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Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 10 and 11

#138: June - Aug. 2015 (Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 10 and 11

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Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 10 and 11

Please use this thread for discussing Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 10 and 11.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 10 and 11

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Progress Report 10

Flowers for Algernon remains much on my mind, especially following my mother’s death last week after ten years decline into severe dementia. After mum’s funeral yesterday, we were talking about how she began to notice her mind failing around 2004 or earlier. She had been a brilliant scholar, topping the state of Queensland in high school mathematics and winning a scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris, which she did not take up, going to Northwestern in Chicago instead with my father. She died peacefully, and has donated her brain to science.

A theme in Chapter Ten is the nature of moronism. Keyes has an astute and perceptive and compassionate understanding of mental disability. As Charlie’s memory improves after his operation, he recalls events he had forgotten. One was when he was working in the bakery and the other workers tried to teach him to roll dough, as an experiment to see if a moron can learn simple tasks. He can sort of do it when shown step by step, but can’t remember anything, and becomes overwhelmed by panic due to his association between failure to learn and punishment. As a result he gets anxious, and focuses on the irrelevant detail of how far his elbows should be from his sides, following the literal direct instruction to watch carefully and do everything the others do. Overwhelmed by panic and fear, he is completely unable to remember simple instruction.

Moronic behaviour is strongly characterised by this inability to distinguish the important from the unimportant, like the King of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.
'What do you know about this business?' the King said to Alice.
'Nothing,' said Alice.
'Nothing whatever?' persisted the King.
'Nothing whatever,' said Alice.
'That's very important,' the King said, turning to the jury. They were just beginning to write this down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted: 'Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course,' he said in a very respectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke.
'Unimportant, of course, I meant,' the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, 'important—unimportant— unimportant—important—' as if he were trying which word sounded best.
Some of the jury wrote it down 'important,' and some 'unimportant.' Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; 'but it doesn't matter a bit,' she thought to herself.
At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out 'Silence!' and read out from his book, 'Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.'
Everybody looked at Alice.
'I'm not a mile high,' said Alice.
http://sabian.org/alice_in_wonderland12.php
The hilarious quality of this episode is precisely because the king is a moron, whereas kings are meant to be smart. But the reader in Flowers for Algernon does not laugh at Charlie because the story is constructed so we sympathise with him and dislike his tormenters. I think this book was probably highly influential in improving the human rights and dignity of people with mental disability.
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Taylor

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Re: Flowers for Algernon: PROGRESS REPORT 10 and 11

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Robert Tulip:
Keyes has an astute and perceptive and compassionate understanding of mental disability.
One of the things that struck me through out the book was that perceptiveness you describe.

Growing up as a preteen and teen ager I lived across the street from a young couple that had two mentally disabled children, (exact condition I can not recall), but for those two boys it was degenerative, I guess my point here is that I grew up with a sensitivity toward what was then called "retards", Though I didn't use that wording myself, To me those two boys were just Anthony and Eddie.
Eddie was exactly my age, in my teens when he was drastically handicapped, I would sit with him for hours while his parents were out.
Just batting a balloon back and forth would bring a smile on that kids face that would light up the room. He was a friend who could not do any of the things my healthy friends could do. It was interesting growing up in that situation because on a Friday night' I'd be there with Eddie and (Anthony who was by this time bed ridden) just hanging out in case there was an emergency, which never came on my watch. My other friends were keenly aware that I often spent time watching these kids, though I was a kid myself, See , these other friends of mine were sympathetic to the cause, Its interesting, the maturity level that grows in kids when one of there own is struggling.
In my case, I watched two boys struggle for life, Two parents struggle too cope. What was grand, if you'll allow the word grand here, was that there wasn't a struggle for me or my healthy friends, there was compassion. On occasion my healthy friends would hang out with Anthony, Eddie and I, just to keep me company, though I new for them that there were better things to do. but we made do, those times were spent listening to comedy albums such as Richard Pryor, Cheech and Chong, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, We would laugh our asses off, Just our joviality, would bring on Eddies invariable grin.
Anyway, just a memory.
Last edited by Taylor on Sun Sep 27, 2015 9:10 am, edited 3 times in total.
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