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Free Study Guide-Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes-Free Online Book Notes
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THEMES

Major

The Theme of self-realization or an understanding of self.

This is the chief need for Charlie and it makes the book one with a universal significance. Although the situation in which Charlie finds himself is a bizarre one, with his rapid movement towards high intellect and an equally rapid regression, it gives him the mental capacity to analyze and voice his need for achievement, acceptance and love. He is also able to fulfill these needs and then accept his regression in a philosophical manner, though after much suffering.


The treatment of a retarded person by the society.

This is another important theme of the novel, made more complex by the dramatic changes in the hero, and in his awareness of people. The readers see the injustice against him, first in the family, where egotism and frustration blind his mother to his tremendous need for love and support. Then the readers see him with the crowd at the bakery, where a few are unreservedly kind and the others make him the butt of their tricks. Finally, even the medical men, whose professed aim is to improve the sad lives of mentally retarded people, treat him as an ‘object’ and a laboratory animal.

The Theme of Love

Charlie is shown to have a tremendous need for love. Having been pushed out by his family, he seeks it among his co-workers in the bakery. This love is just affection and acceptance. He is not shown to have a strong sex drive except after the operation. One notices that his genuine love for Alice is constantly hampered by the repressive attitudes that have been fostered by his mother since his adolescence. Yet, Alice and he do not part ways, but have a deep friendship. A relationship develops between him and his neighbor Fay. He likes and admires many of Fay’s qualities, but he seeks her only for a sexual outlet, not at an emotional level. His love for Alice reaches fulfillment only in the final stages of the book but its intensity comforts him for all the lost days, and his bleak future.

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