The Theme of Flowers for Algernon

Subject: 📚 Literature
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 765
Topics: Flowers for Algernon, 📗 Book, 😱 Emotions
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Flowers for Algernon, a short story and later a novel by Daniel Keyes, tells the story of a laboratory mouse named Algernon who undergoes experimental surgery to increase intelligence and a man named Charlie who is given the same surgery (Keyes, 2021). The novel explores the idea that intelligence and emotional capacity are intimately connected, and that increasing one does not necessarily lead to a corresponding increase in the other. Through the experiences of the main characters, Algernon and Charlie, the novel suggests that the pursuit of intelligence can lead to alienation, loneliness, and, ultimately, heartbreak. The novel’s theme is the consequences of artificial manipulation of intelligence and the relationship between intellect and emotions.

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Consequences of Artificial Intelligence

Throughout the story, Algernon experiences a range of emotions. He gains a greater understanding of the world around him. However, ultimately he must confront the fact that he is still a mouse in a laboratory, subject to manipulation and experimentation (Astiantih, 2014). Additionally, the theme of isolation comes into play as Algernon starts to understand his intelligence and the intelligence of others. He becomes increasingly aware of how his intelligence sets him apart from his fellow mice and the humans who care for him. His enhanced intelligence also causes him to be isolated from his peers in the laboratory and eventually to question what is real and what only an illusion is.

The novel portrays that the surgical enhancement of intelligence comes at a high cost to both Algernon and Charlie (Schűsselová, 2013). Algernon, the mouse, experiences a rapid increase in intelligence but is soon plagued by the same emotional turmoil that Charlie later faces. Similarly, Charlie’s newfound intelligence leads him to a deeper understanding of the world, but it also causes him to lose touch with his past and the people he once loved.

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The story follows the character Charlie Gordon, a man with an IQ of 68 who is selected for an experimental operation to increase his intelligence. The story charts Charlie’s transformation from a mentally disabled man to a genius and the consequences of this change on his relationships and understanding of the world.

The other characters also illustrate the consequences of artificial intelligence. Alice Kinnian, Charlie’s teacher, is emotionally intelligent and compassionate. She is patient with Charlie and cares for him deeply, but as Charlie’s intelligence improves, he becomes aware of her limitations, and his romantic feelings for her are unrequited. However, one of Charlie’s friends is intellectually intelligent but emotionally shallow. He treats Charlie poorly and cannot understand or empathize with his situation.

Nemur and Strauss, who lead the experiment, are brilliant scientists but lack empathy and compassion for their subject, seeing Charlie only as a means to an end for their scientific research. They are more focused on their success and reputation than the well-being of the individual they are experimenting on.

Importance of Emotional Intelligence

The novel also stresses the importance of emotional intelligence and its role in human relationships. For example, Charlie’s initial lack of emotional intelligence leads to his being taken advantage of by others. Only when he becomes emotionally intelligent can he form meaningful connections with others (Marliyanto et al., 2013). Ultimately, Charlie’s emotional intelligence allows him to accept and come to terms with his fate.

Charlie’s emotional immaturity is highlighted throughout the story. Despite his increased intelligence, he struggles to understand and manage his emotions. As a result, he finds it difficult to express his feelings and connect with others emotionally. His newfound intelligence also makes him more aware of the cruelty his friends and family have subjected him, and he struggles to cope with these emotions.

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The other characters also illustrate the theme of emotional intelligence. Alice Kinnian, Charlie’s teacher, is emotionally intelligent and compassionate. She is patient with Charlie and cares for him deeply. This behavior is contrasted with the character of Burt, who is intellectually intelligent but emotionally shallow. He treats Charlie poorly and cannot understand or empathize with his situation.

Furthermore, Nemur and Strauss, who lead the experiment, illustrate the importance of emotional intelligence in the scientific field. They are brilliant scientists but lack empathy and compassion for the subject of their experiment, seeing Charlie only as a means to an end for their scientific research.

Conclusion

Flowers for Algernon raises essential questions about the relationship between intellect and emotion and the consequences of artificially manipulating intelligence. The novel suggests that intelligence and emotional capacity are intimately connected, and that increasing one does not necessarily lead to a corresponding increase in the other. It also stresses the importance of emotional intelligence and its role in human relationships.

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  1. Keyes, D. (2021). Flowers for Algernon. In the Mind’s Eye, 89-103. Routledge.
  2. Schűsselová, J. (2013). The theme of” Man Playing God” in a Clockwork Orange and Flowers for Algernon. Semantic Scholar. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Theme-of-%22Man-Playing-God%22-in-A-Clockwork-Orange-Sch%C5%B1sselov%C3%A1/bdf6b4013132f1d14e4cd5a76f2d9ad531a96b1d
  3. Marliyanto, R., Nugroho, H. A., & Hikmat, M. H. (2013). Emotional intelligence development in Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon (1966): A humanistic psychological approach [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta.
  4. Astiantih, S. (2014). The main character’s personality in Daniel Keyes` Flowers for Algernon [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Universitas Hasanuddin.Top of Form
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