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Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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1. Who was your favourite character and why?


My favourite character was actually Mr Donner, because although Charlie was not really his responsibility he stuck by his promise to Charlie's father and provided him with a job and helped him in life.

I liked Mr Donner too - he struck me as an inheritantly good man who tries to do good for others less fortunate than himself. I could see why he turned Charlie away once he'd changed completely, but he stuck in there as long as he could, despite obviously feeling rather afraid of Charlie and the changes in him. But, as you say, Charlie didn't really need that help then - he really needed friends, but nobody understood what was happening, which caused a barrier between Charlie and Donner. I felt that if Charlie had explained to Donner what was happening, Donner would have been the one person at the bakery who was very happy for Charlie and would have encouraged him to look to other options long before the confrontation that caused Charlie's leaving. The parting then would have been on better terms and perhaps as proper friends.

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1.Who was your favourite character and why?

Charlie was my favourite character by far. It was so interesting to see how he develops and I think the emotional developing he goes through is even more fascinating than his IQ rising.


2.Was there a particular part you enjoyed/disliked more than the rest?

I enjoyed reading the transition from retard to normal intellect (before he becomes a genius, reading everything). I also liked reading the childhood memories though at times they were quite painful to read. The part I disliked, although it’s a strong work, was the conference bit. I didn’t see a real point to it.

I also found the idea of the old Charlie just hiding and waiting to take over absolutely fascinating.


3.Was this the first book you've read in this genre/by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

I’ve read SF, but it’s the first book I’ve read by the author, and I definitely would read more by him.


4.Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

I wasn’t particularly fond of the relationship between Alice and Charlie. I just didn't feel comfortable with where the relationship headed.



5.Overall, did you find it an enjoyable experience?

Yes, definitely! This was actually a re-read because I knew it was being discussed here and I wanted to remember details. I loved the book the first time and found it even more interesting the second time.

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What do you think yourself, Raven? An interesting question!


First off, I don't think there is anything in the book that categorically states what colour Charlie is, but I think it's pretty clear (by the end of the book) that he is white (there are small pointers here and there, mainly when he is talking about his family - I think his sister is blonde, for example).


I, however, started reading the book thinking he was black.


There are two reasons for this, both based on films. The first is that I - mistakenly, as it turns out - got this confused with The Lawnmower Man, and I was sure the test subject in that was black (he wasn't he was white) and second I had the image in my mind of a black actor - I don't know who - from a film set in 50s New York (the same setting as the book) who was playing a slow and backward character.


Bizarrely, as the book went on and Charlie got smart, I started picturing the author Mike Gayle as the smart version of Charlie, with the old 50s actor lurking at the door whenever he was talking about "old" Charlie.


As you would expect, from this I also pictured his family as being black as well - even after the text started to contradict this.


4. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?


As has been mentioned before, I thought it was unlikely that Charlie would have had no sexual feelings before his operation, so I found that unconvincing.


Whether the sexual feelings part was realistic or not I'll leave to one side, but I didn't get the impression Charlie didn't have sexual feeling before he started to get smart, I got the impression that his mother had been so severe with him as a boy that he was simply terrified of acting on any feelings, and that he probably didn't understand what was going on with the ones he did have.


I wasn’t particularly fond of the relationship between Alice and Charlie. I just didn't feel comfortable with where the relationship headed.


Using my black 50s actor and Mike Gayle personas above, I didn't have a problem with Charlie having relationships when he was "played" by Mike Gayle, but I did start to feel uncomfortable when the 50s actor started to take over again.

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Very sad to read that Daniel Keyes passed away yesterday. :(

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