Flowers for Algernon is among the most popular book by Daniel Keyes, which is well-known for its specific language. The latter reflects the psychological changes of the main character — Charlie Gordon. We prepared an extensive Flowers for Algernon plot summary, so feel free to check it below. 


Flowers for Algernon: Facts You Need to Know

Before we proceed with the Flowers for Algernon short story summary, we would like to share some facts about this story. 

  1. The main character is called Charlie. Algernon is a mouse that underwent the same clinical trials before Charlie did. 
  2. The main character was inspired by Keyes’s student. You can read the full story here
  3. Flowers for Algernon could be a comic book. Keyes was working as an editor of comic books and impressed Stan Lee so much that the latter gave the young man a chance to write his scripts. That’s when Keyes made a draft of his novel. However, Stan Lee has never seen this story. 
  4. Even though Keyes wrote lots of other well-known stories, this one remains the most popular. 
  5. Flowers for Algernon was first published as a short story in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and was expanded later. 


Flowers for Algernon: Summary in Several Sentences

  • This is the story of a young man with intellectual limitations who agrees to undergo an experimental operation to improve his capabilities. 
  • As a part of the experiment, Charlie, the main character, should make notes about his thoughts and feelings; these notes become a form of the novel. 
  • Charlie is accompanied by the mouse called Algernon, which had the same operation before. During the trials, the mouse shows better results than Charlie.
  • Gradually, Charlie’s intellectual abilities develop. He does not make writing errors, and studies with Ms. Kinnian, who he soon falls in love with. 
  • At the same time, Charlie starts losing trust in others, discovering the disgraceful behavior of his coworkers and remembering how his mother battered him. 
  • Charlie cannot start dating Ms. Kinnian as he is heavily traumatized by his mother; however, he keeps a warm relationship with her. 
  • When Professor Nemur and Dr. Strauss take Charlie to a conference, he runs away with Algernon. Charlie rents an apartment, where he develops his own scientific career.
  • Soon Charlie observes the regression of Algernon’s skills. He finds an error in Nemur’s calculations and understands that he soon will lose his mental capabilities as well. 
  • Algernon dies. Charlie buries him and asks Ms. Kinnian to bring flowers to his grave. Soon Charlie degrades. He comes back to his work as a factory janitor. 
  • Despite losing all the progress, Charlie has no regrets about his experience as he used his chance to learn a lot about the world. 


Flowers for Algernon Plot Summary

The story is written as a series of notes made by Charlie, the main character, who has an IQ of 68. Charlie works as a janitor, which he received thanks to his uncle. He hardly remembers his family but knows that his mother always dreamt of her son being smart. Charlie participates in the clinical research by Professor Nemur and Dr. Strauss that developed a surgery that can potentially increase intelligence. 

The experiment was especially successful with a mouse called Algernon. Together with this smart mouse, Charlie undergoes a series of experiments that compare his mental abilities to the ones of the mouse; Algernon always wins. Charlie was especially affected by the success of Algernon, so he decides to become a volunteer and be operated as well. He has a fear of operations but his desire to become smart as his mother wanted is much stronger. 

After the operation, Charlie felt upset as he did not become smart immediately. Instead, Dr. Strauss again asked him to write down his thoughts and feelings as frequently as possible. Charlie continued participating in trials with Algernon, who kept winning. By that time, curiosity vanished, followed by hate for the mouse who always won. Charlie returned to his work as a janitor; he also continued studying and visited the clinic daily for checkups. Once, workers of the factory wanted to make fun of Charlie; however, they didn’t succeed as Charlie progressed in his mental abilities. Soon, he understood that the cashier was fooling the factory’s owner, which ruined his relationships with factory workers. 

Charlie keeps progressing, surprising his teacher, Ms. Kinnian. He soon understands that his factory friends are insincere; however, he just keeps studying even harder. He soon falls in love with Ms. Kinnian. However, mental progress leads to problems in Charlie’s life. He begins to see the narrow-mindedness of Professor Nemur and Dr. Strauss, while his coworkers begin to insult him even more. Charlie discovers new feelings in him, such as anger and irritation. 

Dr. Strauss initiates psychological sessions with Charlie, but they do not bring successful results as the young man loses trust in other people. Moreover, he starts remembering that his mother not only wanted her son to be smart — she could not accept Charlie’s mental limitations and battered her son. Charlie’s father could not do anything and did not save his son. Charlie also cannot establish normal relationships with Ms. Kinnian because his mother did not let Charlie touch any woman. As a result, Charlie feels more lonely than ever in his life. 

One day Professor Nemur and Dr. Strauss take Charlie and Algernon to a symposium, willing to show exceptional results of their studies. However, Charlie steals Algernon and flies back home, where he rents an apartment and builds a labyrinth for his mouse. He even attempts to date a woman and initiate his own studies of intellectual improvement. Once he meets Ms. Kinnian and tells her about his feelings, including fear of women imposed by his mother. Living independently, Charlie also drinks alcohol; in this state of mind, he quickly loses his intellectual capabilities. With the fear of losing all the progress, Charlie decides to avoid alcohol. 

While continuing to work in the laboratory, Charlie sees that Algernon starts losing his abilities. The mouse feels anger and sometimes cannot pass the labyrinth. Upon checking Nemur’s notes, Charlie understands that the whole experiment contains an error, which leads to the regress of mental abilities. Charlie observes how the mouse loses his intelligence every day and understands that the same faith awaits him. When Algernon dies, Charlie buries him in the backyard and writes a letter to Ms. Kinnian, asking her to bring flowers to Algernon’s grave. 

Charlie has a strong fear of his future. He decides to visit his mother, who is already old and ill. He sees how difficult it is for her sister to take care of the old lady. The man continues to degrade, feeling that he gradually loses his intellect. On November 20, he returns to his initial mental state and returns to his work at the factory. His coworkers no longer make fun of him. Charlie, however, has no regrets as he used the chance to become smarter and had an opportunity to learn a lot about the world. 


How to Analyze Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon is an exceptional novel that has so many points for analysis. For instance, you can focus on the following ideas:

  1. Bullying of people with mental disabilities 
  2. Human’s willingness to improve their mental abilities: comparing Charlie with other characters 
  3. Family trauma: how Charlie’s mother negatively affected his entire life
  4. Charlie’s relationships with women
  5. Ethical implications of the experiment conducted by Professor Nemur and Dr. Strauss 
  6. High intellect is always accompanied by anxiety and other mental problems
  7. Which one is better: to be dumb and happy or smart and lonely?


These are only a few topics that can be developed on the basis of this exceptional story that touches everyone’s hearts. If you wish to get professional assistance on this story — just let us know by ordering a paper here. You can submit your own topic or let the writer choose the best option for you. Also, be sure to use NEW10 as your promo code to get 10% off.