By Daniel Keyes
Language: English | Number of Pages: 224 | Format: Mass Market Paperback | In other languages: (other languages) Chi traditional , Spanish , Japanese , Chi simplified , Italian , French , Catalan , German , Russian , Czech , Polish , Hungarian , Romanian
Isbn-10: 0553274503 | Isbn-13: 9780553274509 | Publish date: 01/04/1984
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*** This comment contains spoilers! ***
Charlie Gordon has an IQ of 68. He works at a bakery and he goes to nightly classes for special needs adults, but he is discouraged by his inability to understand other people’s conversations and moreover he can't learn to read and write.
He doesn't like his condition and he is frustrated.
For this reason, he accepts to be the first human being to be operated in order to become smart.
As the doctors says to him, he starts to write his thoughts and after the operation he annotates his progresses.
He learns fast, but the more intelligent he becomes the more problems he has.
His intellectual growth is going to outstrip his emotional growth. The important thing is to find out what those people in his memories are saying. It's all about him when he was a boy and he's got to remember what happened.
He is still angry that all the time people were laughing and making fun of him.
He hopes that now he is intelligent with much more than twice his I.Q. of 70, maybe people will like him.
Suddenly people at the bakery notice he is changing. He can feel the hostility. They don't understand what has happened to him, and he can't tell them. People are not proud of him the way he expected—not at all.
And he is fired from his job. He knows it was foolish of him to hang on to the past, but there was something about the place with its white brick walls browned by oven heat ... It was home to him.
What did I do to make them hate me so? He asks himself.
He begins to see that by his astonishing growth he has made them shrink and emphasized their inadequacies. He has betrayed them, and they hate him for it.
This intelligence has driven a wedge between him and all the people he knows and loves,. Now, he is more alone than ever before.
He knows there's no reason for him to be ashamed, but it's an empty feeling not going in to work every day—not seeing the shop, the ovens, the people. It's too much.
Those people—for all those years—were his family. It was like being thrown out of his own home.
This has become a symbolic repetition of experiences Charlie had as a child. Being rejected by his parents, being sent away.
That terror at being kicked out of the bakery is vague, a fear he doesn't understand.
He is a new swimmer forced off a diving raft and terrified of losing the solid wood under his feet.
He is like an animal who's been locked out of his nice, safe cage.
They're pushing him too fast. He is confused. He wants to be an adult, but there's still a little boy inside him . Alone and frightened.
Rapidly the window reflecting his image becomes bright, and as the glass turns into a mirror, he sees little Charlie Gordon—fourteen or fifteen—looking out at him through the window of his house, and it's doubly strange to realize how different he was.
There was something in him before the operation , a warmth, an openness, a kindness that made everyone like him and like to have him around. Now, with all his intelligence and knowledge, there are differences.
On the other hand the doctors who have worked on that project at Beekman University have the satisfaction of knowing they have taken one of nature's mistakes and by their new techniques created a superior human being. They think that when Charlie came to them he was outside of society, alone in a great city without friends or relatives to care about him, without the mental equipment to live a normal life. No past, no contact with the present, no hope for the future. It might be said that Charlie Gordon did not really exist before that experiment.
Charlie, on the contrary, wants to show everyone what a fool they are; he wants to shout at them that he is a human being, a person—with parents and memories and a history—and he was before they ever wheeled him into that operating room!
Like Algernon, the mice which has been operated like Charlie to become smarter, he finds himself behind the mesh of the cage they had built.
Solitude gives him a chance to read and think, and now that the memories are coming through again—to rediscover his past, to find out who and what he really is. If anything should go wrong, he'll have at least that.
He has broken down the conscious barriers that kept the old Charlie Gordon hidden deep in his mind. As he suspects all along, he was not really gone. Nothing in our minds is ever really gone. The operation had covered him over with a veneer of education and culture, but emotionally he was there—watching and waiting.
In spite of the operation Charlie is still with him, Charlie is watching him.
He has often reread his early progress reports and seen the illiteracy, the childish naïveté, the mind of low intelligence peering from a dark room, through the keyhole, at the dazzling light outside. In his dreams and memories he has seen Charlie smiling happily and uncertainly at what people around him were saying. Even in his dullness he knew he was inferior. Other people had something he lacked—something denied him. In his mental blindness, he had believed it was somehow connected with the ability to read and write, and he was sure that if he could get those skills I would 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 hunger.
He can't help feeling that he is not him. He has usurped his place and locked him out the way they locked him out of the bakery. What he means to say is that Charlie Gordon exists in the past, and the past is real. You can't put up a new building on a site until you destroy the old one, and the old Charlie can't be destroyed. He exists.
All he wants to do is prove that Charlie existed as a person in the past, so that he could justify his own existence. But he has discovered that not only did Charlie exist in the past, he exists now.
In him and around him. He's been coming between them all along. He thinks his intelligence created the barrier— his pompous, foolish pride, the feeling they had nothing in common because he had gone beyond the old Charlie.
The doctors put that idea into his head. But that's not it. It's Charlie, the little boy who's afraid of women because of things his mother did to him.
All those months while he has been growing up intellectually, he has still had the emotional wiring of the childlike Charlie. And every time he came close to Alice, the woman he loves, or think about making love to her, there was a short circuit.
Somehow he has become separated emotionally from everyone and everything
He has learned a lot in the past few months. Not only about Charlie Gordon, but about life and people; he has discovered that nobody really cares about Charlie Gordon, whether he's a moron or a genius. So what difference does it make?"
He is an individual now, and so was Charlie before he ever walked into that lab.
Charlie is there, but not struggling with him. Just waiting. He has never tried to take over or tried to prevent him from doing anything he wanted to do. The humble, self-effacing Charlie is just waiting patiently.
He s has learned that intelligence alone doesn't mean a damned thing. There in their university, intelligence, education, knowledge, have all become great idols. But he knows now there's one thing they've all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn.
Intelligence is one of the greatest human gifts. But all too often a search for knowledge drives out the search for love. This is something else He has discovered for himself very recently.
Intelligence without the ability to give and receive affection leads to mental and moral breakdown, to neurosis, and possibly even psychosis.
When he was retarded he had lots of friends. Now he has no one. He knows lots of people. Lots and lots of people. But he doesn't have any real friends. Not like he used to have in the bakery. Not a friend in the world who means anything to him, and no one I mean anything to.
That's when he sees Charlie watching him from the mirror behind the washbasin. He doesn't know how he knows it was Charlie and not him. Something about the dull, questioning look in his face. His eyes, wide and frightened, as if at one word from him he would turn and run deep into the dimension of the mirrored world. But he didn't run. He just stared back at him , mouth open, jaw hanging loosely.
He looks down and he looks at his hands to see what he was looking at. "You want these back, don't you? You want me out of here so you can come back and take over where you left off. I don't blame you. It's your body and your brain—and your life, even though you weren't able to make much use of it. I don't have the right to take it away from you. Nobody does. Who's to say that my light is better than your darkness? Who's to say death is better than your darkness? Who am I to say?...
He is seeing himself as he really has become: an arrogant, self-centered bastard. Unlike Charlie, he is incapable of making friends or thinking about other people and their problems He is interested in himself, and himself only. For one long moment in that mirror he has seen myself through Charlie's eyes—looked down at himself and see what he has really become. And he is ashamed.
What has happened to him? Why is he so alone in the world?
P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.
Cri1967 said on Oct 06, 2016, 11:45
Viaggio di andata e ritorno da una felicità stupida e inconsapevole ad una intelligenza consapevole ma infelice.
Il punto di arrivo è più auspicabile del punto di partenza?
Forse che Einstein con il suo quoziente intellettivo pari a 161 era più felice di un riccio che rotola giù per un pendio e faticosamente tenta di risalirlo?
Una mente elaborata e complessa produce pensieri elaborati e complessi ma finisce per imprigionarvisi dentro, la mente semplice non vede nè il male né l’inganno intorno a sè.
La felicità è data dall’intelligenza?
Per amare è necessario essere intelligenti?
Che cosa rende piena una vita? Un cervello pieno di formule, zeppo di informazioni, la conoscenza, la capacità di prevedere le conseguenze dei propri atti, il successo riflesso nell’approvazione degli altri, l’abilità di concretizzare progetti e sogni, un quoziente intellettivo non inferiore a 100, sotto il quale non si è degni di considerazione?
Forse che una esistenza basica, semplice come le vite di persone deboli di mente, ipodotate da un punto di vista intellettuale è meno vita della nostra?
Che cosa rende una creatura un essere umano?
Charlie se con il senno di poi tu potessi scegliere, che cosa sceglieresti: il Charlie di un tempo o quello nuovo, lo sciocco o il genio?
Evi * said on Aug 11, 2016, 20:19
*** This comment contains spoilers! ***
E' una storia narrata in prima persona attraverso un piccolo diario. Gli esperimenti sul topo Algernon moltiplicano il quoziente intellettivo di questo topo. Charlie, uomo sventurato per il suo stato di poca intelligenza, è un addetto alle pulizie che consapevole del suo stato frequenta una scuola. E' proprio lì che apprende dalla sua insegnante che può modificare il suo stato con un'operazione. Accetta di sottoporsi a questo esperimento e come il topo, d'incanto, la sua intelligenza sviluppa incredibilmente. Ma la felicità è breve, perché apprende della regressione intellettiva del topo e della sua morte. Teme per la sua condizione perché voleva essere come le altre persone e scopre così che gli effetti dell'operazione sono temporanei. Regredisce inesorabilmente sino a diventare il Charlie di una volta, frequenta nuovamente la scuola serale ed è nuovamente un inserviente. Bello il libro che sviluppa i temi sul ruolo che hanno cultura e intelligenza con un riferimento iniziale a Platone nella sua Repubblica e il mito della caverna.
Daria49 said on Jun 25, 2016, 06:45
Gwene Porte said on Jun 24, 2016, 14:30
L'avevo letto da giovanissima e probabilmente mi ero dimenticata la bellezza e la profondità di questo libro, che già allora mi aveva rivoltata come un calzino e che lo ha fatto di nuovo.
La storia di Charlie è una storia di umanità e disumanità, di scoperta del mondo fuori e dentro di sé, di cattiveria e meschinità ed egoismo, ma è anche una storia di compassione e denuncia e insegnamento.
Il fatto che sia narrata direttamente da Charlie, con l'evoluzione della sua intelligenza e dunque del suo modo di scrivere, la rende un capolavoro anche dal punto di vista stilistico.
E lascia nel cuore la domanda fondamentale: quanto conta l'intelligenza per definire un essere umano? Forse meno di quanto crediamo.
Mirya said on May 19, 2016, 16:09
Le.ft said on Apr 29, 2016, 13:25
E’ classificato anche come romanzo di fantascienza (?) quindi pensavo che Algernon fosse un pianeta brullo e pelato come Marte, su cui veniva inviata un’astronave con a bordo un esercito di giardinieri pronti a spalmare quintalate di terra e a piantare semi d'erba e di fiori. Solo che dopo aver creato un fantastico giardino si accorgevano che manca l’acqua per annaffiare, quindi tornavano desolati sulla Terra bestemmiando tutti i santi del calendario.
Più o meno come fanno i volontari della cooperazione in Africa quando ricevono casse di latte in polvere per neonati quasi in scadenza e non hanno a disposizione neanche un pozzo di acqua lurida.
Invece no. Ho sbagliato tutto!
Algernon è il nome di un topo-cavia da laboratorio reso superintelligente da un esperimento; percorre complicati labirinti in tempo da record, e mi ricorda molto il topo Parmareggio.
L'ho immaginato come lui, in giacca e cravatta, tutto spocchioso, che gareggia col povero Charlie e quando vince gli fa il gesto dell’ombrello. Charlie è un ritardato mentale-cavia da laboratorio, anche lui reso superintelligente da un esperimento; percorre il complicato labirinto mentale della vita in tempo da record, e mi ricorda molto Giuseppe.
Giuseppe ha un ritardo mentale moderato e anche sua madre, come quella di Charlie, si è vergognata di lui e lo ha nascosto affidandolo ad una nonna. Quando è cresciuto è andato a lavare pavimenti e pulire banconi e cessi di un laboratorio alimentare protetto che prepara i pasti per le varie comunità.
Proprio come Charlie.
Qui però le loro strade si dividono, per Giuseppe niente esperimenti, lui è rimasto fermo a un livello di scolarizzazione da prima elementare; con molta fatica ha imparato a prendere da solo l’autobus per andare e tornare dal lavoro, e poco altro. Charlie ha la fissa di diventare intelligente e imparare a leggere e scrivere bene, Giuseppe ha quella di conquistare le ragazze. E per farlo tira fuori tutto il suo potenziale e mette in campo l’artiglieria pesante.
Sull’autobus, per strada, in ospedale, al parco, ovunque lo incontri… non gli scappi.
E così, mentre il Charlie di questo bel libro è dolce e ispira tenerezza, il Giuseppe della vita è un grandissimo rompipalle, e quello che ispira penso sia meglio se non lo scrivo.
✿ erika said on Jan 28, 2016, 12:46
Un libro eccezionale, da leggere, con attenzione: risvolti psicologici e una sensibilità incredibile. Riflessioni di una portata incredibile!
Lo raccomando, davvero bello, anche se difficile da trovare.
Melissa said on Dec 01, 2015, 19:11
Makechi said on Oct 08, 2015, 14:53
Simone Di Grado said on Aug 23, 2015, 12:10