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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Progress Report 11
Charlie takes Miss Kinnian to see a movie. She attracts and excites him and he has an urge to touch her like all the dating couples around. When Charlie tries to confide his newfound feelings for her he becomes clumsy and drops things, but Alice is always patient. She refuses to accept any deeper commitment in their relationship as she feels "it might have a negative effect." Charlie on the other hand is furious and frustrated "with her easy answers and her maternal fussing." The evening ends on an uneasy note with Charlie’s resolve "next time, I’m going to kiss her good night."
Charlie has a nightmare. He sees a red-haired girl embracing him. The more caressing she becomes, the more he retreats as, "I know I must never touch a girl." The dream ends with her holding a bloody knife in her hands. He wakes up disturbed, and tries to let his mind go into a free associations process. He sees a picture of himself watching his growing sister Norma through a keyhole, as she is taking her bath. The memory then shifts to him being chased with a kitchen knife. He also remembers finding Norma’s bloodstained underwear one-day, and being frightened by that. He tries to connect his memories - "I can understand why I was taught to keep away from women. It was wrong for me to express my feelings to Alice." Yet, this is contrary to another need-"I’m a person. I was somebody before I went under the surgeon’s knife. And I have to love someone."
At work another disturbing factor surfaces. Charlie realizes that Gimpy is cheating Donner. When he works at the cash counter, he under charges the regular customers and gets a cut from them. Charlie is horrified to see this. He is grateful to Gimpy. But he also loves and owes an immense debt to Mr. Donner. He is disillusioned and troubled about what to do next. He thinks about Donner’s kindness to his employees, especially Gimpy. At that moment a red-haired lady comes to the bakery. Charlie realizes that, under Gimpy’s instructions, he has often delivered orders to her house. Charlie also realizes that, she usually comes to the bakery when Mr. Donner is not around. Charlie notices that, Gimpy undercharges her purchases. Charlie now realizes that Gimpy has used him as a go-between to deliver packages to such chosen customers. The fact that Gimpy has taken advantage of his ignorance makes Charlie furious.
May 9 & 10
This is the first time Charlie has been faced with such a moral problem. He is torn between two old friends. Gimpy has three children and a clubfoot. What if he loses his job? On the other hand, why should he be allowed to cheat his employer? What about Charlie’s own role as an unwitting "accomplice?" Charlie takes his dilemma to Dr. Nemur. Nemur tells him not to get involved. He compares Charlie’s innocence in the matter to the position of a knife used in a stabbing. Charlie is furious - "But I’m not an inanimate object," he argues. "I’m a person."
Later, Strauss and Charlie discuss the matter during counseling. Strauss feels Charlie should tell Donner. This confuses Charlie even more. He is unable to make a decision and decides to speak to Alice about this and therefore asks her to meet him in the same cafeteria that they had met earlier. When he tells her everything, Alice pushes him to make his own decision. She says he should trust himself to do so. Charlie is excited at her advice. Charlie confesses that he loves her, but Alice does will not accept this seriously. She tells him he is changing very fast; that he will soon develop to a level beyond hers, and they may not have much in common. Charlie is terribly disappointed. He insists that he needs her for what she is, and that she should sometimes meet him outside the campus.
Charlie decides to watch Gimpy for some more time. His doubts are confirmed and he decides on a "compromise." He tells Gimpy about an imaginary ‘friend,’ who has discovered his colleague cheating his boss. He also tells Gimpy that, if the colleague stops stealing then the ‘friend’ will not report the matter to the boss. Gimpy says that the friend should mind his own business. By now, the reader can understand that Gimpy knows who Charlie is talking about. He tells Charlie to tell his friend that, the colleague doesn’t have a choice. While leaving, he asks Charlie whether the friend would be interested in a cut but Charlie refuses saying that the friend only wants this to stop. Gimpy is livid - ‘you’ll be sorry you stuck your nose in. I always stood up for you. I should if had my head examined."
Charlie reads books related to varied fields, like ancient languages, the calculus of variations and ‘Hindu’ history. But he grows more disillusioned with those around him. He no longer enjoys listening to the student’s debates as they are, "on such an elementary level." He meets an economist with whom he wants to discuss the use of the military blockade as a weapon during the peacetime. However, the man says he can’t answer as it is outside his area of specialization. Charlie is shocked. He has similar experiences with many other ‘learned’ professors. "They would always find excuses to slip away, afraid to reveal the narrowness of their knowledge."
Charlie takes Alice to an open-air concert in Central Park. All around them, there are couples making love. Charlie hesitantly caresses Alice, and is angry because he feels that she is responding, only physically, "while she kept her mind on higher things." Suddenly, he has a feeling that a teenage boy is watching him. He imagines he is in the boy’s place, watching Alice and himself. He asks Alice whether she can see him but she says that she doesn’t see anything. He starts to chase the boy but fails to catch him. Charlie feels faint and dizzy. Later, after counseling he feels this experience was a hallucination. Strauss tells him that emotionally, he is still an adolescent and therefore is not ready for a serious relationship.
Charlie is sacked from his job at the bakery. Donner calls him into his office and explains - "Nothing’s wrong with your work. But something’s happened to you, and I don’t understand what it means... They’re all upset, Charlie, I got to let you go." Charlie pleads with him to let him stay, but Donner says the other employees are dead against him. Charlie asks for a chance to convince them. Donner unwillingly gives it to him. But it's no use Frank bursts out with - "you come pushing in here with your ideas and suggestions and make the rest of us all look like a bunch of dopes." While Gimpy plainly says - "you can go to hell!"
Only Fanny Berden one of the girls talks kindly to him. But she is very suspicious. "Charlie if you done anything you wasn’t supposed to - you know, like with the devil or something - maybe it ain’t too late to get out of it."
Charlie ends up feeling lonelier than ever before. He wonders - " what would happen if they put Algernon back in the big cage with some of the other mice. Would they turn against him?"