FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON
("Flowers for Algernon" By Daniel Keys, published in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Copyright 1959 by
FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON Daniel Keyes
progris riport 1-martch 5, 1965
Dr. Strauss says I shud rite down what I think and evrey thing
that happins to me from now on, I dont know why but he says its
importint so they will see if they will use me. I hope they use me.
Miss Kinnian says maybe they can make me smart. I want to be
smart. My name is Charlie Gordon. I am 37 years old. I have
nuthing more to rite now so I will close for today.
progris riport 2-martch 6
I had a test today. I think I faled it. And I think maybe now they
wont use me. What happind is a nice young man was in the room
and he had some white cards and ink spillled all over them. He sed
Charlie what do vo see on this card. I was very skared even tho I had
my rabits foot in my pockit because when I was a kid I always faled
tests in school and I spillled ink to.
I told him I saw a inkblot. He said yes and it made me feel good.
I thot that was all but when I got up to go he said Charlie we are not
thrn yet. Then I dont remember so good but he wantid me to say
what was in the ink. I dint see nuthing in the ink but he said there
was picturs there other pepul saw some picturs. I couldnt see any
picturs. I reely tryed. I held the card close up and then far away.
Then I said if I had my glases I coud see better I usally only ware
my glases in the movies or TV but I said they are in the closit in the
hall. I got them. Then I said let me see that card agen I bet Ill find it
I tryed hard but I only saw the ink. I told him maybe I need new
glases. He rote something down on a paper and I got skared of faling
the test. I told him it was a very nice inkblot with littel points all
around the edges. He looked very sad so that wasnt it. I said please
let me try agen. Ill get it in a few minits becaus Im not so fast
sometimes. Im a slow reeder too in Miss Kinnians class for slow
adtilts but I'm trying very hard.
He gave me a chance with another card that had 2 kinds of ink
spilled on it red and blue.
He was very nice and talked slow like Miss Kinnian does and he
explaned it to me that it was a raw shok. He said pepul see things in
the ink. I said show me where. He said think. I told him I think a
inkblot but that wasn't rite eather. He said what does it remind
you-pretend something. I closed mv eves for a long time to
pretend. I told him I pretend a fowutan pen with ink leeking all over
a table cloth.
I don't think I passed the raw shok test
progris riport 3-martch 7
Dr Strauss and Dr Nemur say it dont matter about the inkblots.
They said that maybe they will still use me. I said Miss Kinnian
never gave me tests like that one only spelling and reading. They
said Miss Kinnian told that I was her bestist pupil in the adult nite
school becaus I tryed the hardist and I reely wantid to lern. They
said how come you went to the adult nite scool all by yourself
Charlie. How did you find it. I said I asked pepul and sum body told
me where I shud go to lern to read and spell good. They said why
did you want to. I told them becaus all my life I wantid to be smart
and not dumb. But its very hard to be smart. They said you know it
will probly be tempirery. I said yes. Miss Kinnian told me. I dont
care if it herts.
Later I had more crazy tests today. The nice lady who gave it to
me told me the name and I asked her how do you spell it so I can rite
it my progris riport. THEMATIC APPERCEPTION TEST. I dont
know the frist 2 words but I know what test means. You got to pass it
or you get bad marks. This test lookd easy becaus I could see the
picturs. Only this time she dint want me to tell her the picturs. That
mixd me up. She said make up storys about the pepul in the picturs.
I told her how can you tell storys about pepul you never met. I
said why shud I make up lies. I never tell lies any more becaus I
always get caut.
She told me this test and the other one the raw-shok was for
getting personality. I laffed so hard. I said how can you get that
thing from inkblots and fotos. She got sore and put her picturs away.
I don't care. It was sily. I gess I faled that test too.
Later some men in white coats took me to a difernt part of the
hospitil and gave me a game to play. It was like a race with a white
mouse. They called the mouse Algernon. Algernon was in a box with
a lot of twists and turns like all kinds of walls and they gave me a
pencil and a paper with lines and lots of boxes. On one side it said
START and on the other end it said FINISH. They said it was
amazed and that Algernon and me had the same amazed to do. I dint
see how we could have the same amazed if Algernon had a box and I
had a paper but I dint say' nothing. Anyway there wasnt time
because the race started.
One of the men had a watch he was trying to hide so I wouldnt
see it so I tryed not to look and that made me nervus.
Anyway that test made me feel worser than all the others
because they' did it over 10 times with different amazeds and
Algernon won every time. I dint know that mice were so smart,
Maybe thats because Algernon is a white mouse. Maybe white mice
are smarter than other mice.
progris riport 4-Mar 8
Their going to use me! Im so excited I can hardly write. Dr
Nemur and Dr Strauss had a argament about it first. Dr Nemur was
in the office when Dr Strauss brot me in. Dr Nemur was worryed
about using me but Dr Strauss told him Miss Kinnian rekemmended
me the best from all the people who she was teaching. I like Miss
Kinnian becaus shes a very smart teacher. And she said Charlie your
going to have a second chance. If you volunteer for this experament
you mite get smart. They dont know if it will be perminint but theirs
a chance. Thats why I said ok even when I was scared because she
said it was an operashun. She said dont be scared Charlie you done
so much with so little I think you deserv it most of all.
So I got scaird when Dr. Nemur and Dr. Strauss argud about it.
Dr. Strauss said I had something that was very good. He said I had a
good motorvation. I never even knew I had that. I felt proud when
he said that not every body with an eye-q of 68 had that thing. I dant
know what it is or where I got it but he said Algernon had it too.
Algernons motor-vation is the cheese they put in his box. But it cant
be that because I didn't eat any cheese this week.
Then he told Dr Nemur something I dint understand so while
they were talking I wrote down some of the words.
He said Dr. Nemur I know Charlie is not what you had in mind
as the first of your new brede of intelek** (couldnt get the word)
superman. But most people of his low ment** are host** and
uncoop** they are usually dull apath** and hard to reach. He has a
good natcher hes intristed and eager to please.
Dr Nemur said remember he will be the first human beeng ever
to have his intelijence tripled by surgicle meens.
Dr. Strauss said exakly. Look at how well hes lerned to read and
write for his low mentel age its as grate an acheve** as you and I
lerning einstines therey of **vity without help. That shows the
inteness motor-vation. Its comparat** a tremen** achev** I say we
I dint get all the words but it sounded like Dr Strauss was on my
side and like the other one wasnt.
Then Dr Nemur nodded he said all right maybe your right. We
will use Charlie. When he said that I got so exited I jumped up and
shook his hand for being so good to me. I told him thank you doc
you wont be sorry for giving me a second chance. And I mean it like
I told him. After the operashun Im gonna try to be smart. Im gonna
try awful hard.
progris riport 5-Mar 10
Im skared. Lots of the nurses and the people who gave me the
tests came to bring me candy and wish me luck. I hope I have luck. I
got my rabits foot and my lucky penny. Only a black cat crossed me
when I was comming to the hospitil. Dr Strauss says dont be
supersitis Charlie this is science. Anyway Im keeping my rabits foot
I asked Dr Strauss if Ill beat Algernon in the race after the
operashun and he said maybe. If the operashun works Ill show that
mouse I can be as smart as he is. Maybe smarter. Then Ill be abel to
read better and spell the words good and know lots of things and be
like other people. I want to be smart like other people. If it works
perminint they will make everybody smart all over the wurld.
They dint give me anything to eat this morning. I dont know
what that eating has to do with getting smart. Im very hungry and
Dr. Nemur took away my box of candy. That Dr Nemur is a grouch.
Dr Strauss says I can have it back after the operashun. You cant eat
befor a operashun....
progress report 6-Mar 15
The operashun dint hurt. He did it while I was sleeping. They
took off the bandijis from my head today so I can make a PROG-
RESS REPORT. Dr. Nemur who looked at some of my other ones
says I spell PROGRESS wrong and told me how to spell it and
REPORT too. I got to try and remember that.
I have a very bad memary for spelling. Dr Strauss says its ok to
tell about all the things that happin to me but he says I should tell
more about what I feel and what I think. When I told him I dont
know how to think he said try. All the time when the bandijis were
on my eyes I tryed to think. Nothing happened. I dont know what to
think about. Maybe if I ask him he will tell me how I can think now
that Im supposed to get smart. What do smart people think about.
Fancy things I suppose. I wish I knew some fancy things alredy.
progress report 7-mar 19
Nothing is happining. I had lots of tests and different kinds of
races with Algernon. I hate that mouse. He always beats me. Dr.
Strauss said I got to play those games. And he said some time I got to
take those tests over again. Those inkblots are stupid. And those
pictures are stupid too. I like to draw a picture of a man and a
woman but I wont make up lies about people.
I got a headache from trying to think so much. I thot Dr Strauss
was my frend but he dont help me. He dont tell me what to think or
when Ill get smart. Miss Kinnian dint come to see me. I think
writing these progress reports are stupid too.
progress report 8-Mar 23
Im going back to work at the factory. They said it was better I
shud go back to work but I cant tell anyone what the operashun was
for and I have to come to the hospitil for an hour evry night after
work. They are gonna pay me mony every month for learning to be
Im glad Im going back to work because I miss my job and all
my frends and all the fun we have there.
Dr Strauss say's I shud keep writing things down but I dont
have to do it every day just when I think of something or something
speshul happins. He says dont get discoridged because it takes time
and it happins slow. He say's it took a long time with Algernon
before he got 3 times smarter than he was before. Thats why
Algernon beats me all the time because he had that operashun too.
That makes me feel better. I coud probly do that amazed faster than
a reglar mouse. Maybe some day Ill beat him. That would be
something. So far Algernon looks smart perminent.
Mar 25 (I dont have to write PROGRESS REPORT on top any
more just when I hand it in once a week for Dr Nemur. I just have to
put the date on. That saves time)
We had a lot of fun at the factory today. Joe Carp said hey look
where Charlie had his operashun what did they do Charlie put some
brains in. I was going to tell him but I remembered Dr Strauss said
no. Then Frank Reilly said what did you do Charlie forget your key
and open your door the hard way. That made me laff. Their really
my friends and they like me.
Sometimes somebody will say hey look at Joe or Frank or
George he really pulled a Charlie Gordon. I dont know why they say
that but they always laff. This morning Amos Borg who is the 4 man
at Donnegans used my name when he shouted at Ernie the office
boy. Ernie lost a packige. He said Ernie for godsake what are you
trying to be a Charlie Gordon. I dont understand why he said that.
Mar 28 Dr Strauss came to my room tonight to see why I dint come
in like I was suppose to. I told him I dont like to race with Algernon
any more. He said I dont have to for a while but I shud come in. He
had a present for me. I thot it was a little television but it wasnt. He
said I got to turn it on when I go to sleep. I said your kidding why
shud I turn it on when Im going to sleep. Who ever herd of a thing
like that. But he said if I want to get smart I got to do what he says. I
told him I dint think I was going to get smart and he puts his hand
on my sholder and said Charlie you dont know it yet but your
getting smarter all the time. You wont notice for a while. I think he
was just being nice to make me feel good because I dont look any
Oh yes I almost forgot. I asked him when I can go back to the
class at Miss Kinnians school. He said I wont go their. He said that
soon Miss Kinnian will come to the hospitil to start and teach me
Mar 29 That crazy TV kept up all night. How can I sleep with
something yelling crazy things all night in my ears. And the nutty
pictures. Wow. I don't know what it says when Im up so how am I
going to know when Im sleeping.
Dr Strauss says its ok. He says my brains are lerning when I
sleep and that will help me when Miss Kinnian starts my lessons in
the hospitl (only I found out it isn't a hospitil its a labatory.) I think
its all crazy. If you can get smart when your sleeping why do people
go to school. That thing I don't think will work. I use to watch the
late show and the late late show on TV all the time and it never made
me smart. Maybe you have to sleep while you watch it.
progress report 9-April 3
Dr Strauss showed me how to keep the TV turned low so now I
can sleep. I don't hear a thing. And I still dont understand what it
says. A few times I play it over in the morning to find out what I
lerned when I was sleeping and I don't think so. Miss Kinnian says
Maybe its another langwidge. But most times it sound american. It
talks faster then even Miss Gold who was my teacher in 6 grade.
I told Dr. Strauss what good is it to get smart in my sleep. I want
to be smart when Im awake. He says its the same thing and I have
two minds. Theres the subconscious and the conscious (thats how
you spell it). And one dont tell the other one what its doing. They
dont even talk to each other. Thats why I dream. And boy have I
been having crazy dreams. Wow. Ever since that night TV. The late
late late show.
I forgot to ask him if it was only me or if everybody had those
(I just looked up the word in the dictionary Dr Strauss gave me.
The word is subconscious. adj. Of the nature of mental operations
yet not present in consciousness; as, subconscious conflict of de-
sires.) There's more but I still dont know what it means. This isnt a
very good dictionary for dumb people like me.
Anyway the headache is from the party. My friends from the
factery Joe Carp and Frank Reilly invited me to go to Muggsys
Saloon for some drinks. I don't like to drink but they said we will
have lots of fun. I had a good time.
Joe Carp said I shoud show the girls how I mop out the toilet in
the factory and he got me a mop. I showed them and everyone laffed
when I told that Mr. Donnegan said I was the best janiter he ever
had because I like my job and do it good and never miss a day except
for my operashun.
I said Miss Kinnian always said Charlie be proud of your job
because you do it good.
Everybody laffed and we had a good time and they gave me lots
of drinks and Joe said Charlie is a card when hes potted. I dont
know what that means but everybody likes me and we have fun. I
cant wait to be smart like my best friends Joe Carp and Frank Reilly.
I dont remember how the party was over but I think I went out
to buy a newspaper and coffe for Joe and Frank and when I came
back there was no one their. I looked for them all over till late. Then
I dont remember so good but I think I got sleepy or sick. A nice cop
brot me back home Thats what my landlady Mrs Flynn says.
But I got a headache and a big lump on my head. I think maybe
I fell but Joe Carp says it was the cop they beat up drunks some
times. I don't think so. Miss Kinnian says cops are to help people.
Anyway I got a bad headache and Im sick and hurt all over. I dont
think Ill drink anymore.
April 6 I beat Algernon! I dint even know I beat him until Burt the
tester told me. Then the second time I lost because I got so exited I
fell off the chair before I finished. But after that I beat him 8 more
times. I must be getting smart to beat a smart mouse like Algernon.
But I dont feel smarter.
I wanted to race Algernon some more but Burt said thats
enough for one day. They let me hold him for a minit. Hes not so
bad. Hes soft like a ball of cotton. He blinks and when he opens his
eyes their black and pink on the eges.
I said can I feed him because I felt bad to beat him and I wanted
to be nice and make friends. Burt said no Algernon is a very
specshul mouse with an operashun like mine, and he was the first of
all the animals to stay smart so long. He told me Algernon is so smart
that every day he has to solve a test to get his food. Its a thing like a
lock on a door that changes every time Algernon goes in to eat so he
has to lern something new to get his food. That made me sad
because if he couldnt lern he woud be hungry.
I don't think its right to make you pass a test to eat. How woud
Dr Nemur like it to have to pass a test every time he wants to eat. I
think Ill be friends with Algernon.
April 9 Tonight after work Miss Kinnian was at the laboratory. She
looked like she was glad to see me but scared. I told her dont worry
Miss Kinnian Im not smart yet and she laffed. She said I have
confidence in you Charlie the way you struggled so hard to read and
right better than all the others. At werst you will have it for a littel
wile and your doing something for science.
We are reading a very hard book. Its called Robinson Crusoe
about a man who gets merooned on a dessert Iland. Hes smart and
figers out all kinds of things so he can have a house and food and hes
a good swimmer. Only I feel sorry because hes all alone and has no
frends. But I think their must be somebody else on the iland because
theres a picture with his funny umbrella looking at footprints. I
hope he gets a frend and not be lonly.
April 10 Miss Kinnian teaches me to spell better. She says look at a
word and close your eyes and say it over and over until you
remember. I have lots of truble with through that you say threw and
enough and tough that you dont say enew and tew. You got to say
enuff and tuff. Thats how I use to write it before I started to get
smart. Im confused but Miss Kinnian says theres no reason in
Apr 14 Finished Robinson Crusoe. I want to find out more about
what happens to him but Miss Kinnian says thats all there is. Why.
Apr 15 Miss Kinnian says Im lerning fast. She read some of the
Progress Reports and she looked at me kind of funny. She says Im a
fine person and Ill show them all. I asked her why. She said never
mind but I shouldnt feel bad if I find out everybody isnt nice like I
think. She said for a person who god gave so little to you done more
then a lot of people with brains they never even used. I said all my
friends are smart people but there good. They like me and they
never did anything that wasnt nice. Then she got something in her
eye and she had to run out to the ladys room.
Apr 16 Today, I lerned, the comma, this is a comma (,) a period,
with a tail, Miss Kinnian, says its importent, because, it makes
writing, better, she said, somebody, coud lose, a lot of money, if a
comma, isnt, in the, right place, I dont have, any money, and I dont
see, how a comma, keeps you, from losing it.
Apr 17 1 used the comma wrong. Its punctuation. Miss Kinnian
told me to look up long words in the dictionary to lern to spell them.
I said whats the difference if you can read it anyway. She said its
part of your education so now on Ill look up all the words Im not
sure how to spell. It takes a long time to write that way but I only
have to look up once and after that I get it right.
You got to mix them up, she showed? me" how to mix! them
(and now; I can! mix up all kinds" of punctuation, in! my writing?
There, are lots! of rules? to lern; but Im gettin'g them in my head.
One thing I like about, Dear Miss Kinnian: (thats the way it
goes in a business letter if I ever go into business) is she, always
gives me' a reason" when--I ask. She's a gen'ius! I wish I cou'd be
smart" like, her;
(Punctuation, is; fun!)
Apr 18 What a dope I am! I didn't even understand what she was
talking about. I read the grammar book last night and it explanes the
whole thing. Then I saw it was the same way as Miss Kinnian was
trying to tell me, but I didn't get it.
Miss Kinnian said that the TV working in my sleep helped out.
She and I reached a plateau. Thats a flat hill.
After I figured out how punctuation worked, I read over all my
old Progress Reports from the beginning. Boy, did I have crazy
spelling and punctuation! I told Miss Kinnian I ought to go over the
pages and fix all the mistakes but she said, "No, Charlie, Dr. Nemur
wants them just as they are. That's why he let you keep them after
they were photostated, to see your own progress. You're coming
along fast, Charlie."
That made me feel good. After the lesson I went down and
played with Algernon. We don't race any more.
April 20 I feel sick inside. Not sick like for a doctor, but inside my
chest it feels empty like getting punched and a heartburn at the same
time. I wasn't going to write about it, but I guess I got to, because its
important. Today was the first time I ever stayed home from work.
Last night Joe Carp and Frank Reilly invited me to a party.
There were lots of girls and some men from the factory. I remem-
bered how sick I got last time I drank too much, so I told Joe I didn't
want anything to drink. He gave me a plain coke instead.
We had a lot of fun for a while. Joe said I should dance with
Ellen and she would teach me the steps. I fell a few times and I
couldn't understand why because no one else was dancing besides
Ellen and me. And all the time I was tripping because somebody's
foot was always sticking out.
Then when I got up I saw the look on Joe's face and it gave me a
funny feeling in my stomack. "He's a scream," one of the girls said.
Everybody was laughing.
"Look at him. He's blushing. Charlie is blushing."
"Hey, Ellen, what'd you do to Charlie? I never saw him act like
I didn't know what to do or where to turn. Everyone was
looking at me and laughing and I felt naked. I wanted to hide. I ran
outside and I threw up. Then I walked home. It's a funny thing I
never knew that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me
around all the time to make fun of me.
Now I know what it means when they say "to pull a Charlie
progress report 11
April 21 Still didn't go into the factory. I told Mrs. Flynn my
landlady to call and tell Mr. Donnegan I was sick. Mrs. Flynn looks
at me very funny lately like she's scared.
I think it's a good thing about finding out how everybody
laughs at me. I thought about it a lot. It's because I'm so dumb and I
don't even know when I'm doing something dumb. People think it's
funny when a dumb person can't do things the same way they can.
Anyway, now I know I'm getting smarter every day. I know
punctuation and I can spell good. I like to look up all the hard words
in the dictionary and I remember them. I'm reading a lot now, and
Miss Kinnian says I read very fast. Sometimes I even understand
what I'm reading about, and it stays in my mind. There are times
when I can close my eyes and think of a page and it all comes back
like a picture.
Besides history, geography and arithmetic, Miss Kinnian said I
should start to learn foreign languages. Dr. Strauss gave me some
more tapes to play while I sleep. I still don't understand how that
conscious and unconscious mind works, but Dr. Strauss says not to
worry yet. He asked me to promise that when I start learning college
subjects next week I wouldn't read any books on psychology-that
is, until he gives me permission.
I feel a lot better today, but I guess I'm still a little angry that all
the time people were laughing and making fun of me because I
wasn't so smart. When I become intelligent like Dr. Strauss says,
with three times my I.Q. of 68, then maybe I'll be like everyone else
and people will like me.
I'm not sure what an I.Q. is, Dr. Nemur said it was something
that measured how intelligent you were--like a scale in the drug-
store weighs pounds. But Dr. Strauss had a big argument with him
and said an I.Q. didn't weigh intelligence at all. He said an I.Q.
showed how much intelligence you could get, like the numbers on
the outside of a measuring cup. You still had to fill the cup up with
Then when I asked Burt, who gives me my intelligence tests
and works with Algernon, he said that both of them were wrong
(only I had to promise not to tell them he said so). Burt says that the
I.Q. measures a lot of different things including some of the things
you learned already, and it really isn't any good at all.
So I still don't know what I.Q. is except that mine is going to be
over 200 soon. I didn't want to say anything, but I don't see how if
they don't know what it is, or where it is--I don't see how they know
how much of it you've got.
Dr. Nemur says I have to take a Rorshach Test tomorrow. I
wonder what that is.
April 22 I found out what a Rorshach is. It's the test I took before
the operation--the one with the inkblots on the pieces of cardboard.
I was scared to death of those inkblots. I knew the man was
going to ask me to find the pictures and I knew I couldn't. I was
thinking to myself, if only there was some way of knowing what
kind of pictures were hidden there. Maybe there weren't any
pictures at all. Maybe it was just a trick to see if I was dumb enough
to look for something that wasn't there. Just thinking about that
made me sore at him.
"All right, Charlie," he said, "you've seen these cards before.
"Of course I remember."
The way I said it, he knew I was angry, and he looked surprised.
"Yes, of course. Now I want you to look at this. What might this be?
What do you see on this card? People see all sorts of things in these
inkblots. Tell me what it might be for you-what it makes you think
I was shocked. That wasn't what I had expected him to say.
"You mean there are no pictures hidden in those inkblots?"
He frowned and took off his glasses. "What?"
"Pictures. Hidden in the inkblots. Last time you told me
everyone could see them and you wanted me to find them too."
He explained to me that the last time he had used almost the
exact same words he was using now. I didn't believe it, and I still
have the suspicion that he misled me at the time just for the fun of it.
Unless--I don't know any more--could I have been that feeble-
We went through the cards slowly. One looked like a pair of
bats tugging at something. Another one looked like two men fencing
with swords. I imagined all sorts of things. I guess I got carried
away. But I didn't trust him any more, and I kept turning them
around, even looking on the back to see if there was anything there I
was supposed to catch. While he was making his notes, I peeked out
of the corner of my eye to read it. But it was all in code that looked
WF+A DdF-Ad orig. WF-A
SF + obj
The test still doesn't make sense to me. It seems to me that
anyone could make up lies about things that they didn't really
imagine? Maybe I'll understand it when Dr. Strauss lets me read up
April 25 I figured out a new way to line up the machines in the
factory, and Mr. Donnegan says it will save him ten thousand
dollars a year in labor and increased production. He gave me a $25
I wanted to take Joe Carp and Frank Reilly out to lunch to
celebrate, but Joe said he had to buy some things for his wife, and
Frank said he was meeting his cousin for lunch. I guess it'll take a
little time for them to get used to the changes in me. Everybody
seems to be frightened of me. When I went over to Amos Borg and
tapped him, he jumped up in the air.
People don't talk to me much any more or kid around the way
they used to. It makes the job kind of lonely.
April 27 I got up the nerve today to ask Miss Kinnian to have
dinner with me tomorrow night to celebrate my bonus.
At first she wasn't sure it was right, but I asked Dr. Strauss and
he said it was okay. Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur don't seem to be
getting along so well. They're arguing all the time. This evening I
heard them shouting. Dr. Nemur was saying that it was his experi-
ment and his research, and Dr. Strauss shouted back that he
contributed just as much, because he found me through Miss
Kinnian and he performed the operation. Dr. Strauss said that
someday thousands of neuro-surgeons might be using his technique
all over the world.
Dr. Nemur wanted to publish the results of the experiment at
the end of the month. Dr. Strauss wanted to wait a while to be sure.
Dr. Strauss said Dr. Nemur was more interested in the Chair of
Psychology at Princeton than he was in the experiment. Dr. Nemur
said Dr. Strauss was nothing but an opportunist trying to ride to
glory on his coattails.
When I left afterwards, I found myself trembling. I don't know
why for sure, but it was as if I'd seen both men clearly for the first
time. I remember hearing Burt say Dr. Nemur had a shrew of a wife
who was pushing him all the time to get things published so he
could become famous. Burt said that the dream of her life was to
have a big shot husband.
April 28 I don't understand why I never noticed how beautiful
Miss Kinnian really is. She has brown eyes and feathery brown hair
that comes to the top of her neck. She's only thirty-four! I think from
the beginning I had the feeling that she was an unreachable
genius--and very, very old. Now, every time I see her she grows
younger and more lovely.
We had dinner and a long talk. When she said I was coming
along so fast I'd be leaving her behind, I laughed.
"It's true, Charlie. You're already a better reader than I am. You
can read a whole page at a glance while I can take in only a few lines
at a time. And you remember every single thing you read. I'm lucky
if I can recall the main thoughts and the general meaning."
"I don't feel intelligent. There are so many things I don't
She took out a cigarette and I lit it for her. "You've got to be a
little patient. You're accomplishing in days and weeks what it takes
normal people to do in a lifetime. That's what makes it so amazing.
You're like a giant sponge now, soaking things in. Facts, figures,
general knowledge. And soon you'll begin to connect them, too.
You'll see how different branches of learning are related. There are
many levels, Charlie, like steps on a giant ladder that take you tip
higher and higher to see more and more of the world around yoti.
"I can see only a little bit of that, Charlie, and I won't go much
higher than I am now, but you'll keep climbing up and up, and see
more and more, and each step will open new worlds that you never
even knew existed." She frowned. "I hope . . . I just hope to God--"
"Never mind, Charles. I just hope I wasn't wrong to advise you
to go into this in the first place."
I laughed. "How could that be? It worked, didn't it? Even
Algernon is still smart."
We sat there silently for a while and I knew what she was
thinking about as she watched me toying with the chain of my
rabbit's foot and my keys. I didn't want to think of that possibility
any more than elderly people want to think of death. I knew that this
was only the beginning. I knew what she meant about levels
because I'd seen some of them already. The thought of leaving her
behind made me sad.
I'm in love with Miss Kinnian.
progress report 12
April 30 I've quit my job with Donnegan's Plastic Box Company.
Mr. Donnegan insisted it would be better for all concerned if I left.
What did I do to make them hate me so?
The first I knew of it was when Mr. Donnegan showed me the
petition. Eight hundred names, everyone in the factory, except
Fanny Girden. Scanning the list quickly, I saw at once that hers was
the only missing name. All the rest demanded that I be fired.
Joe Carp and Frank Reilly wouldn't talk to me about it. No one
else would either, except Fanny. She was one of the few people I'd
known who set her mind to something and believed it no matter
what the rest of the world proved, said or did-and Fanny did not
believe that I should have been fired. She had been against the
petition on principle and despite the pressure and threats she'd held
"Which don't mean to say," she remarked, "that I don't think
there's something mighty strange about you, Charlie. Them chang-
es. I don't know. You used to be a good, dependable, ordinary
man--not too bright maybe, but honest. Who knows what you done
to yourself to get so smart all of a sudden. Like everybody around
here's been saying, Charlie, it's not right."
"But how can you say that, Fanny? What's wrong with a man
becoming intelligent and wanting to acquire knowledge and under-
standing of the world around him?"
She stared down at her work and I turned to leave. Without
looking at me, she said: "It was evil when Eve listened to the snake
and ate from the tree of knowledge. It was evil when she saw that
she was naked. If not for that none of us would ever have to grow
old and sick, and die."
Once again, now, I have the feeling of shame burning inside
me. This intelligence has driven a wedge between me and all the
people I once knew and loved. Before, they laughed at me and
despised me for my ignorance and dullness; now, they hate me for
my knowledge and understanding. What in God's name do they
want of me?
They've driven me out of the factory. Now I'm more alone than
ever before. .
May' 15 Dr. Strauss is very angry at me for not having written any
progress reports in two weeks. He's justified because the lab is now
paying me a regular salary. I told him I was too busy thinking and
reading. When I pointed out that writing was such a slow process
that it makes me impatient with my poor handwriting, he suggested I
learn to type. It's much easier to write now because I can type
seventy-five words a minute. Dr. Strauss continually reminds me of
the need to speak and write simply so people will be able to
I'll try to review all the things that happened to me during the
last two weeks. Algernon and I were presented to the American
Psychological Association sitting in convention with the World
Psychological Association. We created quite a sensation. Dr. Nemur
and Dr. Strauss were proud of us.
I suspect that Dr. Nemur, who is sixty--ten years older than Dr.
Strauss--finds it necessary to see tangible results of his work.
Undoubtedly the result of pressure by Mrs. Nemur.
Contrary to my earlier impressions of him, I realize that Dr.
Nemur is not at all a genius. He has a very good mind, but it
struggles tinder the spectre of self-doubt. He wants people to take
him for a genius. Therefore, it is important for him to feel that his
work is accepted by the world. I believe that Dr. Nemur was afraid
of further delay because he worried that someone else might make a
discovery along these lines and take the credit from him.
Dr. Strauss on the other hand might be called a genius, although
I feel that his areas of knowledge are too limited. He was educated
in the tradition of narrow specialization; the broader aspects of
background were neglected far more than necessary-even for a
I was shocked to learn that the only ancient languages he could
read were Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and that he knows almost
nothing of mathematics beyond the elementary levels of the calcu-
lus of variations. When he admitted this to me, I found myself
almost annoyed. It was as if he'd hidden this part of himself in order
to deceive me, pretending--as do many people I've discovered--to
be what he is not. No one I've ever known is what he appears to be
on the surface.
Dr. Nemur appears to be uncomfortable around me. Sometimes
when I try to talk to him, he just looks at me strangely and turns
away. I was angry at first when Dr. Strauss told me I was giving Dr.
Nemur an inferiority complex. I thought he was mocking me and
I'm oversensitive at being made fun of.
How was I to know that a highly respected psychoexperimen-
talist like Nemur was unacquainted with Hindustani and Chinese?
It's absurd when you consider the work that is being done in India
and China today in the very field of his study.
I asked Dr. Strauss how Nemur could refute Rahajamati's attack
on his method and results if Nemur couldn't even read them in the
first place. That strange look on Dr. Strauss' face can mean only one
of two things. Either he doesn't want to tell Nemur what they're
saying in India, or else--and this worries me--Dr. Strauss doesn't
know either. I must be careful to speak and write clearly and simply
so that people won't laugh.
May 18 I am very disturbed. I saw Miss Kinn ian last night for the
first time in over a week. I tried to avoid all discussions of
intellectual concepts and to keep the conversation on a simple,
everyday level, but she just stared at me blankly and asked me what
I meant about the mathematical variance equivalent in Dorber-
mann s Fifth Concerto.
When I tried to explain she stopped me and laughed. I guess I
got angry, but I suspect I'm approaching her on the wrong level. No
matter what I try to discuss with her, I am unable to communicate. I
must review Vrostadt's equations on Levels of Semantic Progres-
sion. I find that I don't communicate with people much any more.
Thank God for books and music and things I can think about. I am
alone in my apartment at Mrs. Flynn's boardinghouse most of the
time and seldom speak to anyone.
May 20 I would not have noticed the new dishwasher, a boy. of
about sixteen, at the corner diner where I take my evening meals if
not for the incident of the broken dishes.
They crashed to the floor, shattering and sending bits of white
china under the tables. The boy stood there, dazed and frightened,
holding the empty tray in his hand. The whistles and catcalls from
the customers (the cries of "hey, there go the profits!" .
"Mazeltov!". . . and "well, he didn't work here very long
which invariably seem to follow the breaking of glass or dishware in
a public restaurant) all seemed to confuse him.
When the owner came to see what the excitement was about, the
boy cowered as if he expected to be struck and threw up his arms as
if to ward off the blow.
"All right! All right, you dope," shouted the owner, "don't just
stand there! Get the broom and sweep that mess up. A broom . . . a
broom, you idiot! It's in the kitchen. Sweep up all the pieces."
The boy saw that he was not going to be punished. His
frightened expression disappeared and he smiled and hummed as he
came back with the broom to sweep the floor. A few of the rowdier
customers kept up the remarks, amusing themselves at his expense.
"Here, sonny, over here there's a nice piece behind you...."
"C'mon, do it again."
"He's not so dumb. It's easier to break'em than to
wash'em. . ."
As his vacant eyes moved across the crowd of amused onlook-
ers, he slowly mirrored their smiles and finally broke into an
uncertain grin at the joke which he obviously did not understand.
I felt sick inside as I looked at his dull, vacuous smile, the wide,
bright eyes of a child, uncertain but eager to please. They were
laughing at him because he was mentally retarded.
And I had been laughing at him too.
Suddenly, I was furious at myself and all those who were
smirking at him. I jumped up and shouted, "Shut up! Leave him
alone! It's not his fault he can't understand. He can't help what lie
is! But for God's sake . . . he's still a human being!"
The room grew silent. I cursed myself for losing control and
creating a scene. I tried not to look at the boy as I paid my check and
walked out without touching my food. I felt ashamed for both of us.
How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility,
who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or
eyes--how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with
low intelligence. It infuriated me to think that not too long ago, I
like this boy, had foolishly played the clown.
And I had almost forgotten.
I'd hidden the picture of the old Charlie Gordon from myself
because now that I was intelligent it was something that had to be
pushed out of my mind. But today in looking at that boy, for the first
time I saw what I had been. I was just like him!
Only a short time ago, I learned that people laughed at me. Now
I can see that unknowingly I joined with them in laughing at myself.
That hurts most of all.
I have often reread my progress reports and seen the illiteracy,
the childish naivete, the mind of low intelligence peering from a
dark room, through the keyhole, at the dazzling light outside. I see
that even in my dullness I knew that I was inferior, and that other
people had something I lacked-something denied me. In my
mental blindness, I thought that it was somehow connected with the
ability to read and write, and I was sure that if I could get those
skills I would automatically have intelligence too.
Even a feeble-minded man wants to be like other men.
A child may not know how to feed itself, or what to eat, yet it
knows of hunger.
This then is what I was like, I never knew. Even with my gift of
intellectual awareness, I never really knew.
This day was good for me. Seeing the past more clearly, I have
decided to use my knowledge and skills to work in the field of
increasing human intelligence levels. Who is better equipped for
this work? Who else has lived in both worlds? These are my people.
Let me use my gift to do something for them.
Tomorrow, I will discuss with Dr. Strauss the manner in which
I can work in this area. I may be able to help him work out the
problems of widespread use of the technique which was used on
me. I have several good ideas of my own.
There is so much that might be done with this technique. If I
could be made into a genius, what about thousands of others like
myself? What fantastic levels might be achieved by using this
technique on normal people? Or geniuses?
There are so many doors to open. I am impatient to begin.
progress report 13
May 23 It happened today. Algernon bit me. I visited the lab to see
him as I do occasionally, and when I took him out of his cage, he
snapped at my hand. I put him back and watched him for a while.
He was unusually disturbed and vicious.
May 24 Burt, who is in charge of the experimental animals, tells
me that Algernon is changing. He is less co-operative; he refuses to
run the maze any more; general motivation has decreased. And he
hasn't been eating. Everyone is upset about what this may mean.
May 25 They've been feeding Algernon, who now refuses to work
the shifting-lock problem. Everyone identifies me with Algernon. in
a way we're both the first of our kind. They're all pretending that
Algernon's behavior is not necessarily significant for me. But it's
hard to hide the fact that some of the other animals who were used
in this experiment are showing strange behavior.
Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur have asked me not to come to the lab
any more. I know what they're thinking but I can't accept it. I am
going ahead with my plans to carry their research forward. With all
due respect to both of these fine scientists, l am well aware of their
limitations. If there is an answer, I'll have to find it out for myself.
Suddenly, time has become very important to me.
May 29 I have been given a lab of my own and permission to go
ahead with the research. I'm on to something. Working day and
night. I've had a cot moved into the lab. Most of my writing time is
spent on the notes which I keep in a separate folder, but from time to
time I feel it necessary to put down my moods and my thoughts out
of sheer habit.
I find the calculus of intelligence to be a fascinating study. Here
is the place for the application of all the knowledge I have acquired.
In a sense it's the problem I've been concerned with all my life.
May 31 Dr. Strauss thinks I'm working too hard. Dr. Nemur says
I'm trying to cram a lifetime of research and thought into a few
weeks. I know I should rest, but I'm driven on by something inside
that won't let me stop. I've got to find the reason for the sharp
regression in Algernon. I've got to know if and when it will happen
LETTER TO DR. STRAUSS (copy)
Dear Dr. Strauss:
Under separate cover I am sending you a copy of my report
entitled, "The Algernon-Gordon Effect: A Study of Structure
and Function of Increased Intelligence," which I would like to
have you read and have published.
As you see, my experiments are completed. I have included
in my report all of my formulae, as well as mathematical
analysis in the appendix. Of course, these should be verified.
Because of its importance to both you and Dr. Nemur (and
need I say to myself, too?) I have checked and rechecked my
results a dozen times in the hope of finding an error. I am sorry
to say the results must stand. Yet for the sake of science, I am
grateful for the little bit that I here add to the knowledge of the
function of the human mind and of the laws governing the
artificial increase of human intelligence.
I recall your once saying to me that an experimental failure
or the disproving of a theory was as important to the advance-
ment of learning as a success would be. I know now that this is
true. I am sorry, however, that my own contribution to the field
must rest upon the ashes of the work of two men I regard so
June 5 I must not become emotional. The facts and the results of
my experiments are clear, and the more sensational aspects of my
own rapid climb cannot obscure the fact that the tripling of
intelligence by the surgical technique developed by Drs. Strauss
and Nemur must be viewed as having little or no practical applica-
bility (at the present time) to the increase of human intelligence.
As I review the records and data on Algernon, I see that
although he is still in his physical infancy, he has regressed
mentally. Motor activity is impaired; there is a general reduction of
glandular activity; there is an accelerated loss of co-ordination.
There are also strong indications of progressive amnesia.
As will be seen by my report, these and other physical and
mental deterioration syndromes can be predicted with statistically
significant results by the application of my formula.
The surgical stimulus to which we were both subjected has
resulted in an intensification and acceleration of all mental pro-
cesses. The unforeseen development, which I have taken the liberty
of calling the Algernon-Gordon Effect, is the logical extension of the
entire intelligence speed-up. The hypothesis here proven may be
described simply in the following terms: Artificially increased
intelligence deteriorates at a rate of time directly proportional to the
quantity of the increase.
I feel that this, in itself, is an important discovery.
As long as I am able to write, I will continue to record my
thoughts in these progress reports. It is one of my few pleasures.
However, by all indications, my own mental deterioration will be
I have already begun to notice signs of emotional instability
and forgetfulness, the first symptoms of the burnout.
June 10 Deterioration progressing. I have become absentminded.
Algernon died two days ago. Dissection shows my predictions were
right. His brain had decreased in weight and there was a general
smoothing out of cerebral convolutions as well as a deepening and
broadening of brain fissures.
I guess the same thing is or will soon be happening to me. Now
that it's definite, I don't want it to happen.
I put Algernon's body in a cheese box and buried him in the
back yard. I cried.
June 15 Dr. Strauss came to see me again. I wouldn't open the door
and I told him to go away. I want to be left to myself. I have become
touchy and irritable. I feel the darkness closing in. It's hard to throw
off thoughts of suicide. I keep telling myself how important this
introspective journal will be.
It's a strange sensation to pick up a book that you've read and
enjoyed just a few months ago and discover that you don't remember
it. I remembered how great I thought John Milton was, but when I
picked up Paradise Lost I couldn't understand it at all. I got so
angry I threw the book across the room.
I've got to try to hold on to some of it. Some of the things I've
learned. Oh, God, please don't take it all away.
June 19 Sometimes, at night, I go out for a walk. Last night I
couldn't remember where I lived. A policeman took me home. I
have the strange feeling that this has all happened to me before--a
long time ago. I keep telling myself I'm the only person in the world
who can describe what's happening to me.
June 21 Why can't I remember? I've got to fight. I lie in bed for
days and I don't know who or where I am. Then it all comes back to
me in a flash. Fugues of amnesia. Symptoms of senility--second
childhood. I can watch them coming on. It's so cruelly logical. I
learned so much and so fast. Now my mind is deteriorating rapidly.
I won't let it happen. I'll fight it. I can't help thinking of the boy in
the restaurant, the blank expression, the silly smile, the people
laughing at him. No--please--not that again. . .
June 22 I'm forgetting things that I learned recently. It seems to be
following the classic pattern--the last things learned are the first
things forgotten. Or is that the pattern? I'd better look it up
I reread my paper on the Algemon-Gordon Effect and I get the
strange feeling that it was written by someone else. There are parts I
don't even understand.
Motor activity impaired. I keep tripping over things, and it
becomes increasingly difficult to type.
June 23 I've given up using the typewriter completely. My co-
ordination is bad. I feel that I'm moving slower and slower. Had a
terrible shock today. I picked up a copy of an article I used in my
research, Krueger's Uber Psychische Ganzheit, to see if it would
help me understand what I had done. First I thought there was
something wrong with my eyes. Then I realized I could no longer
read German. I tested myself in other languages. All gone.
June 30 A week since I dared to write again. It's slipping away like
sand through my fingers. Most of the books I have are too hard for
me now. I get angry with them because I know that I read and
understood them just a few weeks ago.
I keep telling myself I must keep writing these reports so that
somebody will know what is happening to me. But it gets harder to
form the words and remember spellings. I have to look up even
simple words in the dictionary now and it makes me impatient with
Dr. Strauss comes around almost every day, but I told him I
wouldn't see or speak to anybody. He feels guilty. They all do. But I
don't blame anyone. I knew what might happen. But how it hurts.
July 7 1 don't know where the week went. Todays Sunday I know
because I can see through my window people going to church. I
think I stayed in bed all week but I remember Mrs. Flynn bringing
food to me a few times. I keep saying over and over Ive got to do
something but then I forget or maybe its just easier not to do what I
say Im going to do.
I think of my mother and father a lot these days. I found a
picture of them with me taken at a beach. My father has a big ball
under his arm and my mother is holding me by the hand. I dont
remember them the way they are in the picture. All I remember is
my father drunk most of the time and arguing with mom about
He never shaved much and he used to scratch my face when he
hugged me. My mother said he died but Cousin Miltie said he heard
his mom and dad say that my father ran away with another woman.
When I asked my mother she slapped my face and said my father
was dead. I don't think I ever found out which was true but I don't
care much. (He said he was going to take me to see cows on a farm
once but he never did. He never kept his promises. . .)
July 10 My landlady Mrs Flynn is very worried about me. She says
the way I lay around all day and dont do anything I remind her of
her son before she threw him out of the house. She said she doesnt
like loafers. If Im sick its one thing, but if Im a loafer thats another
thing and she wont have it. I told her I think Im sick.
I try to read a little bit every day, mostly stories, but sometimes I
have to read the same thing over and over again because I dont know
what it means. And its hard to write. I know I should look up all the
words in the dictionary but its so hard and Im so tired all the time.
Then I got the idea that I would only use the easy words instead
of the long hard ones. That saves time. I put flowers on Algernons
grave about once a week. Mrs Flynn thinks I'm crazy to put flowers
on a mouses grave but I told her that Algernon was special.
July 14 Its sunday again. I dont have anything to do to keep me
busy now because my television set is broke and I dont have any
money to get it fixed. (I think I lost this months check from the lab. I
I get awful headaches and asperin doesnt help me much. Mrs
Flynn knows Im really sick and she feels very sorry for me. Shes a
wonderful woman whenever someone is sick.
July22 Mrs Flynn called a strange doctor to see me.