These progress reports serve as the storytelling technique of the novel. We are introduced to Charlie Gordon, the main character, through his own narration as he documents the events of his story. These initial reports highlight his poor grammar and spelling, providing a good contrast for what is to come.

The reader meets Charlie as he is being considered for a surgical procedure that will increase his intelligence. Documentation of these six days covers the screening process and focuses on Charlie's abilities. He is given many tests, but his own motivation to "get smart" is the primary reason that Charlie is selected as the first human candidate for this operation.

Charlie meets Algernon during this selection process. Algernon is a white mouse that has successfully undergone the surgery.


By taking a closer look at Charlie's personality, the reader can understand the many facets of Charlie's world simply by under-standing his motivation for this surgery. Charlie agrees to the experimental surgery because of his internalized need to please others. Consumed with a desire to "get smart," Charlie essentially wants to please not only his mother, but also Miss Kinnian, Mr. Donner, his bakery friends, and now the creators of this experiment. Charlie is the very willing participant, not so much for him-self but for the others. He believes that if he becomes "smart," he will have "lots of frends who like me." Understanding his character, one of trust combined with this desire to please and be liked as a result, helps explain many of the experiences that have shaped Charlie's life.

When the prospect of this surgery arises, Charlie is very sure of himself and commits to the experiment without regrets. However, as the operation nears, an element of fear creeps into Charlie as he faces the unknown. He overcomes this fear by imagining the reactions of his family and friends to his newfound intelligence. His desire to please others strengthens his resolve.

Although Charlie is eager to participate, the scientists debate using Charlie in the experiment. Dr. Nemur fears the effects of the new intelligence layered over what he considers the sub-intelligence — a foreshadowing of the eventual outcome as Charlie's genius rapidly sinks below the functional level he began with. Dr. Strauss supports Charlie's participation because the experiment has the best chance of success with someone like Charlie, whose strong motivation has already helped him learn more than a per-son with his I.Q. can be expected to know.

This debate continues today as scientists discuss the standards and ethics of medical research that has the potential to harm the subject for the sake of increased knowledge. In Charlie's case, later in the novel, his own increased knowledge as a result of the surgery makes it possible for him to find the flaw in the experiment's calculations, The Algernon-Gordon Effect, adding to the world's store of knowledge even as his own knowledge dissipates.

Keyes' deliberate use of misspellings and poor syntax in Progris riports 1 through 6 help the reader frame Charlie's intellectual development. Although random misspellings appear in the immediate progress reports that follow, and then again in the final Progress Report, 17, these initial examples suggest the definitive Charlie that will be transformed. By using this narrative technique, Keyes allows the reader to be visually assaulted with Charlie's low intelligence — a very effective tool that impacts the reader on several levels.

Charlie is also aware of his poor spelling and grammar when he begins his duty of journalizing his reactions to his intellectual growth. Consistent with his desire to please others, Charlie immediately strives to correct his errors to please the people who read his reports. This personality trait does wane as his intelligence in-creases and his focus turns inward. It continues to be expressed, however, in his desires to make a difference for others who share his mental status and to make a lasting contribution to science, even as his own intelligence diminishes.


Rorschach Test (Raw shok Test) named after Herman Rorschach, a Swiss psychiatrist. A test for the analysis of personality, in which the person being tested tells what is suggested to him by a standard series of inkblot designs: The person's responses are then analyzed and interpreted.

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