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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
3rd Progris report - Martch 5
Charlie is very worried about failing the test, and assures Dr. Strauss and Nemur that he hadn’t spilt any ink on the cards. They tell him it doesn’t matter and Charlie hopes that, ‘maybe they will still use me.’ They say he was highly recommended by Miss Kinnian as her ‘bestest pupil.’ They probe into his reasons for learning and he says, "all my life I wanted to be smart and not dumb and all my life, my mom always told me to try and lern, just like Miss Kinnian tells me, but its very hard to be smart and even when I lern something at Miss Kinnian’s class, --- I forget a lot."
Prof. Nemur warns Charlie that they have experimented only on animals so far, and are not sure of the effects on human beings. Charlie replies, "I don’t even care if it herts or anything because I’m strong and I will work hard." They inquire about his family, as they require their permission to operate on him. Charlie says he hasn’t seen his parents or his sister Norma for a long time, but he thinks they lived in Brooklyn.
The report ends with Charlie hoping that he won’t need to write many more, as he has to cut down his sleep in order to write it, and this makes him very tired for work the next morning. He has begun to make mistakes at the bakery and as a result Gimpy, his surly friend, has been angry with him. Charlie hopes that he will surprise Gimpy when he becomes ‘smart.’
This report shows the researchers trying to delve into the mind of Charlie Gordon. His single-minded desire to be ‘smart’ is shown in contrast to his severe limitations in the capacity to express himself. The other characters are gradually introduced. So far, the researchers appear as faceless men in white coats. Miss Kinnian is seen as a kindly, maternal figure and a source of hope and encouragement to Charlie.
There is a brief reference to his family, which has obviously broken off ties with him. The only is his Uncle Herman. But unfortunately, he is now dead. Charlie’s loneliness and his traumatic past are just beginning to surface in these passing references. The ‘guinea pig’ aspect is underlined by his finding the reports tiring, and the strain affecting his work at the bakery.
Progris report 4 - Martch 6
The reader learns that more tests have been conducted on Charlie, when he says, "I had more crazy tests today in case they use me." He asks the lady, who gives him the test, to spell the name of the test, so that he can write it in his progress report. The lady tells him that these are Thematic Apperception Tests. The first test ‘looks easy because I could see the pictures.’ But the ‘nice lady’ tells Charlie he has to ‘make up story’s about the pepul in the pictures.’ He refuses, as that would be telling lies and he ‘always got hit’ when he told lies as a child. He offers to tell lots of stories about his sister Norma and his Uncle Herman, but she isn’t interested. Charlie becomes irritable about the tests. He reports - "She looked angry and took the pictures away. I don’t care. I guess I faled that test too." Then Burt Selden, the other research assistant, takes him to the lab, "Where they make spearamints. I thot that he ment like where they made the chooing gum but now I think its puzzles and games because that’s what we did." Once again he is at a loss-"it was all broke and the pieces coudnt fit in the holes." The mazes too confuse him utterly. Then Burt takes him to a place where ‘pepul’ in white coats are playing with animals ‘so I thot it was like a pet store but their wasn’t no customers.’ Then Burt introduces him to Algernon, a white mouse who can solve the maze ‘real good.’ Charlie guffaws at the idea of a mouse doing anything that is so difficult. He is therefore amazed to watch Algernon solving the maze with a triumphant squeak.
Then Burt suggests that Charlie should race Algernon. Both are given similar wooden mazes. Charlie has a pointer, which gives him a mild shock when he makes a mistake. Burt tries to hide the fact that he is keeping a record of the time each one is taking at the maze. Charlie races Algernon eleven times and the mouse wins every time. Ultimately, Charlie observes and learns from him. He concludes, "I dint know mice were so smart."
The chapter takes the reader further into Charlie’s progress as a research subject. Algernon, the white mouse, is central to the novel, as he is Charlie’s ‘alter ego.’ This symbolic parallel is rich in meaning. It shows Charlie as currently inferior to Algernon in ability, but very willing to learn from him. Not only are the readers aware of this parallel, but it is clear in Charlie’s mind as well. Algernon is the mouse on whom the experimental surgery has already been carried out. Charlie is the future subject of the same surgery. The bond between the two, on which the title is based, begins from this point.
So far the ‘men in white coats,’ seem distant and sinister while Charlie’s humble status is inferior even to that of the mouse! Only Charlie’s unwitting humor and lively curiosity lightens the atmosphere.