Notes on Flowers for Algernon Themes

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Flowers for Algernon Topic Tracking: Sexuality

Progress Report 9

Sexuality 1: Just for laughs, Joe and Frank set Charlie up with a dance partner named Ellen at an after-work party. Ellen dances close to Charlie and he feels aroused. At night, Charlie has a wet dream about Ellen. He does not understand that this is a normal part of sexual development.

Progress Report 11

Sexuality 2: Charlie sees Alice Kinnian as a very attractive woman. Fumbling in a stage of sexual adolescence, Charlie feels painfully nervous at the thought of intimacy. In his childhood, sexuality was always associated with punishment. Charlie remembers how his mother abused him for being "dirty-minded" and how he was punished for peeking through the bathroom keyhole during his sister's bath.

Sexuality 3: Intimacy makes Charlie nauseous and agitated. Alice wants Charlie to kiss her, but an overwhelming anxiety prevents Charlie from getting close to her. Dr. Strauss explains that, emotionally, Charlie remains in a state of sexual adolescence; just the thought of a woman or sex is enough to make him panic and hallucinate. Sexual nightmares remind Charlie of his mother's warning against ever touching a girl. Charlie remembers when, on a delivery errand for the bakery, a middle-aged woman opened her bathrobe and exposed herself to him. The woman asked Charlie if he knew how to make love, and whether he had ever seen a naked woman. The experience terrified Charlie because his mother always told him never to look at woman's body.

Progress Report 12

Sexuality 4: A promiscuous woman on a park bench sexually propositions Charlie. He is excited by her lustful advances until, pulling back her overcoat, she exposes her pregnant belly. Charlie's mind flashes back to the woman who exposed herself to him as a young delivery boy, and he grabs her angrily. Echoing his mother, Charlie calls the woman filthy and tells her to be ashamed of herself.

Progress Report 14

Sexuality 5: Charlie's new neighbor Fay exudes sexuality. Undergarments and nude portraits clutter her apartment, and her sexual freedom makes Charlie uncomfortable.

Sexuality 6: Fay cannot figure out why Charlie has not responded to her sexual advances. She asks Charlie if he is homosexual or if he is simply not interested. Charlie wants to spend the night with Fay, but he needs to drink gin in order to relax. Charlie soon becomes intoxicated and the old Charlie Gordon makes an appearance. Speaking like a child, Charlie says he cannot play with girls because his mother will take away his peanuts and put him in a cage.

Sexuality 7: Charlie visits Alice's apartment and panics at the thought of making love to her. To avoid his usual nausea and hallucinations, he pretends that he is making love to the less-threatening Fay. Charlie's visualization scheme fails, however, because he cannot make love to Alice without being truthful. Returning to his own apartment, Charlie becomes sexually aggressive and he forces himself to overcomes his sexual impotence with Fay. He imagines the old Charlie Gordon watching with wide eyes through the window, but he ignores the hallucination and surrenders to the passionate experience. Charlie is not in love with Fay, but she is important to him and he enjoys their free-spirited sexual relationship.

Progress Report 17

Sexuality 8: Love is mysterious and wonderful. Charlie loves Alice with his body, mind and soul; their love-making is more powerful than merely physical intercourse. Charlie realizes the importance of physical love coupled with a strong emotional connection. Sex with Fay was merely physical, but intimacy with Alice is physical, mental, emotional, and quite mysterious. Charlie loves Alice, even though their time together is short.

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