5

We note that Algernon, the rat, died and that seems to indicate that the procedure not only wore off but had some severe after-effects. Charley Gordon did not die but was it suggested that he was left with a more severe deficit in the end?

EDIT: If the rat's death meant that the procedure had injured the rat in some way, the death being a consequence of the procedure causing decline below whatever the rat had been, it seems like the diary would show somehow that Charley was less intelligent than pre-procedure Charley. I vaguely remember that he had forgotten something he had known before. He had made arrangements to move to a group home or something whereas before the procedure he was living on his own in a rooming house so doesn't that suggest he had lost some skills?

  • 2
    Didn't get that feeling, but ... we need textual evidence or word of god for an answer. – dmckee Aug 23 '17 at 22:03
  • 1
    @Jeff I think it was meant to signify that the rat was withdrawing from his friendships, forshadowing what happened to Charlie. – Azor Ahai Aug 23 '17 at 22:49
  • 1
    Algernon gets very violent and self-destructive toward the end. I took that to mean he was regressing worse than returning to "regular rat" levels. As to his death, rats don't live that long. – Azor Ahai Aug 23 '17 at 22:55
  • 1
    I didn't read it as there was a net loss in IQ, but I'm interested to see what the answers say w.r.t. that and with textual evidence. – Azor Ahai Aug 23 '17 at 23:05
  • 2
    Algernon was a mouse... – Moriarty Aug 23 '17 at 23:54
2

The ending of Flowers for Algernon is intentionally ambiguous. Algernon loses his enhanced intelligence and subsequently dies; when the mouse is autopsied, there is clear damage to his brain. Charlie concludes, based on an analysis of Algernon's case, as well has what happened to other mice and to himself, that his intelligence is going to disappear as well. However, he never states outright whether he expects that the intellectual decay will eventually kill him.

It is a repeated theme in the last pages of the book that Charlie will be going away. It is chillingly ambiguous whether he means this only literally, that he just cannot bear to be around the people who knew him when he was a genius, or whether he means that he expects to die.

Moreover, by the time his regression is sufficiently far advanced that it might be possible to draw clear conclusions about what his ultimate fate would be, Charlie himself is no longer capable of evaluating the available information. He himself probably does not know what to expect, because he is no longer intelligent enough to draw reliable conclusions about what is happening. While the ending may be frightening for the reader, it must be infinitely more so for Charlie the character. He knows that, at his peak, he would have been smart enough to figure out whether he was dying or not, but the loss of intelligence has left him unable to figure that out.

  • I think this is it -- certainly from a scientific standpoint it is unlikely that, after such a major procedure, things would simply return to normal. He could have retained some intelligence but there was no indication of that so it seems more likely that he will suffer some fate related to what happened to the mouse -- I had forgotten about the post-mortem exam of the mouse in the book. – Jeff Aug 24 '17 at 1:32
  • 1
    Actually, in the last entry he seems to have totally forgotten about his (probable) death and he is kind of optimistic: Im taking a cuple of books along and even if I cant reed them III practise hard and maybe I wont forget every thing I lerned. If I try reel hard maybe III be a littel bit smarter then I was before the operashun...Thats why Im gonna keep trying to get smart so I can have that feeling agen... Im going to have lots of frends where I go – SJuan76 Aug 24 '17 at 1:34
  • 1
    @SJuan76: Work on your spelling. – Jeff Aug 24 '17 at 1:38
  • 2
    @SJuan76 The end of that book is really scary, in my opinion. – Buzz Aug 24 '17 at 1:43
  • Well, it seems you understood less then even OP, it seems. – Mithoron Aug 24 '17 at 20:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.