Summary and Analysis
PROGRESS REPORT 8
This report shows Charlie's intellectual abilities beginning to increase. Charlie is remembering things from his past and begins to reflect on these memories.
Charlie competes with Algernon and finally beats the mouse in their maze race. The maze imagery is carried over into Charlie's memories as he remembers times when he has been lost: once with his parents in a department store, and the previous night with Joe Carp and Frank Reilly. Charlie and his coworkers went to a neighborhood bar; Charlie drank too much whiskey, and Joe and Frank ditched him.
Note that these bakery coworkers often characterize someone who has made a mistake as "pulling a Charlie Gordon." Charlie does not understand this remark, as he still interprets things on face value.
With this progress report, the reader begins to see the impact of Charlie's operation. Charlie is no longer driven to please. He begins to question authority and probably for the first time in his life uses the word "hate." He is very impatient for the operation's results and believes that "those tests are stoopid and riting these progress reports are stoopid to."
Charlie's intelligence, however, is on the rise, and his self-awareness is becoming evident — for example, he says, "I never new before that I was dumber than a mouse." It is also during this time that Charlie returns to his job at the bakery. His transformation is just becoming apparent to others as he asks that Mr. Donner consider him for a bakery apprentice position. Mr. Donner, who hired Charlie seventeen years ago, takes pause at this request.
The relationship that exists between Charlie and his bakery co-workers, Gimpy, Joe, and Frank, is now defined. They often use the phrase "pulled a Charlie Gordon" to explain a stupid mistake, and everyone laughs, including Charlie, who simply enjoys their friendship. This friendship exists at Charlie's expense, and it is in this progress report that the comfort that Charlie finds with his friends ends.
The importance of friendship is one of the basic, unswerving convictions in Charlie's life. For example, Charlie makes a conscious choice to befriend Algernon. Charlie is now aware of the fact that he is a superior being to Algernon, but he believes that Algernon deserves some basic kindness: "I dont think its right to make you pass a test to eat. How would Burt like to have to pass a test every time he wants to eat. I think Ill be friends with Algernon." Miss Kinnian's choice of reading material for Charlie — Robinson Crusoe — is both an omen of things to come and another barometer of Charlie's beliefs. Charlie feels sorry for Robinson Crusoe because, although Crusoe is very intelligent and capable of living on a deserted island, Charlie does not think he is very happy. Crusoe is alone on the island without any friends, so how could he be happy?
Charlie also exhibits a great degree of loyalty to his family and friends; loyalty seems to be one of his measures of true friendship. Charlie does not abandon Algernon, and we see a small coterie of people, including Alice, who never abandon Charlie and who re-main loyal to Charlie even during his regression. Charlie wants people to like him, and he looks at pleasing them as one way to get them to like him. Although not expressly stated, at some point Charlie realizes that liking involves more than pleasing — it's connecting. Charlie connects with very few people both before and after his surgery, only the reasons are different.
Keyes also slips in another reference to his Man Playing God theme in this progress report. In attempting to remember his past, and understand his current surroundings, Charlie defines what religion means to him. "I know riligon is god. I don't remembir how to prey to him but I think mom use to make me prey to him a lot when I was a kid that he shoud make me get better and not be sick. I dont rimember how I was sick. I think it was about me not being smart." Again, it is God — not man — who needs to make Charlie "get smart."
potted slang, meaning intoxicated, or drunk.