A Review of Flowers for Algernon and the Role of the Protagonist

Sometimes it is better to not know the truth because it can sometimes make us realize how cruel the world and the people in it can be. In Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and the movie “Charly”, Charlie wants to become smarter like the people around him. After he receives his operation Charlie realizes that people are not how he perceived them to be. He realizes that people have been making fun of him and treating him like he is a child because of his mental illness. As a reader, I personally believe that the book, Flowers for Algernon, does a better job detailing the events and themes of the story as well as allowing the reader connect with Charlie and understand his point of view better compared to the movie “Charly”.

To begin with, the book illustrates Charlie’s regression once the operation starts to wear off. Flowers for Algernon also includes Charlie’s progress reports so readers are able to tell in his writing that his intelligence is regressing. Since Charlie is the one writing his progress reports, readers can connect with him on an emotional level. To elaborate, Charlie writes about how he feels suicidal and how he’s getting small flashbacks of random events but he doesn’t know when or whether they actually happened or not.

To add onto these thoughts, the movie “Charly” doesn’t show Charlie’s friends feeling guilty after they heard about his operation. In the progress report for July 27, Charlie writes about how his “friends”, Frank Reilly and Joe Carp, stand up for him when another worker makes fun of him. Before the operation, Joe and Frank would always make fun of Charlie and make jokes about him. Based off of this progress report, readers can infer that once Joe and Frank found out about Charlie’s operation, they most likely felt guilty for all the jokes and pranks they did on him.

The directors chose to leave out some very small but noticeable information such as his regression. To add to this statement, the movie also doesn’t seem to talk much about Charlie’s background and his family. “Charly” only mentions Charlie’s a few times and his family is not mentioned as much, if at all, in general. The book and the short story of Flower for Algernon does mention Charlie’s family though. The whole book mentions a lot about Charlie’s mother and the terrible conditions he went through as child. Reading about his past can connect readers to his events and some might be able to relate to some of the events. If you were to just watch the movie, you wouldn’t think much about Charlie’s past because the movie barely mentions any information on it.

Not only did the “Charly” directors exclude details and information mentioned in the book, they also let the doctors take credit for the Algernon-Gordon Effect. Flowers for Algernon describes how Charlie found and discovered the Algernon-Gordon Effect when he found out about his deterioration. On the other hand, in “Charly”, Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur took credit and made a speech about how they created this effect. I think the short story did a better job allowing Charlie to be the inventor of the Algernon-Gordon Effect because it shows how Charlie is more intelligent and capable of doing smart actions. Since the movie chose to make the doctors the inventors of the effect, it doesn’t accentuate Charlie’s increase in intelligence after he received his operation.

In the final analysis, it is clear that the book, Flowers for Algernon, is better at illustrating the theme and main events that occur. Firstly, Flowers for Algernon includes Charlie’s progress reports which allow readers to see his regression after his intelligence increase. In addition, the movie, “Charly”, doesn’t show Charlie’s “friends” feeling guilty for him after they find out about his operation. Thirdly, Flowers for Algernon talks more about Charlie’s family, background, and family. Lastly, the book makes Charlie the creator of the Algernon-Gordon Effect which shows that he is intelligent and that the operation worked. Charlie realizes after his operation that the world is really more cruel and different than what he thought before his operation.