Flowers for Algernon Progress Report 9
On April Fool's Day, Joe Carp and Frank Reilly set Charlie up for another mean-spirited joke at the bakery when they encourage him to work the complicated dough mixer. To everyone's surprise, Charlie operates the machine like an expert. Mr. Donner promotes Charlie from janitor to mixer and gives him a five dollar raise. Bewildered, Charlie's coworkers agree that Charlie has been very peculiar lately.
Miss Kinnian reads Charlie's progress reports and is outraged to learn how Charlie's coworkers take advantage of his simplicity. As Charlie records, "She says Im a fine person and Ill show them all. I asked her why. She said never mind but I shouldnt feel bad if I find out everybody isnt nice like I think." PR 9, pg. 26 Miss Kinnian's kindness reminds Charlie of his mother before Norma's birth. Charlie recalls Rose Gordon slapping him in a rage when he innocently picked up his crying baby sister one night. Disturbed by the memory, Charlie resolves to discuss it with Dr. Strauss during therapy.
Miss Kinnian teaches Charlie how to use punctuation, and the over-zealous student writes, "One thing? I, like: about, Dear Miss Kinnian: (thats, the way? it goes; in a business, letter (if I ever go! into business?) is that, she: always gives me' a reason" when - I ask. She"s a gen'ius! I cou'd be smart like-her, Punctuation , is? fun!" PR 9, pg. 28 Charlie reads a grammar book overnight and his punctuation instantly improves. The doctors are excited about his rapid progress and they no longer ask him to race against Algernon.
On the following night, the gang from Donner's bakery mischievously invites Charlie to a party, intending yet again to humiliate him. Joe spikes Charlie's soda with alcohol and urges him to dance with a girl named Ellen. Charlie stumbles as they purposefully trip him and push him down. For the first time, it dawns on Charlie that his so-called friends are laughing at him. Deeply ashamed, Charlie writes, "I never knew before that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me around just to make fun of me. Now I know what they mean wen they say 'to pull a Charlie Gordon.' I'm ashamed." PR 9, pg. 30 This realization of false friendship upsets Charlie so much that, for the first time in his life, he purposefully stays home from work.
Vivid memories of abuse from neighborhood bullies fill Charlie's head. He remembers running for safety into the bakery as a young delivery boy, leaning up against the wall, and having his legs suddenly kicked out from under him. Dr. Strauss comforts Charlie and explains how his intellectual growth has so far outpaced his emotional growth. While Charlie's mind progresses to an adult level, with an IQ topping 100, he is nevertheless still emotionally and sexually in a state of adolescence.
Charlie experiences another strange dream and, through Strauss' therapeutic method of free-association, he uncovers a memory from his schooldays. It was Valentines Day at P.S. 13, and young Charlie had a crush on a classmate named Harriet. Charlie asked Hymie Roth to write a love letter, so that Charlie could present it to Harriet with a golden locket that he found in the street. Instead of recording Charlie's innocent love note, Hymie wrote an obscene message and signed Charlie's name to it. Harriet's furious big brothers beat Charlie up and he was forced to change schools.
Charlie realizes that trusting people can be dangerous and that many friends are false. Back in the lab, Burt Selden conducts another Rorschach test on Charlie. Burt instructs Charlie to describe the images suggested by the inkblots. Charlie suspiciously accuses Burt of changing the directions to make him look foolish. Charlie believes that Burt told him last time that there were images hidden in the inkblots, and now Burt is saying that there is no particular image, just whatever the test subject happens to think of. Charlie angrily storms out of the lab. Burt and Professor Nemur prove to Charlie that Burt did not change the instructions by playing a tape recording of the original session. On the tape, Charlie hears Burt's voice as he reads the standard instructions: "Now I want you to look at this card, Charlie. What might this be? What do you see on this card? People see all kinds of things in these inkblots. Tell me what it makes you think of..." PR 9, pg. 41 Charlie realizes that his anger and suspicious were unfounded, yet he still feels unable to trust Burt completely. He is wary of everyone around him, and he wishes to keep his progress reports private for a while.