Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon - Well, I've been slacking a bit on my reviews lately––but here I am to finally review this! (Oh wait, actually it's only been 3 days since I finished this. It feels like it was much longer ago for some reason. Oh well!)From what I've heard, and seen in other reviews, it seems like people tend to be more familiar with a short story version of this book. I haven't read that version, so I'm honestly not sure what the difference is. But, I should probably look into that.Anyway––Flowers for Algernon, if you've never heard of it at all, is the story of Charlie Gordon, a 32-year-old man who is mentally challenged. Due to a new scientific discovery, Charlie is able to undergo an operation that significantly increases his IQ. However, he is the first and only human to go through this operation, which previously had only succeeded on a rat named Algernon. As Charlie becomes increasingly intelligent, he begins to more clearly remember and understand his past. And suddenly, he begins to see the way people treat him (compared to how they previously treated him) in a new light. Not only that, but Algernon seems to slowly be deteriorating––which is a warning to Charlie that this experiment may hurt him more than it helps him.What I think is most striking in this book is the moral issues and dilemmas that it presents. Even though the story was written decades ago, these problems are just as relevant––if not more, considering the increase in technology.First of all, the book says a lot about the general attitude towards the mentally disabled––and what's most saddening is that, even about fifty years after this book was published, the injustice hasn't changed much. Even now, the mentally handicapped are often treated as if they have no feelings or comprehension whatsoever. I've been shocked and horrified at a lot of articles I've seen in the past couple of years. For example, there are a lot of schools for autistic children with abusive staff members, who have been caught saying cruel things to the students and sometimes even physically harming them. For example, there's this story. And I've read several other equally horrifying articles about similar cases. Of course, I'm not saying that this is extremely common behavior–-but it's still much more common than it should be. The fact that it could happen at all is just appalling. And even though cases like those are extreme, this is an attitude that also happens on a lesser level––that is, people assuming that mentally disabled people can't understand or feel anything at all, and thus that makes it "okay" to be cruel to them.And this is something that Charlie realizes throughout the course of the story. He goes from thinking people are his friends to realizing they've been making fun of him all along. As he remembers pieces of his childhood, he remembers how much his own mother hated him so much she wanted to kill him.And it's not only the way people treat him before, but how they treat him afterward. On one hand, people begin to treat him with more respect just because he has a higher IQ. But also, he's treated as an "experiment" and not like a normal human being. So, even when he has a higher IQ, he still isn't treated as a regular person.It's also interesting how Daniel Keyes writes the book in a journal format. The reader gets to see how much Charlie changes throughout his experience, by the way his narrative slowly shifts. It starts out a bit difficult to read, with a lot of phonetic spelling and other grammatical errors. And then throughout the story, as Charlie transforms, the writing becomes gradually more coherent. This style could have been gimmicky, but I thought Keyes did it carefully and that it worked well. My one criticism is that the story kind of dragged a bit, and got repetitive in parts. So, I see how the original short story version may have been more effective. But, this novel version was still very enjoyable, and can give readers a lot to think about.