Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

This book shows up on r/books all the time. Everyone says it’s the saddest book, so of course I have to read it. People aren’t lying.

1) “He kept telling me to rilax and that gets me skared because it always means its gonna hert.”

“Just a little pinch” always feels much more than a little pinch. Side note: I recently did an unconscious bias training where they talked about reading words that are completely misspelled. This book is a great example.

2) “And she said mabey they got no rite to make me smart because if god wantid me to be smart he would have made me born that way.”

The notion that one can’t change his/her own life is extremely frustrating.

3) “The more intelligent you become the more problems you’ll have.”

The author wrote a sad story to prove this quote.

4) “I don’t see how if they don’t know what it is, or where it is – how they know how much of it you’ve got.”

The portrayal of Charlie’s rising intelligence told through his progress reports is very well executed. He starts asking why, then points out inconsistencies, and finally becomes self-conscious.

5) “Now I understand one of the most important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.”

And it continues after college, everyday.

6) “‘He’s just an ordinary man trying to do a great man’s work, while the great men are all busy making bombs.'” – Burt

This book is very harsh on professors and academia in general. Professors are driven by grants and reputations, and results are more important than anything. The criticism has aged well.

7) “The idea seems to be: use an expression only as long as it doesn’t mean anything to anybody.”


8) “How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes – how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with low intelligence.”

Attitude towards mental health needs to be the next complete societal shift. It’s been 50 years since this book was published. The attitude has been stagnant, but the issues have not been.

9) “Every part of me is attuned to the work. I soak it up into my pores during the day, and at night – in the moments before I pass off into sleep – ideas explode into my head like fireworks. There is no greater joy than the burst of solution to a problem.”

Solving a problem in the shower is probably the pinnacle of human intelligence.

10) “Its easy to have frends if you let pepul laff at you. Im going to have lots of frends where I go.”

Best ending I can remember.

The book is a must-read. It explores so many important topics. What does it mean to be smart? Why do we look down upon retarded people? I’m amazed that this was written 50 years ago. I wouldn’t have questioned if this came out in 2018. These are obviously timeless questions. Science and humans have a long way to go.

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