Flowers for Algernon is a science fiction short story and subsequent novel written by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1960. The novel was published in 1966 and was joint winner of that year's Nebula Award for Best Novel (with Babel-17).
Algernon is a laboratory mouse who has undergone surgery to increase his intelligence by artificial means. The story is told by a series of progress reports written by Charlie Gordon, the first human test subject for the surgery, and it touches upon many different ethical and moral themes such as the treatment of the mentally disabled.
Although the book has often been challenged for removal from libraries in the United States and Canada, sometimes successfully, it is frequently taught in schools around the world and has been adapted many times for television, theatre, radio, and as the Academy Award-winning film Charly.
|Flowers for Algernon|
First edition cover
|Publisher||Harcourt, Brace & World|
|April 1959 (short story)|
March 1966 (novel)
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
The ideas for Flowers for Algernon developed over 14 years and were inspired by events in Keyes's life, starting in 1945 with Keyes's conflict with his parents who were pushing him through a pre-medical education despite his desire to pursue a writing career. Keyes felt that his education was driving a wedge between him and his parents, and this led him to wonder what would happen if it were possible to increase a person's intelligence.
A pivotal moment occurred in 1957 while Keyes was teaching English to students with special needs; one of them asked him if it would be possible to be put into a regular class if he worked hard and became smart. Keyes also witnessed the dramatic change in another learning-disabled student who regressed after he was removed from regular lessons. Keyes said that "When he came back to school, he had lost it all. He could not read. He reverted to what he had been. It was a heart-breaker."
Characters in the book were based on people in Keyes's life. The character of Algernon was inspired by a university dissection class, and the name was inspired by the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. Nemur and Strauss, the scientists who develop the intelligence-enhancing surgery in the story, were based on professors Keyes met while studying psychoanalysis in graduate school.
In 1958, Keyes was approached by Galaxy Science Fiction magazine to write a story, at which point the elements of Flowers for Algernon fell into place. When the story was submitted to Galaxy, however, editor Horace Gold suggested changing the ending so that Charlie retained his intelligence, married Alice Kinnian, and lived happily ever after. Keyes refused to make the change and sold the story to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction instead.
Keyes worked on the expanded novel between 1962 and 1965 and first tried to sell it to Doubleday, but they also wanted to change the ending. Again, Keyes refused and gave Doubleday back their advance. Five publishers rejected the story over the course of a year until it was published by Harcourt in 1966.
The short story "Flowers for Algernon" was first published as the lead story in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It was later reprinted in The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, 9th series (1960), the Fifth Annual of the Year’s Best Science Fiction (1960), Best Articles and Stories (1961), Literary Cavalcade (1961), The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964 (1970), and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction: A 30-Year Retrospective (1980).
The expanded novel was first published in 1966 by Harcourt Brace with the Bantam paperback following in 1968. As of 1997 the novel had not been out of print since its publication. By 2004, it had been translated into 27 languages, published in 30 countries and sold more than 5 million copies.
The short story and the novel share many similar plot points, but the novel expands significantly on Charlie's developing emotional state as well as his intelligence, his memories of childhood, and the relationship with his family. Both are presented as a series of journal entries ("progress reports") written by the protagonist, Charlie Gordon. The style, grammar, spelling, and punctuation of these reports reflect changes in his mental and emotional growth.
Charlie is a man with an IQ of 68 who works a menial job as a janitor at Donnegan's Plastic Box Company. He is selected to undergo an experimental surgical technique to increase his intelligence. The technique had already been successfully tested on Algernon, a laboratory mouse. The surgery on Charlie is also a success, and his IQ more than doubles.
He realizes his co-workers at the factory, who he thought were his friends, only liked having him around so they could tease him. His new intelligence scares his co-workers, and they start a petition to have him fired, but when Charlie learns about the petition, he quits. As Charlie's intelligence peaks, Algernon's suddenly declines—he loses his increased intelligence and mental age, and dies afterward, buried in the back yard of Charlie's home. Charlie realizes his intelligence increase is also temporary. He starts to experiment to find the cause of the flaw in the experiment, which he calls the "Algernon–Gordon Effect". When he finishes his experiments, his intelligence regresses to its original state. Charlie is aware of, and pained by, what is happening to him as he loses his knowledge and his ability to read and write. He tries to earn back his old job as a janitor, and tries to revert to normal, but he cannot stand the pity from his co-workers, landlady, and Ms. Kinnian. Charlie states he plans to "go away" from New York and move to a new place. His last wish is for someone to put flowers on Algernon's grave.
Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.
Charlie Gordon, 32 years old, demonstrates an IQ of 68 due to untreated phenylketonuria. His uncle has arranged for him to hold a menial job at a bakery so that he will not have to live in a state institution. Desiring to improve himself, Charlie attends reading and writing classes at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults; his teacher is Miss Alice Kinnian. Two researchers at Beekman, Dr. Nemur and Dr. Strauss, are looking for a human test subject on whom to try a new surgical technique intended to increase intelligence. They have already performed the surgery on a mouse named Algernon, resulting in a dramatic improvement in his mental performance. Based on Alice's recommendation and his motivation to improve, Nemur and Strauss choose Charlie over smarter pupils to undergo the procedure.
The operation is a success, and within the next three months Charlie's IQ reaches 185. However, as his intelligence, education, and understanding of the world increase, his relationships with people deteriorate. His co-workers at the bakery, who used to amuse themselves at his expense, now fear and resent his increased intelligence and persuade his boss to fire him. Later, Charlie confronts his scientific mentors about their condescending attitude toward him, particularly Dr. Nemur, because Charlie believed Dr. Nemur considered him a mere laboratory subject and not human before the operation.
When not drinking at night, Charlie spends weeks continuing his mentors' research and writing reports which include observations of Algernon, whom he keeps at his apartment. Charlie's research discovers a flaw in the theory behind Nemur and Strauss's intelligence-enhancing procedure that could cause him to revert to his original mental state. His conclusions prove true when Algernon starts behaving erratically, loses his own enhanced intelligence, and dies.
Charlie tries to mend the long-broken relationships with his parents, even as his own intelligence enhancements begin to slip away. He remembers that during his childhood, his mother had first believed that he could be made normal and spent money on quack treatments for him; later, though, she began to insist on his institutionalization, overruling his father's wish to keep him at home. His mother, who still lives in the family's old home in Brooklyn, has developed dementia and recognizes him only briefly; his father, who broke off contact with the family years earlier, does not recognize him at all. He is only able to reconnect with his now-friendly younger sister, Norma, who had hated him for his mental disability when they were growing up, and is now caring for their mother in their newly depressed neighborhood. When Norma asks Charlie to stay with his family, he refuses but promises to send her money.
Despite regressing to his former self, he remembers he was once a genius. He cannot bear to have his friends and co-workers pity him. He decides to live at the state-sponsored Warren Home School, where nobody knows about the operation. In a final postscript to his writings, he requests that someone put some flowers on Algernon's grave in Charlie's former backyard.
Both the novel and the short story are written in an epistolary style collecting together Charlie's personal "progress reports" from a few days before the operation until his final regression. Initially, the reports are filled with spelling errors and awkwardly constructed sentences. Following the operation, however, the first signs of Charlie's increased intelligence are his improved accuracy in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and diction. Charlie's regression is conveyed by the loss of these skills.
Important themes in Flowers for Algernon include the treatment of the mentally disabled, the impact on happiness of the conflict between intellect and emotion, and how events in the past can influence a person later in life. Algernon is an example of a story that incorporates the science-fiction theme of uplift.
Algis Budrys of Galaxy Science Fiction praised Flowers for Algernon's realistic depiction of people as "rounded characters". Stating in August 1966 that Keyes had published little fiction and whether he would publish more was unknown, he concluded "If this is a beginning, then what a beginning it is, and if it is the high point in a very short career, then what a career". In February 1967 Budrys named the book the best novel of the year.
The original short story won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1960. The expanded novel was joint winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966, tied with Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1967, losing out to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein.
In the late 1960s, the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) decided to give Nebula Awards retroactively and voted for their favourite science fiction stories of the era ending December 31, 1964 (before the Nebula Award was conceived). The short story version of Flowers for Algernon was voted third out of 132 nominees and was published in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964 in 1970. Keyes was elected the SFWA Author Emeritus in 2000 for making a significant contribution to science fiction and fantasy, primarily as a result of Flowers for Algernon.
Flowers for Algernon is on the American Library Association's list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–1999 at number 43. The reasons for the challenges vary, but usually center on those parts of the novel in which Charlie struggles to understand and express his sexual desires. Many of the challenges have proved unsuccessful, but the book has occasionally been removed from school libraries, including some in Pennsylvania and Texas.
In January 1970, the school board of Cranbrook, British Columbia, as well as Calgary, Alberta, removed the Flowers for Algernon novel from the local age 14–15 curriculum and the school library, after a parent complained that it was "filthy and immoral". The president of the British Columbia Teachers' Federation criticized the action. Flowers for Algernon was part of the British Columbia Department of Education list of approved books for grade nine and was recommended by the British Columbia Secondary Association of Teachers of English. A month later, the board reconsidered and returned the book to the library; they did not, however, lift its ban from the curriculum.
Flowers for Algernon has been the inspiration for works that include the album A Curious Feeling by Genesis keyboardist Tony Banks. It also inspired the 2006 modern dance work Holeulone by Karine Pontiès, which won the Prix de la Critique de la Communauté française de Belgique for best dance piece. A 2001 episode of the TV series The Simpsons titled "HOMR" has a plot similar to the novel. A 2013 episode the TV series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia titled "Flowers for Charlie" is heavily based on the novel.
Flowers for Algernon has been adapted many times for different media including stage, screen and radio. These adaptations include:
For both the experimental mouse and the retarded narrator in Flowers for Algernon ... , the arc of uplifted intelligence rises high above the species norm into similarly lonely realms, only to fall again.
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1966.30th Japan Record Awards
The 30th Japan Record Awards were held on December 31, 1988, and were broadcast live on TBS.Babel-17
Babel-17 is a 1966 science fiction novel by American writer Samuel R. Delany in which the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis (that language influences thought and perception) plays an important part. It was joint winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1967 (with Flowers for Algernon) and was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1967.Delany hoped to have Babel-17 originally published as a single volume with the novella Empire Star, but this did not happen until a 2001 reprint.Charlie (album)
Charlie is the third album by Melt-Banana. This album was the first release on their own label, A-Zap.
Charlie features guest appearances by Mike Patton and Mr. Bungle on the song "Area 877 [Phoenix Mix]". Mike Patton says: "MELT... BANANA!" at the beginning of the song and Melt-Banana have sampled this through many of their other songs including "7.2 Seconds Flipping", "Brick Again" and the version of "Bad Gut Missed Fist" on their live album MxBx 1998/13,000 Miles At Light Velocity.
Charlie was named after the film of the same name, based on the novel Flowers for Algernon.Charlie and Algernon
Charlie and Algernon is a musical with a book and lyrics by David Rogers and music by Charles Strouse. It is based on the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. It received its premiere on 21 December 1978 at The Citadel Theater, in Edmonton, Canada.Charly
Charly (marketed and stylized as CHAЯLY) is a 1968 American drama film, directed and produced by Ralph Nelson, and written by Stirling Silliphant. It was based on Flowers for Algernon, a science fiction short story (1958) and subsequent novel (1966) by Daniel Keyes.
The film stars Cliff Robertson as Charly Gordon, an mentally retarded adult who is selected by two doctors to undergo a surgical procedure that triples his IQ as it did for Algernon, a laboratory mouse who also underwent the same procedure; additional roles are co-played by Claire Bloom, Lilia Skala, Leon Janney, and Dick Van Patten. Robertson was reprising his previous portrayal of the same role in a 1961 television adaptation, "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon", an episode of the anthology series The United States Steel Hour.
The film received positive reviews, and was a success at the box office and, a generation later, in home media sales.Daniel Keyes
Daniel Keyes (August 9, 1927 – June 15, 2014) was an American writer who wrote the novel Flowers for Algernon. Keyes was given the Author Emeritus honor by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2000.Flowers for Algernon (album)
Flowers for Algernon is the first solo album by Japanese singer Kyosuke Himuro. Japanese rock group Boøwy, to which he once belonged, disbanded and this album was released as his solo debut five months later.Flowers for Algernon (film)
Flowers for Algernon is a 2000 American-Canadian television film written by John Pielmeier, directed by Jeff Bleckner and starring Matthew Modine. It is the second screen adaptation of Daniel Keyes' novel of the same name following the 1968 film Charly.Flowers for Rhino
"Flowers for Rhino" is a Spider-Man story by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo. Published in 2001, it is a pastiche of the science fiction story Flowers for Algernon. "Flowers for Rhino" appeared in Spider-Man's Tangled Web #5–6.HOMR
"HOMR" (styled as "HOMЯ") is the ninth episode of the twelfth season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. The 257th episode overall, it originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 7, 2001. In the episode, while working as a human guinea pig (to pay off the family's lost savings after making a bad investment), Homer discovers the root cause of his subnormal intelligence: a crayon that was lodged in his brain ever since he was six years old. He decides to have it removed to increase his IQ, but soon learns that being intelligent is not always the same as being happy.
The episode was written by Al Jean and directed by Mike B. Anderson. Its plot takes inspiration from Flowers for Algernon and its film adaptation Charly. "HOMR" was viewed in 10.2 million households, and it received positive reviews from television critics. In 2001, the episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program, while Al Jean received a nomination in the category "Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Television Production".Jan Potměšil
Jan Potměšil (born 31 March 1966 in Prague, Czechoslovakia) is a Czech actor.
In summer 1989, he finished his lectures at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and joined Divadlo na Vinohradech. Later that year, he hooked up with other students and actors who were going to Ostrava to persuade the miners to support the Velvet Revolution. On the way back, his car crashed on a frozen road. Since then, Potměšil has been
paralysed from the waist down. He uses a wheelchair.
He is currently a prominent member of the Kašpar theatre company that performs in the Divadlo v Celetné, Prague. He performed major characters in several plays. The most notable ones include Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon (more than ten years on the repertoire), the title role in Richard III (received Alfréd Radok Award for best actor), Jesus in Felix Mitterer's Trouble in the House of God, or Polonius in Hamlet. In Lyra Pragensis, he performed Henri Toulouse-Lautrec in Pavlík's Beauty from Moulin Rouge, Fletcher in a scenic reading of Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Dickie in Running from Safety of the same author.Kelli Williams
Kelli Renee Williams (born June 8, 1970) is an American actress. She is known for her roles as Lindsay Dole on the legal drama The Practice, psychologist and deception expert Dr. Gillian Foster on Lie to Me, and Jackie Clark on Army Wives.Kenji Urai
Kenji Urai (浦井 健治, Urai Kenji, born 6 August 1981) is a Japanese television, stage and voice actor.List of fictional rodents
This list of fictional rodents is subsidiary to the list of fictional animals and covers all rodents, including beavers, mice, chipmunks, gophers, guinea pigs, marmots, prairie dogs, porcupines and squirrels, as well as extinct or prehistoric species. Rodents, particularly rats and mice, feature in literature, myth and legend. The North American Salish people have an epic tale in which the Beaver, rejected by Frog Woman, sings a rain-power song that results in a disastrous flood.Mickey Mouse, the cheerful, anthropomorphic cartoon character, was a tremendous success for The Walt Disney Company in 1928. Mice feature in some of Beatrix Potter's small books, including The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904), The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse (1910), The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918), and The Tailor of Gloucester (1903), which last was described by J. R. R. Tolkien as perhaps the nearest to his idea of a fairy story, the rest being "beast-fables". Among Aesop's Fables are The Frog and the Mouse and The Lion and the Mouse.Nebula Awards Showcase 2001
Nebula Awards Showcase 2001 is an anthology of science fiction short works edited by Robert Silverberg. It was first published in hardcover and trade paperback by Harcourt in April 2001.Olimpiu Blaj
Olimpiu Gelu Blaj (Romanian pronunciation: [oˈlimpju ˈd͡ʒelu ˈblaʒ]; born November 18, 1986) is a Romanian actor mostly known for playing Eric in The Cosmonaut's Last Message To The Woman He Once Loved In The Former Soviet Union directed by Radu Afrim, Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar and Charlie in Flowers for Algernon directed by Miklós Bács. He also played Osip in The Government Inspector directed by Vadas Laszlo. and Steve and Lendal in Almost, Maine directed by Cristian Juncu. Olimpiu graduated the Faculty of Theatre at Babeş-Bolyai University from Cluj-Napoca (Romania) in 2011.
In 2015 Olimpiu Blaj started to work with the Scottish film director, producer and screenwriter Mick Davis on "Paganini" at "Metropolis" Theatre from Bucharest, playing the role of Paulo Vincenzo.Polsky Films
Polsky Films is a film production company based in Los Angeles, California created by brothers Alan Polsky and Gabe Polsky. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans directed by Werner Herzog and starring Nicolas Cage was Polsky Films first film. They also own the rights to turn the novels Flowers for Algernon, Gun, with Occasional Music, and Butcher’s Crossing by John Edward Williams into films and the rights to turn the lives of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud into films.
They have announced a biopic on surf legend Dorian Paskowitz that will be co-produced with Sean Penn. Screenwriter Stephen Schiff was hired by Polsky Films to write the script on the film about Einstein.The Healer's War
The Healer's War is a 1988 science fiction novel by American writer Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. It won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1989.