Flowers for Algernon/Allegory of the Cave

In the beginning of the book Flowers for Algernon there is a passage from the “Allegory of the Cave” which is written by Plato. It explains a group of people that live in a cave and are chained to the cave wall. For their entire life they have to face a blank wall and watch shadows projected from puppets pass behind them. Plato believes that once someone is freed from the cave they will see the reality outside of the cave. This same situation is related to the main character Charlie when he goes under an operation that makes him a genius. This really begins to open up his views and he starts discover the real world. Charlie learns many life lessons such as a person’s right to live and the development of social skills. The three main time periods before, during, and after his operation connect to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”

Charlie frequently says that he is now able to see with his new intelligence, that he is like a blind man who is now able to see. He begins to find new things about the world that he’s never known before. His intelligence keeps growing and he soon becomes much smarter than the two neurosurgeons who gave him these abilities. He had learned multiple languages and read hundreds of books, but it all begins to slip away as fast as he acquired it. However, his intelligence is also blinding in many ways because it is overwhelming. It also causes Charlie to see many negative things about people. In the beginning of the book Charlie’s coworkers were awful to him and made fun of him in any way they could. After the surgery he realized what they really meant when they were talking to him and realized they weren’t as good of friends as he thought.

In a way we all grow from children to adulthood, but Charlie had started out as a child and only knew a life like that. Once charlie had begin to hold a steady IQ level his emotional side haad begin to change but at all different times. It didn’t develop steadily which caused him to feel a number of different ways but very rapidly. For example his old teacher Ms. Kinnian was only viewed as a teacher to him, but after the operation he began to think of her as much more. He would spend a day with her and believe that he was in love, but another day something would go wrong and he would become very aggressive and obviously couldn’t control his emotions. In the poem there is a quote that reads “… unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light.” This explains how Charlie couldn’t adapt to his his feelings and that was something he couldn’t control.

Before Charlie undergoes the operation he had to do a series of tests to show his mental growth. This was also his introduction to Algernon when he watched him run through the mazes, and he wasn’t able to be able to beat the mouse when trying to finish the mazes. After he does finally beats Algernon, Charlie soon realizes that life is a maze as well. The end goal is death, but the path that one takes through life is what makes the maze. He understands that navigating human relationships, as well as working with people, can be mazes as well. One big maze Charlie had was to figure out how to maintain his intelligence instead of losing it. He soon realizes that he can’t and he begins to makes one a final transition, from the light back into the darkness. His IQ begins to drop rapidly and he hides himself of the world since he is now the old Charlie.

Even though charlie had become a resilient person and experienced a life that no one would have thought. Charlie ended up going back in the cave because sometimes you just can’t adjust to the light as quickly as you think. Even though going into the light results in both negative and positive realizations it helped him to develop his view on the world. The operation was Charlie’s taste of light and if he continued to stay in it he would have developed in every way.