting the errors in their work. (Cassidy 2000)
How he manages to chart his passage through the not so familiar territory into where he is thrown by his operation into forms one the themes of the novel. Before he was operated, Charlie looked forward to being smart and having lots of friends. Afterwards, he finds himself not in good terms with the old friends with the new eyes and gradually alienates himself from them. His conscious mind does not enable him to remember a lot about his family but he constantly flashes those memories and feels the rejections that they showed him. Hence, after the operation, Charlie becomes lonelier than ever before. He goes ahead to use his powers to understand the large new world before him. He equips himself with knowledge but still, close personal ties evade him. (Carlsen 1979)
Throughout the entire book, those around Charlie consider him to be inferior, stupid and make fun of him in t he attempt of making themselves to be seen as superior. Due to Charlie’s mental problems and incapacities, he is not able to realize this till after the operation. The characters who used to make fun of him at the beginning they find it hard to acknowledge his new found wisdom. It is clearly seen as the other characters struggle to accept Charlie after the operation. They accept him only before the operation because they consider him inferior to them. Charlie struggles to accept himself as limited when he comes to know that he was considered stupid and that he is no longer feeble. Once he is enlightened, Charlie finds it hard to accept the other characters as to their interactions with them before his operation. He has been able to consider them friends and it comes to his mind that they were friends in a limited capacity. He realizes that he was not smart like them and in the end; Charlie learns that there is nothing he can do about his problem of limited mental capacity. (Coules 1993)
At the end, Charlie gets the exposure that the experiment is faulty and that it will definitely fail. He then makes away with Algernon and works dutifully and with hard work till he has the answer to the puzzle i.e. how the treatment has failed considerably. He does not have hope for the future but has achieved the work goal that was behind him, he looks for his family and lays his ghosts. He decided to forgives his mum and accepts his blood sister who so elated to see him. His greatest problem is his divided self. Finally, he accepts that the old Charlie will not disappear while the new Charlie has a short life. He firmly believes that the old Charlie has the right to live since he is a human being. Bearing this in mind, he puts way the temptation of death. After coming into terms with his past, he reaches Alice at last as a lover with whom they live together shortly before his regression takes over. He sinks steadily but keeps himself in control and admits his presence at the Warren Home voluntarily. He summarizes by saying that he was glad he got a second chance in life because he learned a lot of things that he never knew existed.
- Bert Coules, Daniel Keyes, The play of Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon Heinemann, (1993)
- Patrice Cassidy, Understanding Flowers for Algernon Lucent Books, (2000)
- Robert Carlsen, Perception: themes in literature Webster Division, McGraw-Hill, (1979)