Geniuses In Daniel Keyes 'Flowers For Algernon'

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Geniuses. Michelangelo, Galileo, Newton, Einstein. All names recorded in history, and all people who share the same above average brilliance and intellect. “Idiots”, on the other hand, are those who are never recognized for their smarts, or lack thereof, and who seldom receive any commemoration. These “idiots” are pressured to believe that intelligence is the key to success and happiness, never aware of the sorrows and despairs that a high intellect brings. One of these people is Charlie Gordon. In the short story “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, Charlie is a 37 year old man with an IQ of 68 who has always wanted to be smart his entire life. When Charlie is referred for an operation that might make him smart, Charlie jumps at the opportunity.…show more content…
After the operation during his period of intelligence, Charlie has dinner with Miss Kinnian, his former teacher and current friend. Charlie tries to avoid all discussions of intellectual concepts, trying to “keep the conversation on a simple, everyday level, but she just stared at me blankly and asked me what I meant about the mathematical variance equivalent in Dorbermann’s Fifth Concerto. When I tried to explain she stopped me and laughed. I guess I got angry, but I suspect I’m approaching her on the wrong level,” (Keyes 18). As Charlie is exponentially smarter than others, he cannot communicate with those he considers important people in his life after the surgery. Charlie is not able to decipher what others understand, and therefore cannot talk to those close to him. Charlie is no longer on the same intellectual “level” as others, which is detrimental since being able to communicate with others is crucial to empathy and understanding between people. His lack of verbal connections plunges Charlie into a lonely abyss, without anyone who understands him. This newly obtained intelligence takes the ease and ability of communication away, leaving him alone and suppressed. Charlie further states that “This intelligence has driven a wedge between me and all the people I once knew and loved… they hate me for my knowledge and understanding. What in God’s name do they want of me? They’ve driven me out of the factory. Now I’m more alone than ever before,” (Keyes 16). Charlie’s ingenuity had driven away his fellow colleagues and friends, rendering him isolated and despondent. He has no idea how to carry on, as no one can understand him, let alone act as a confident. This intelligence has inserted such a large gap in between Charlie and others, so much that it almost serves as a physical barrier, a “wedge”. Due
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