(Original Review, 1980-09-17)
Fall from grace? I didn't interpret the book/story at all like ICL.REDFORD@SCORE did. I don't think Keyes intended it to appeal to anti-scientific types either. Other than conveying a sense of what makes up the 'guts of intellect', the book is merely trying to get across the notions that intellectual achievement is useless without compassion and that some scientific methods applied to human subjects are immoral at best, which are obviously true. To take this as an indictment of all science is going far beyond what I feel Keyes intended.
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
I'm a neurodiverse person and, while I have fantasized about understanding others with some scientific procedure, I've always said I wouldn't change my position for the world. This book solidifies it. Just as a heads up for anyone, I do use the "r" word in the following paragraph, and I cover a lot of ableism, so if those are triggers for you, I recommend proceeding with caution.
The ableism that occurred throughout the book really hit close to home. Despite my hyperlexia, I was often called "retard" as a kid because I was socially awkward, shy, and my maiden name rhymed with the word. Like Charlie, my world was very closed off for a long time because I never related to my peers; to this day, I mainly hang out with people old enough to be my grandparents instead of people my own age. I was told I would never be able to hack it at a four year institution (I eventually did, although many years later) and that I would be lucky to be able to live on my own. I beat the odds, but I still am highly deficient.
When Charlie discovered he was deteriorating back to his original intelligence, I found myself horrified. When I was growing up, my only friends were characters in books, and I can't imagine having that ripped away from me the way it was ripped away from Charlie. Even worse, to understand the deterioration and why it's happening is utterly frightening to me; I'm always terrified that I will lose my intelligence, the one thing I have going for me, in my mind, is my ability to read and understand the world around me despite my inability to understand others.
I have relatives who died from Alzheimer's disease on my dad's side of the family, and I wonder if they ever had the moments of lucidity that Charlie experienced as he was slipping back into his original level of intelligence, knowing that they were slowly losing who they were and the memories of everyone around them.
Desire, it controls us in many ways. It has even led people to go to war with each other for wanting land a power. In “Flowers for Algernon” Charlie Gordon a 32 year old has a desire to become intelligent. He undergoes surgery to enhance his intelligence. In “All Summer in a Day” Margot’s classmates pick on her because they desire to see and feel the sun. In “All Summer in a Day” and “Flowers for Algernon” a possible theme is that desire leads us to do things whether we like it or not.
Desire has led Charlie to decide that he wants to undergo surgery. At the end of the story the outcome of all the trouble he went through to get smarter was that he would eventually lose it all again. “If the operashun works . . . Then Ill be abel to read better and spell the words good and know lots of things . . . I want to be smart like other people.” For all of Charlie’s life he felt dumb, he even knew that. He knew that he was different from other people. His desire was not only to become smart but to be like everyone else, in hope that he would make friends and not be alone anymore. At the end of “Flowers for Algernon” he is sad and he is falling apart. In that part he knows that the thing that would make him like everyone else and that allowed him to have friends would be taken away from him.
In “All Summer in a Day” Margot’s classmates have longed to see the sun. Them living on Venus, the wet and gloomy sun deprived planet it being has led them to treat Margot poorly. “They surged about her, caught her up and bore her, protesting, and then pleading . . . tunnel, a room, a closet, where they slammed and locked the door. . . Then, smiling, they turned and went out and back down the tunnel, just as the teacher arrived.” They locked her in the closet right before the sun was going to come out. The one thing Margot had in common with her classmates was the longing of the sun’s rays. Like greedy human beings they took that away from her. Later they regretted it, “They could not meet each other’s glances. Their faces were solemn and pale.” the word solemn and pale show that they are filled with regret. When it was to be a day filled with the sun’s joyful laughter it ended up being a dreadful day for Margot.
Emotion such as desire have a huge hold on people, whether later we can then realize it was wrong it would be too late. Overall desire having an huge say and impact on what we do or say is a possible theme for “Flowers for Algernon” and “All Summer in a Day”.
It's taken me...15 months to read this book. Mostly because I only read my ebooks when I literally have no other book available: in shopping lines, surreptitiously in meetings, anywhere I didn't anticipate getting stuck without a book.
But wow, what a disappointment it was to read this one as an adult vs. what I remember of it as a teen. Anyway, I have tons of notes to parse through so it'll be a little while before I post a review. I'm just glad I'm done with it and can move on to another.