I did not weep for Charlie, I wept for myself

Flowers for Algernon, 1958
Daniel Keyes

I knew what was coming. It was only a matter of time. Despite brief bursts of optimism, there was nothing to look forward to save hopelessness. Somewhere around page 220, my vision began to blur. Having reached page 238 I was sobbing desperately.

Flowers for Algernon has left me raw; nerves exposed to the harsh elements. It’s the heightened awareness that makes Algernon such a thrilling story to read. Even the sense of despair bears a bitter-sweet quality that I cannot really explain.

One of my greatest fears has always been the fear of losing my mind. I have never had nor will I ever have the mental prowess of Charlie Gordon, but I cherish my mind and my judgment, as flawed as they are, beyond everything else. The idea of losing that freaks me out. Not the idea of being without it, but the idea of that interim period of knowing you cannot understand or think the way you used to – that limbo in which you remember what you were and could do, but cannot reproduce it.

I did not weep for Charlie. I wept for myself, I wept because of the eventuality of decay.

All the faults I have found in Algernon disappeared on those last pages where it is impossible not to see a glimmer of your own future. Keyes finishes the story right at the point when it hurts the most.

It’s a strange sensation to pick up a book you read and enjoyed just a few months ago and discover you don’t remember it. I recall how wonderful I thought Milton was. When I picked up Paradise Lost I could only remember it was about Adam and Eve and the Tree of knowledge, but I couldn’t make sense of it.

 

 

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