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Free Study Guide-Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

Project Report 16 (continued)

September 21

He canít put off the visit to his mother any more. He begins to dream of her, and feels that he must understand her and not hate her. He decides to visit her the next day, and that he would "come to terms with her" before he sees so, " I wonít act harshly or foolishly."

September 27

Charlie goes back to his childhood home in Marks Street. The first shock is that, it's a poor and shabby neighborhood. There are no children playing, only "old people standing in the shade of tired porches." Then he sees an old woman in a shabby brown sweater, washing her windows from outside the house, even in the cold wind. She is old and weak - far from the way he had imagined his mother. He stands staring. When she questions him, all he can say is "Maaaa," forgetting all the words he had mastered in a dozen languages. She recognizes him, is shocked, and he moves towards her. She retreats into the house and Charlie follows her. As he pushes the door open, he gashes his hand on the broken glass. Charlie tell her about the operation and and why he has come to meet her. As she listens to him, transfixed, he says, "You can be proud of me now and tell all the neighbors. You donít have to hide me in the cellar when company comes. Just talk to me. Tell me about things, the way it was when I was a little boy thatís all I want." She sees his bleeding hand and offers to wash it. Clicking her tongue at his clumsiness, she slips back twenty-five years-"Charlie, Charlie, always getting yourself into a mess---" She apologizes for the "mess in the house," saying that she wasnít expecting company, asks if he has come about the electric bill and promises to pay it soon. He asks her whether she has any children apart from the daughter, who is out at work. She says that she had a brilliant son, until someone put the evil eye on him - "They called it the I.Q. but it was the evil-I.Q." Then she starts scrubbing the already clean floor.


Then suddenly, she turns to him joyfully wondering how he had changed and thanking God for answering her prayers. Finally she weeps in his arms, "All the pain was washed away and I was glad I had come." Charlie gives her a copy of his report and promises to write and send money. Norma returns home, just as he is about to leave. Norma recognizes him at once. Charlie is surprised to see that she has changed. Sheís warm and affectionate, not the spoiled brat that he remembers. She says how proud sheís been of reports about him in the press, and how she had shown them to her colleagues at the office. She wants him to eat with her and swap news. She informs Charlie that their mother is senile, but she doesnít want to put her in an institution as the doctor has advised.

Charlie asks Norma to clarify childhood memories and she weeps over how mean she had been to him. She explains that, unlike him, she was always under the pressure to excel at everything and this is what had made her resent him. The other children had harassed her too, calling her, "moronís sister," and leaving her out from birthday parties. She cries with shame and remorse about how she had treated him. She feels a fresh guilt that Charlie had been sent away for her sake.

Charlie himself feels a new compassion and acceptance, of his familyís actions towards him. He tells his sister, "Donít blame yourself. It must have been hard to face the other kids. For me, this kitchen was my world ----you had to face the rest of the world." Norma pours out her daily fears for her motherís safety, her sole responsibility for the two of them, with no one to share it with. Charlie is struck by the irony of the situation. He had always wanted to be "the big brother." Now when he is needed for the role, he does not know whether he has the time to fulfill the role.

While brother and sister are comforting each other, the mother suddenly picks up a knife and raves at Charlie for "looking at his sister with sex in is mind." Both are horrified and Charlie explains that this is why he had been sent away, for Normaís safety, at least as it appeared to their mother. "I must not hate Rose for protecting Norma. I must understand the way she saw it. Unless I forgive her, I will have nothing." - Charlie takes his leave without making promises, except to send money for as long as possible. He suppresses his tears until he is out of the house and then loses control. The old rhyme, "Three blind mice" runs through his mind, illuminating their unhappy state. He looks back and imagines his own childish face peering out from the window.

Notes

This chapter brings Charlie to the acceptance of his mental regression. He is magnetically drawn to the Warren Home, which he feels is his inevitable home. In a way, the visit shows him the human face of the home - itís handful of sincerely dedicated staff struggling to give a human aspect to the lives of those society canít face or deal with. From fear and revulsion, Charlie moves towards unwilling acceptance of the Home and it's conditions. He aches for the sad-faced inmates of whom he will soon be one. The author doesnít pin the blame for the treatment of the physically or mentally handicapped on any person or agency, but he shows everybody as uncaring and selfish.

Another event that he had feared had been a possible meeting of Alice and Fay. It now takes place without fanfare, and he realizes they like each other. Charlie tells Alice that he loves her, but at this stage, he still keeps his distance from her. Meanwhile, he admits that, "by keeping the secret about myself, I had somehow not committed myself to Fay completely." The divided mind makes it impossible for Charlie to really commit himself to anyone, since he doesnít know what his "self" really is! Thus, he tries to make love to Alice by trying to pretend that she is Fay. Later, he makes love to Fay, "but kept thinking of Alice."

These tensions however pale beside the dominant one, that is, the possibility of his regression. So he devotes himself entirely to work. Even there, he hovers on the edge of his major finding, but is unable to get there. He realizes or rather makes his discovery only after his major rave with Nemur. The frank speech on both sides clears his thinking. He honestly admits to himself, that Nemur is right about his (Charlie) arrogance and selfishness. Charlie realizes that love and the sharing of affection is central to life, more so than intelligence. He also realizes that the "old" Charlie is still within him, waiting. He decides not to give up his new found intelligence without a fight, not to give it up until he has completed the work he has taken on. Armed with this awareness, his mind is unlocked and he is able to discover what exactly has gone wrong with the experiments on Algernon and himself.

Charlie is able to meet his mother with a changed attitude, without "acting harshly or foolishly." The visit is an eye-opener. His mother is an old sad woman, and Norma an over-burdened, lonely one. Charlie is now able to see things from his motherís perspective and is therefore able to forgive her. His inability to say anything except "Maaa..." when he first meets his mother, underlines how the child is ever-present in an individual, and the fact that need for love and acceptance from oneís family is a basic need. It is an intensely emotional chapter, culminating in Normaís leaning against him, and saying how much they need him - a need which Charlie would have given anything to fulfill.

In this chapter Charlie makes the discovery of his life, which signals his own doom. He accepts his own failings and his fate and finally makes peace with his family. With the death of Algernon, the end of the "intelligent" Charlie is fore shadowed.

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