Notes on Objects & Places from Flowers for Algernon

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Flowers for Algernon Objects/Places

Progress Report: According to Dr. Strauss' instructions, Charlie must record everything he thinks and remembers in these journal entries. The evolving sentence structure, spelling, and vocabulary of Charlie's first-hand reports exhibit his startling progress and eventual decline throughout the experiment. The Beekman doctors take photographs of the reports and read them to monitor Charlie's state of mind. When life becomes more complex for the emotional genius, however, Charlie decides to keep his progress reports private.

Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults: An old schoolhouse that has been used by the Beekman University clinic to provide special classes for the handicapped. On Fanny Birden's suggestion, Charlie registers for reading classes there and meets Miss Kinnian, his teacher. At the height of his intellectual powers, Charlie revisits the Center and disgusts Alice with his arrogant attitude. Finally, when his regression nears completion, Charlie forgets that he is no longer in Alice's class. He shows up at the Center and Miss Kinnian bursts into tears.

Donner's Bakery: Charlie works as a janitor in Mr. Donner's bakery. His uncle Herman, Mr. Donner's best friend, got him the job. Young Charlie loves the warm, comforting smells of the warm pastries, and he thinks that his mocking coworkers are actually his friends.

Rorschach test: A psychological personality test in which a person is asked to describe what he sees in a series of 10 inkblots. The test administrator gauges the subject's response to form, color, location, and content, and then attempts to describe the subject's personality by comparing scores to established norms.

Maze: Charlie and Algernon run mazes in the Beekman laboratory under Burt Selden's supervision. The maze administers a small electrical shock when Algernon makes a wrong turn, and it rewards him with food when he finds the solution. The mouse is too fast for Charlie at first, but when his intelligence begins to increase, he beats Algernon easily. When Charlie hijacks Algernon from the Chicago psychology convention, he buys an apartment and sets up a three-dimensional maze for Algernon's continued practice and mental exercise. Fay humorously calls the maze 'modern art with a living element.' When Algernon's behavior becomes erratic, he refuses to run the maze; he slams himself against the walls and becomes listless and forgetful.

Warren State Home and Training School: The gray, hopeless institution which houses retarded children and adults. Charlie's mother threatened to send him to Warren as a child, but Uncle Herman rescued him from the dismal institution. Charlie learns that the Beekman doctors arranged for him to be sent to Warren in the event of the experiment's failure. When mental regression seems probable, Charlie visits the Warren State Home on an drizzly day. The overworked staff, vacant expressions, disinfectant smell, and affection-starved boys depress him. When Charlie's mental depletion occurs, he goes to Warren to avoid everyone's pity.

Lucky rabbit's foot: When Charlie's IQ is low, he clings to superstitious good-luck pieces like his rabbit's foot, horseshoe, and lucky penny. He keeps these good luck charms with him during his operation. Later, when the experiment fails, Charlie wonders if the loss of his lucky rabbit's foot caused his mental regression.

Welberg Foundation: The foundation that funds Nemur and Strauss' experiment and later supports Charlie's individual research project. Professor Nemur concludes his research prematurely because he wants to impress his Welberg foundation colleagues .

Teaching Machine: An odd, television-shaped set that repeats words throughout the night. It implants knowledge and stimulates memories as Charlie sleeps. More often, however, the set keeps Charlie awake and makes him cranky.

Dough mixer: Joe Carp and Frank Reilly mischievously encourage Charlie to operate the complex dough mixer, intending to humiliate him on April Fool's day. To their surprise, however, Charlie handles the mixer like an expert and Mr. Donner gives him a promotion.

Locket: Young Charlie presented a locket and a valentine to his pretty classmate, Harriet. The valentine contained an obscene message written by Hymie Roth, rather than Charlie's intended love-note. Charlie was beaten up and forced to leave the school. Charlie remembers, however, that Harriet never returned the locket.

Spinner: Young Charlie loves bright, shiny toys. His 'spinner' is a string threaded with bright colored beads and rings. He spends many hours watching the spinner twirl and unwind. Angry that her son is abnormal, Rose slaps the spinner out of Charlie's hands and orders him to play with alphabet blocks instead. Without his spinner, Charlie looses control and wets himself.

Knife: Rose Gordon hysterically threatened young Charlie with a knife the night she demanded Matt to send him away to Warren. The painful memory and bloody knife reoccur in Charlie's nightmares. When Charlie visits his mother and sister as an adult, Rose lapses into a bizarre reenactment of the past and threatens her son with a kitchen knife.

The International Psychological Convention: Charlie and Algernon are the prime exhibits at the psychological convention in Chicago. During Professor Nemur's presentation, Charlie feels like a side-show attraction; no one treats him like a human being. Acting on impulse, Charlie opens Algernon's cage and sends the convention into an uproar. The mouse leads the psychologists on a race throughout the hotel. Charlie heads back to New York with Algernon secure in his pocket.

IQ: Meaning 'intelligence quotient,' the IQ is a number used to express a person's relative intelligence. IQ is calculated by dividing a person's 'mental age' (as reported on a standardized test) by his chronological age, and then multiplying the resulting number by 100. Through the course of the experiment, Charlie's IQ jumps from a low of 68 to a superhuman peak of 185.

Gordons Barber Shop: Matt Gordon always dreamed of getting out of sales and opening up his own barber shop. Charlie learns from a newspaper article that his father opened up a shop in the Bronx. Charlie visits the run-down, empty little barber shop as a regular customer, never revealing his identity to his father.

The Algernon-Gordon Effect: A Study of Structure and Function of Increased Intelligence: Charlie's independent research report, funded through the Welberg Foundation. In the study, Charlie pinpoints the flaw in Nemur's experiment: 'Artificially-induced intelligence deteriorates at a rate of time directly proportional to the quantity of the increase.' That is, the higher the gain in IQ points, the faster the subject's mental regression will occur. Charlie sends his report to Professor Nemur, Dr. Strauss, and the Welberg Foundation. Later, when his IQ declines, Charlie can no longer make sense of his own discovery.

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