Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “Flowers for Algernon”by can be used as essay starters. All four incorporate at least one of the themes found in Flowers for Algernon and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Flowers for Algernon” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Topic #1: The Definition of a Disability
Before his surgery, Charlie is classified as mentally retarded. His inability to read or write well holds him back. The fact that he never gets the jokes made at his expense causes others to make fun of him even more. He rarely remembers a wrongdoing or even classifies incidents as wrongdoings. His brain simply does not operate that way. And society views this as a disability. However, there is something to be learned from Charlie. Would the world as a whole be a better place if people took offense a little less often? What if we could learn to laugh with those laughing at us and forget when we are slighted? Examine the possibility and explain why Charlie’s mental disability is not one after all.
Topic #2 The Influence of the Author’s Life
Authors often create their works based off of experiences from their own lives. In his career, Keyes has taught special needs students. He has a history of problems with his own parents. Research Keyes’s life. Based on the information that you find, hypothesize about which aspects of Flowers for Algernon were inspired by Keyes’s own life. Evaluate the characters, their thought processes, and their actions to support your argument.
Topic #3 Education Makes a Difference…But Is It Good?
Though Charlie’s grammar was not the best, he had a circle of friends before his surgery. For a short time after, his coworkers and his teacher were still nice to him. Then the operation begins to take effect and Charlie develops into a different person. His understanding of how things work is changed, and he realizes how he has been mistreated. The people in his life no longer know how to respond to him. He has become a different person. He excels at work, and then loses what was essentially a pity job because his coworkers are no longer comfortable with him. The changes wrought by his education and subsequent loss are simply too great to allow him to return to his former life. Discuss the effect that Charlie’s education has on his life during his higher IQ phase and after. Is it better that he had that education or would he have been better off without it?
Topic #4 Bringing Flowers for Algernon
The last line of the book reads “P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernon’s grave in the back yard." This line coincides with the title of the book. All of the events of the book end with this. Algernon, the lab mouse that was central to the experiment and to Charlie’s life, is buried in Charlie’s former backyard. As he takes his leave, Charlie requests that someone remember to leave flowers on Algernon’s grave. It is a simple act to follow such a profound experience. Analyze the significance of this last line and how it matches the title of the book. Why do you think the author chose to use the title Flowers for Algernon rather than something to do with Charlie’s name?
Flowers for Algernon Quotes
This list of important quotations from Flowers for Algernon will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements on our paper topics on age by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from FLowers for Algernon listed here correspond, at least in some way, to possible paper topics on Flowers for Algernon and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned.
“Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light."—Plato (Epigraph)
The interesting thing about the above quotation is that it leads one to ponder which parts of Charlie’s life are the dark parts and which are the light. After his operation, Charlie is enlightened, but the question remains as to whether or not it is a positive thing. Plato calls for human understanding with his words, something which comes and goes in Charlie’s experiences.
“I didn’t know what he was gonna do and I was holding on tite to the chair like sometimes when I go to a dentist onley Burt aint no dentist neither but he kept telling me to relax and that gets me skared because it always means its gonna hert." (progris riport 2)
Spelling and grammar mistakes aside, Charlie displays a profound understanding in his diary entry. His experiences have taught him that being told to relax is for the benefit of someone else. It is easier for the dentist or the doctor to do his job if the patient relaxes. However, it does not negate the pain that the patient suffers during a procedure. In this situation, Charlie’s trauma is emotional rather than physical.
“He said Charlie I dont know how you done it but it looks like you finally learned something. I want you to be carefull and do the best you can do. You got yourself a new job with a 5 doller raise." (Progress Report 9, April 1)
Charlie has learned that being smarter is not necessarily a virtue. He gets a raise and gets to move up from janitor to mixer, but the men that he thought were his friends are angry with him. His IQ has improved but he does not yet understand all that is happening in his workplace. He feels that he does not particularly want this advancement or his friends to be angry with him.
“The same words, almost the same tone of voice he had used minutes ago in the lab. And then I heard my answers—childish, impossible things. And I dropped limply into the chair beside Professor Nemur’s desk. ‘Was that really me?’" (Progress Report 9, April 18)
Charlie is in shock over the person he hears on the recorder. He has trouble relating to the voice that he hears. His new self was insulted by the manner in which he was treated by Burt. The recording was pulled to prove that Burt’s tone and phrasing had not changed from the first time Charlie saw the inkblot cards. Charlie’s main response this time is anger, where before he was afraid.
“How many times had he used me as a go-between to deliver packages to her, undercharging her so that later they could split the difference? Had he used me all these years to help him steal?" (Progress Report 11, May 8)
When Charlie realizes that there is a strong possibility that he has been unknowingly helping Gimpy to steal from Mr. Donner, he is infuriated. He also has no idea what he should do. He consults several people. Ms. Kinnian surprises him by telling him to look to himself in deciding what to do. In his simpler mindset, he was accustomed to being told what to do by others. Now he is awed to learn that he can decide on his own.
“‘But I’m not an inanimate object,’ I argued. ‘I’m a person.’ He looked confused for a moment and then laughed. ‘Of course, Charlie. But I wasn’t referring to now. I meant before the operation.’ Smug, pompous—I felt like hitting him too. ‘I was a person before the operation. In case you forgot—’" (Progress Report 11, May 10)
Professor Nemur establishes the same detachment with Charlie that he uses with the lab animals. Charlie is not a being with thoughts and feelings, he is an experiment. Charlie’s realization of the professor’s opinion only serves to feed the anger that he has over the many injustices directed at him. His anger extends to the treatment of those who are like him, people whom society sees as less.
“Nemur’s conclusions had been premature. For both Algernon and myself, it would take more time to see if this change would stick. The professors had made a mistake, and no one else had caught it. I wanted to jump up and tell them, but I couldn’t move. Like Algernon, I found myself behind the mesh of the cage they had built around me." (Progress Report 13, June 13)
Once Charlie’s intelligence is tripled, he is able to recognize that the triumph of his operation cannot yet be counted. He realizes that neither the professor nor the doctor accounted for the fact that they were changing from an animal subject to a human one. Therefore, the necessary time period has not elapsed. The success of the study is not confirmed. Charlie wants to inform Strauss and Nemur, as well as everyone else in the room, but he finds himself constrained by social niceties of which he is now more aware.
“This day was good for me. I’ve got to stop this childish worrying about myself—my past and my future. Let me give something of myself to others. I’ve got to use my knowledge and skills to work in the field of increasing human intelligence. Who is better equipped? Who else has lived in both worlds?" (Progress Report 14, June 24)
It can be argued that at this point Charlie’s two selves merge. The old Charlie was always willing to help others and to work hard. The new Charlie has the brains, but no longer the desire. Suddenly it occurs to him that he is in a unique position to help and his desire to be of service returns. The turning point comes after he has yelled at others in defense of a mentally retarded boy. He wallows in pity before he stops himself.
“There is no night or day. I’ve got to cram a lifetime of research into a few weeks. I know I should rest, but I can’t until I know the truth about what is happening." (Progress Report 16, July 27)
At this point in the book, Charlie knows that his higher IQ may very well have a shorter life than expected. He pushes himself to use his knowledge while he still has it to try to find a solution to the problem. Algernon returned to his pre-operation self and died. Charlie is not sure what will happen to him, but he is certain that he will regress. So he fights to keep that from happening.
“‘I’ve learned a lot in the past few months,’ I said. ‘Not only about Charlie Gordon, but about life and people, and I’ve discovered that nobody really cares about Charlie Gordon, whether he’s a moron or a genius. So what difference does it make?’" (Progress Report 16, August 11)
Before the surgery, Charlie thought himself to be surrounded by friends. His post-procedure perception completely alters the way in which he views himself and the people around him. His path to self-discovery makes him more miserable than he has ever been. His views of the world are severely altered and the man who never understood he was to be pitied becomes the man who refuses to leave the category. Sadly, the new Charlie no longer meets the requirements and he does not know how to reconcile the two men.