Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - A book that should be read again and again till its message is truly unveiled.
When I was reading Harry Potter for the first time, I deliberately kept postponing reading the last few chapters, as I didn’t want the book to end. At the same time, I also wished to finish the book as soon as possible.
I felt like, “This book must end, I can’t take this emotional turmoil anymore and I am not ready for it’s message.”
My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to keep going. The last page left my eyes moist, legs trembling. The world around me seemed to slow down.
Adoration, disgust, hopefulness, loneliness, love, peacefulness and shame are some of the emotions I felt while reading this short novel.
The story of this book is simple. There is a guy in his thirties named Charlie and he is mentally retarded. He works in a bakery and has always wanted to become smart. So he let a few doctors perform an operation that was earlier performed on a mouse named Algernon after its reported success.
Few months post operation, Charlie becomes a genius and gets to the point where he can speak a dozen of languages.
Trying to understand what was done to him, Charlie starts learning and even finds a flaw in the research analyses. He reaches to the conclusion that he’d eventually become much worse condition than what he was, just before dying.
One day, the mouse on which this operation was performed dies... so shall Charlie dies as well? Was he back to his retarded state? Please do yourself a favor and read the book.
Honestly, this book made me think of my priorities. We all live in a therapy culture, where a few of us are very fortunate to have everything we hoped for and we live like couch potatoes while the others aren’t lucky or gifted enough to have what they want but still lead a happy life.
A lucrative job, beautiful partner, May-September romance, a big home etc. are a few dreams most of us possess in our gigantic economic machine and some of us work hard to fulfill them. But our life isn’t complete by this and there is a lot more to it. At one point Charlie says, “I realize emotional problems can’t be solved as intellectual problems.”
In another section, after Charlie becomes a genius, he laughs at people who are less intellectually gifted. What moved me was his confession in his diary stating, “Only a short time ago, I learned that people laughed at me. Now I see that I joined them in laughing at myself. This hurts most of all. A 35 year old child (mentally retarded) may not know how to feed itself or what to do about it, yet it knows hunger.”
I almost lived the life of this man for the past few months. There’s nothing wrong in that, but everything will lead to remorse, guilt and regrets. If you want to do something for someone, do it because you love them, not expecting anything in return, not even a thanks.
Be it your wife, girlfriend, child, mother, father or friend. All of them shall die someday and that should make you love them even more, but most of us are caught and trapped by life’s nonsensical pleasures and pains.
“I don’t know what’s worse: To not know what you are and be happy about it, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.”
Flowers for Algernon: Thank you for this message. If you are a person, I’d hold your hand longer than necessary, look into your eyes and I’d repeat my thanks and appreciation a hundred more times.