Notes on Flowers for Algernon Themes

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Flowers for Algernon Topic Tracking: Friendship

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Friendship 1: Gimpy hollers at Charlie when he makes mistakes at the Bakery. Charlie does not take Gimpy's yelling personally, however, because Gimpy is a friend. Charley naively believes that everyone at the bakery is his friend, and he looks forward to surprising them when he becomes smart.

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Friendship 2: Professor Nemur tells Charlie that he will be famous if the experiment proves successful. Charlie does not care about being a celebrity. Instead, he says he simply wants to be like other people so that he will have lots of friends who like him.

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Friendship 3: Charlie longs to participate in conversations with his coworkers, Joe, Frank and Gimpy. He believes that intelligence will bring him friends and he will never be lonely again.

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Friendship 4: Charlie's so-called "friends" taunt him at the Bakery about his unexplained operation. Frank and Joe laugh at Charlie's surgical scar, and Charlie joins in because he thinks his coworkers really like him. In an example of true friendship, Mr. Donner explains how he promised Charlie's uncle Herman that Charlie would always have a place to work in the bakery. Herman was Mr. Donner's best friend. Now, Mr. Donner transfers that friendship onto Charlie by protecting him from the Warren State Home, and by helping him to earn a living.

Friendship 5: Mocking Charlie's desire to read and write, Joe and Frank tell Charlie not to forget them when he becomes a genius. Charlie's buddies are very important to him, and writes that he would never forget his friends.

Friendship 6: Joe Carp and Frank Reilly humiliate Charlie by getting him drunk and ditching him at a bar. Charlie cannot understand why his friends left him. He cannot wait to become smart so that he can be like his best friends, Joe and Frank.

Friendship 7: Charlie finally beats Algernon at running the maze. Concerned for the mouse's feelings, Charlie decides to be nice to Algernon. He feels sorry that Algernon must solve problems before the scientists give him food. Charlie identifies with Algernon and decides to be friends with him. Later, when Charley reads Robinson Crusoe, he contemplates how lonely it must feel to be stranded on an island without any friends.

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Friendship 8: Miss Kinnian warns Charlie not to feel too bad if he finds out that people are not as nice as he once believed. Charlie does not understand. He maintains that all of his friends are smart, good people; they like him and would never do anything unkind. This naïve belief crumbles when Frank and Joe invite Charlie to a party in order to make him look foolish. Charlie realizes that his "friends" are laughing at him, and that they just keep him around to make fun of him. This crushing awareness fills Charlie with shame.

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Friendship 9: Charlie feels completely alone and craves human contact. Even with his intellectual superiority, Charlie feels empty; he needs friendship. Wandering the streets at night, Charlie goes to the movies in order to surround himself with people.

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Friendship 10: At the height of his genius, Charlie realizes that intelligence without human affection is worthless. When he was retarded, Charlie had many friends, even if they were not always genuine. As a genius, however, Charlie realizes that he has become arrogant, condescending, and incapable of making friends. He feels completely alone and he understands that the self-centered search for intellect, to the exclusion of human relationships, leads only to pain and mental breakdown. Echoing his embarrassment when he first discovered that Frank and Joe made him the butt of their jokes, Charlie again feels ashamed when he realizes his own arrogance.

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Friendship 11: Regressed to his original IQ, Charlie returns to work at Donner's Bakery. A new hire named Meyer Klaus harasses Charlie and hurts his arm. Joe and Frank defend Charlie and Gimpy tries to get Klaus fired. In genuine friendship and sympathy, Gimpy, Joe, and Frank protect Charlie. They are his friends, and Charlie feels happy.

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