Qtr and Half Way on Flowers for Algernon

SPOILERS AHEAD LIKELY – EVEN IF I GET THEM WRONG because they might only be guesses...

You have been warned.

I started reading on May 1, Friday. I then tweeted my progress and I was persuaded to blurb my  impressions;  I got to 25% in only a few hours of a work day. [Hey! I was subbing —  the scholars had independent study!] If you don’t want to know ANYTHING about this book, I suggest you move along.



SO, this will be a two part half way post.

What has happened so far:


Page 53 ends a chapter so this is a good time for me to calculate that 53 pages out of 216 is indeed 24.5%.

CHARACTERS: We have met Charlie, a 32 y.o. male who has worked at a bakery doing clean up and deliveries for 17 years [page 16]. His IQ is low, 68 (where the “average” has been ranged at 90-109 per Wikipedia) [page 7]. He has been attending a Special Needs class (page 3 uses the banned word ‘retarded’ – always a clue that this is written prior to many,many years ago); Charlie really wants to learn how to read and write. He is said to have MOTIVATION. He thinks that if he is smarter, he would have more friends because they could talk about topics he could finally understand.

Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur:  The doctors who have experimented with brain surgery on mice to make them smarter. Huh. They disagree on how best to handle Charlie; we only learn this through Charlie’s observations and reports that he is writing — so far, the book is unfolding entirely through these reports, in his own words.

Bart: Tester and Lab Assistant who introduces Charlie to Algernon, a mouse who can finish a maze tremendously fast.

Alice Kinnion: Charlie’s teacher that recommended him for the ‘experiment’.

PLOT POINT/S: The ‘experiment’ is some kind of brain surgery that might increase Charlie’s intellectual capacity. This all happens in the first 10 pages!

Charlie’s writing begins to improves considerably. He finally is able to remember;  remembering how to spell, remembering his childhood, remembering times when his friends were actually not being very friendly. He is also finding out about love and attraction. Oo la la!

Punctuation, is? fun!

As his ability to learn and gain knowledge increases, his fears do, too. His ability to trust diminishes. He becomes suspicious and anxious. He begins to crave privacy when he used to assume that becoming smarter would allow him to have more friends.


MY OWN THOUGHTS: Hmmm. Where are the space aliens?

I seem to recall IQ being a hot topic when I was young. I do NOT recall the idea of brain surgery as the answer to mental retardation! But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this has been tried. Yes? No? Does anyone talk about IQ anymore? It’s all about being ready or having the resources and support to nurture young brains. Now it seems to be all about economics…

I am a bit skeptical about how fast his intelligence is increasing – the surgery was March and the 25% point is May 1 – that’s six weeks or so. He’s reading The Great Gatsby and An American Tragedy. (some kind of foreshadowing?!)

I do know I want to keep reading!  pieratingsml


Reading on…

What has happened so far:


We decided to stop for this break a little after the Half Way mark but at a good stopping point ~page 115.

Charlie is SMART now. Off the charts smart! He has learned multiple languages, is reading texts and research conducted around the world in the original language and is smarter than the PhDs who are working on ‘his’ project. He has the smarts but not the experiences to understand context and emotions and relationships.

Personally, I finding it rather tedious. I’m finding Charlie as tedious as I think he coworkers now find him! So perhaps that is the point. But it doesn’t make for favorable reading experiences.

Still not sure about Algernon’s role in the story…

NOTE:  We have found out that there are two editions of Flowers for Algernon; one is longer by almost 100 pages and I don’t expect it is because of a larger print font. Of course, the goodreads clue on the longer edition that states WARNING! is a pretty big clue. Apparently?  This was revised for an adult version and a ‘kids’ version?  In my curiosity to find out the differences, I thought I saw a spoiler and I SHUT-er-DOWN (the Wiki page).

Perhaps my imagination is getting the better of me.


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11 thoughts on “Qtr and Half Way on Flowers for Algernon

  1. Oh! The adult vs. kids version makes something my daughter said make more sense now…

    We read the adult version together some months ago (and both loved it). Then her English class read parts of it together from an anthology…and she said there were major differences. She was ticked off because she knew some major elements had been changed in the version they were reading in school and she didn’t understand why. Well, they were obviously reading the “kid” version. Sigh. Those kids are 14 years old…they don’t need a kid version.

    1. Oh! Do come back at the end of the month and tell us more! It will be hard without reading both, right? I’m pretty sure I have the original ‘kids’ version…

  2. I think the “kid” version is just the short story version which was written first. That’s the version I devoured last night and enjoyed. For some reason, the author decided to expand the story into a novel, changing things like where Charlie worked (a factory as a janitor) and his first book being Robinson Crusoe. I enjoyed the short story so much that I don’t want to read the longer version now.

    1. But how long is the short story? I read something short in an anthology in grade school–maybe 8th grade? But don’t remember ANYTHING about it (I probably didn’t bother to read it…I was more interested in my own reading).

      My copy is 300+ pages. He worked in a bakery until recently (I’m just at halfway). First book was Robinson Crusoe. Pretty sure with some of the sexual descriptions, though, I likely have an adult version? It’s not graphic but seems that type of stuff might have been left out for younger eyes back in the day? Hmmm…it’s a mystery!

      1. I read the story from my teacher’s edition. It’s about 50 pages. There’s no sexual descriptions since he never meet the second woman. ..The short story was written first, then the novel. Maybe for money?

  3. I know I read Flowers for Algernon for school and I remember enjoying it, but I don’t remember any of the story/plot you’ve written about at all. I think I must have read the short story version that Natasha read, rather than the novel. This is so intriguing – so many versions of the story!

    1. interesting. I am wondering if I actually have the long book but it is printed in tinier font thus the 216 page count vs the 311. Whatever.

  4. Mine is more 240+ pages (forgot the exact count plus the book is far from me and my back is killing me today so I’m being a little lazy too lol), but it doesn’t sound anything like the adult version Vasilly described, so it’s probably still the short story.

    Your reaction at 50% is exactly what I have been feeling too. It’s amazing how the author has written the book to make the reader experience the exact emotions people around Charlie have been having too, despite us reading from Charlie’s perspective.

    1. Yep, that factory seems to be the big difference so far? or at least we can quickly grasp. Surely there are bigger more subtle differences. But it is confusing. And why we can’t find any essays that discuss this?

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