Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thinking of Charlie

Sometime ago, I was reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, the book I also brought from Japan.

The main character Charlie Gordon was an intellectually disadvantaged adult with 68 of IQ. What set him apart from other people like him, however, was that he had the eagerness to learn and become smart.
He had no doubt that his friends, his teacher and his family would be impressed and love him more if he was to be like other people.
Alice Kinnian, his teacher at the adult learning centre recommended him to the team of scientists to be used in the new scientific experiment that may improve his intelligence. They had already operated on the mouse named Algernon that turned into a genius that is able to solve a maze in a short time. It was indeed, smarter than Charlie.

The procedure was previously only tested on few animals and Charlie was to be the first human subject to undergo the operation.

Thus far Algernon, the mouse was the first and only subject that remained intelligent for a considerable length of time, and Algernon still showed no sign of regeneration at all. There were concerns, but they thought there was a high probability that it would stay smart.

After a long, daunting pre-operation procedure, Charlie went under the surgery.
The operation was a success. Within 4 months he transformed from a mentally feeble man into a super intellect with IQ185 to boot.

But things he learned during those 4 months were not exactly what he would’ve wished to learn. All the painful memory that was hidden in his subconscious mind came to the surface. He had found out that those who he used to believe were his friends, were just laughing at him. He remembered that he was actually ditched by his family, and of course, the fact that he was just an experimental subject for those scientists.

His intelligence increased at a lightening speed while his emotion was still trying to catch up. The reality was; it couldn’t handle its mind. Charlie's emotion couldn’t identify that the mind was also his. It had become far developed for him to take in.

What’s even worse was all the painful facts that Charlie learned created a chip on his shoulder.

The project team claimed him as the scientific miracle, and the surgery turned him into a real human. The word REAL HUMAN, upset him.
He WAS a human before the surgery, wasn’t he?

It wasn't only him who had difficulty coming to terms with his change. People around him had no idea what was happening to him. They came to hate him for his intelligence, the way he talk, for him not being the Charlie they used to know.

Charlie was different - special and alone. He became attached to Algernon, the special mouse, maybe because he saw in it the reflection of his own image.

What happened during the 4 months wasn’t all bad. He found his family and managed to reconcile with his sister and mother even though the reconciliation wasn’t perfect.
He became romantically linked to his teacher Alice Kinnian. However, developing a close relationship with female proved to be difficult as a result of his childhood experience with his family.

The point is; the Charlie with IQ185 was the same Charlie who walked into the laboratory to have the surgery.
If the Charlie after the operation were the REAL HUMAN, what was Charlie prior to that event? Would you call him a retard, subordinate being or less human?
Come to think about it, there are surprisingly many derogatory words around us.
And most of the time we use those words without any malice.
After the 4 months, Charlie started to show erratic behaviors and the sign of degeneration. He grew irrational and easily irritated, frustrated for he was aware of his own deterioration.

He was finally reversed back to the Charlie Gordon, just as God first created him.
And that was when, I think, he eventually found peace.

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