Theme Of Intelligence In Flowers For Algernon

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In the short story “Flowers for Algernon”, written by Daniel Keyes in 1959, Keyes implicitly works in his own definition of intelligence into the story. Although intelligence is a key theme throughout the story, Keyes’ own views on what defines intelligence can be seen through his writing. Charlie, the main character of the story, is portrayed as unintelligent from the very beginning, and through this portrayal it is easy to identify the qualities he is portrayed to lack, and therefore the qualities that Keyes defines as intelligence. In “Flowers for Algernon”, Keyes uses his own definition of intelligence to construct the measures of intelligence and by doing so implicitly defines intelligence in the short story as one’s socioeconomic status,…show more content…
As soon as Charlie is chosen for the experiment, he is tested at solving a maze in competition with a mouse, Algernon, where the goal is to solve the maze as quickly as possible(Keyes 40). Once Charlie undergoes the treatment, he begins to be able to solve the mazes faster than Algernon and this is used as proof that he is becoming more intelligent than he previously was, even to the point of directly saying “He says it took a long time with Algernon before he got 3 times smarter then he was before. That 's why Algernon beats me all the time because he had that operashun too”(Keyes 40). He directly correlates the efficiency with which Algernon is able to do the maze to his intelligence, clearly showing that efficiency at completing tasks is an important factor in Keyes’ definition of intelligence. Efficiency may be a good thing to include in society’s definition of intelligence because it encourages society do develop quickly, but having that be the only measure of intelligence would have negative effects on many fields like hand craftsmanship and arts. There would be many artists, writers, and philosophers that society would view as unintelligent and pay no mind to them, regardless of their messages. This would overall lead to a decrease in new innovative ways of thinking and cause a slowdown in new products and…show more content…
This definition of intelligence shares some parallels with the definition of intelligence in society, however there are certain significant differences. In a society where intelligence is defined by Keye’s portrayal in the short story, many groups including creative and humanitie fields would be excluded from being viewed as intelligent. Certain other groups within society may be viewed as more intelligent, for example the pay and social status of teachers would increase because Keyes values them and consider them at a level of intelligence similar to doctors and scientists, which are seen as the most intelligent in his story. This exclusion of a large portion of the population from being seen as intelligent, which is also correlated with social status would cause these people as a whole to be oppressed by society. Society is heavily reliant on many of the people who would be viewed as unintelligent and would begin to feel dismissed and oppressed by society, and would band together to incite change for the betterment of their lives and society as a whole. The more clear division among people that is introduced into a society, the more difficult it is to keep it stable. That is why it is essential to maintain a variety of definitions of intelligence circulating in the world otherwise many unique perspectives and
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