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How can an audience identify with Charlie Gordon's desire to be 'smart'?

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Introduction

How can an audience identify with Charlie Gordon's desire to be 'smart'? Charlie Gordon is a mentally disabled man with an IQ of only 68. He works as a cleaner in a factory and his greatest desire it to be 'smart'. He is chosen to undergo a surgical operation to triple his base intelligence, which, if successful, will hugely alter his life. 'Flowers for Algernon' follows the story of how his life changes. Charlie's role changes throughout the text greatly. At the beginning of the play, Charlie is kind-hearted, trusting and eager to please, although incredibly naive. He has a fierce motivation to educate himself in his desire to be 'smart'. His speech is generally slow and hesitant with an occasional stutter, but this disappears entirely after his surgery. Charlie leads a simple life, working as a cleaner in a factory. He is a student at the night school attending Miss Kinnian's lessons to help him 'be smart'. Charlie clearly wants to be more intelligent. He recognises that he is slow and that 'being smart' is something desirable. He likes Miss Kinnian 'because she is a very smart teacher' and he wants to be able 'to read better and spell the words good and know lots of things and be like other people'. He assumes that being more intelligent will be better. Charlie's workmates at the factory patronise him, mock him and humiliate him. ...read more.

Middle

Strauss tries hard to be supportive of Charlie and kind towards him in a non-patronising way. He asks Charlie if he is scared and tries to reassure him about uncertainties. At the start, because Strauss is nice to him, Charlie thinks he is his friend. He feels the opposite about Nemur as he is colder and less friendly towards Charlie when they first meet. He is obviously more humanitarian than Nemur, which is odd because Nemur is the trained psychologist, and so theoretically, he should know better than to treat Charlie the way he does. At the end, Strauss is working far behind Charlie. He is shocked when Charlie produces a full report of 'The Algernon-Gordon Experiment' after only five days' work. Dr Nemur is the leading psychologist and experimental theoretician who feels his work has never received the recognition it deserves. He is approaching sixty years of age, and realises that The Charlie Gordon experiment may be his last chance to make a name for himself and wants everything to be perfect. This is why at first he does not want to carry out the operation on Charlie, commenting that he feels Charlie is 'not the right candidate'. But despite his initial feelings, he wants to publish the report straight away so that Charlie cannot take any of his 'glory' away from him. To Nemur, Charlie is just a test result and Charlie senses this. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is the only one who does not understand what is going to happen and how it will affect him. Also, when Charlie has to find his way through the maze and Algernon beats him, he does not know that Algernon has had the operation. There is less dramatic irony after Charlie has the operation, because he is then far more intelligent and aware of his surroundings. Sound effects are used to show the effect the operation has had on the tone of Charlie's voice; at the beginning he has an occasional stutter, which then disappears after the operation where he speaks fluently and confidently, later reappearing towards his regression. Because it is a radio play scene changes are shown by different sounds. The sound sets the tone of each scene. Muffled sounds are used for people speaking behind a closed door, a prime example would be the argument between Nemur and Strauss. Sound effects are vital in the scene when Charlie laughs at the slow-witted boy in the restaurant breaking all the plates - this is crucial as it shows Charlie realising that now he is just as prejudice towards less intelligent people as everybody else is. Charlie's desire to be 'smart' is expressed clearly throughout the text at all stages of his development. At the beginning he is eager to become more intelligent, but then with his new intelligence, learns that things such as moral values and friendship are more important for a happy life. ...read more.

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