9

We note that Algernon, the mouse, 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 mouse's death meant that the procedure had injured the mouse in some way, the death being a consequence of the procedure causing decline below whatever the mouse 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?

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    Didn't get that feeling, but ... we need textual evidence or word of god for an answer. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Aug 23 '17 at 22:03
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    @Jeff I think it was meant to signify that the rat was withdrawing from his friendships, forshadowing what happened to Charlie. – Azor Ahai -- he him Aug 23 '17 at 22:49
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    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 -- he him Aug 23 '17 at 22:55
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    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 -- he him Aug 23 '17 at 23:05
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    Algernon was a mouse... – Moriarty Aug 23 '17 at 23:54
10

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.

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  • 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
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    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
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    @SJuan76 The end of that book is really scary, in my opinion. – Buzz Aug 24 '17 at 1:43
  • @Adamant It's very clearly stated that effect of therapy is temporary, that's it about it. It's all other, indirect stuff that matters and it seems that both OP and answerer missed it entirely. – Mithoron Jan 11 at 16:56
  • @Mithoron - If that is the case, please write your own answer. I don't have time to read the story and write mine, and it's possible that I would not see what you are seeing, in any case. – Adamant Jan 11 at 17:57
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I see here serious misunderstandings of the book (unfortunately also in previous answer).

The essence of "Algernon–Gordon Effect" was that the effects of the procedure, that they both underwent, are strictly temporary. Just as their intelligence was raised, it had to go down. When his intelligence was declining, Gordon was afraid of losing his ability to read, but his fear wasn't rational.

In "Flowers for Algernon" the experiment with raising intelligence is just a starting point for exploration many themes. One is relationship between people having both low and high intelligence and others, how genius or disability alienates them from "normal" people. Charlie's IQ raises a wall between him and Alice when it's high just as well as when it's low. Naive simpleton turns into arrogant genius, just as unhappy as he was before. Instead of joy, high IQ brings him disappointment and disillusion.

Another theme is dichotomy between emotional and intellectual development. While Charlie's intellectual development was undone, his emotional (and, yes, also sexual) development was not. He had serious problems because of his parents' misunderstanding his relationship with his sister. Experiment with raising the IQ had only a very limited success, but it became an opportunity for Gordon to overcome his deep-seated emotional problems and to finally mature and become a man able to decide of himself, live his life according to his own will, and overcome his complex of inferiority associated with IQ.

All in all, I think that Charlie didn't lose anything in terms of intelligence, but gained a lot thanks to his maturation and emotional development.

Charlie is a winner, but other characters are not. Algernon didn't cope with tremendous loss of mental capacity, he shows what could happen also with Charlie, if not for all his development. Alice also couldn't cope with what happened to her lover, otherwise, with Charlie's newly gained maturity, their relationship might still have flourished.

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    algernon died for medical reasons, not inability to cope, right? – releseabe Jan 14 at 3:46
  • No, not right, unless you think that wanting to die is a medical reason. How he died exactly is irrelevant and we don't have exact details for a reason. – Mithoron Jan 14 at 15:28
  • i could see algernon becoming depressed as a side-effect of the loss of intelligence but not because the mouse reflects (as charley does) on the loss -- that would be a huge stretch; there was no indication that tripling or whatever the "IQ" of a mouse put the mouse within human range. – releseabe Jan 14 at 15:33
  • Really? Beating human in labyrinth, or outsmarting a crowd of scientists, who still treated him as dumb mouse, was what exactly? – Mithoron Jan 14 at 15:46
  • i thought you might bring up the maze: this was enhancement of normal mouse behavior; i forget the scientist thing -- how did he outsmart them? anyway, even a human-level intelligence would not equip suddenly the mouse with abstract concepts like intelligence. – releseabe Jan 14 at 15:49

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