Flowers for Algernon (Keyes)

Discussion Questions 
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Flowers for Algernon

1. Discuss the moral implications of Dr. Nemur's experimental surgery. What are the competing motivations behind Nemur's desire to perform, and Charlie's agreement to undergo, the operation?

2. Talk about Charlie's flashbacks to his childhood and life before meeting Nemur and Strauss. What do those remembrances suggest about the historical treatment accorded to the mentally challenged? In fact, what does it say about us as a society that today we use the term "challenged" rather than "retarded"? Has our treatment improved...or not really?

3. How does Charlie feel when he attends the convention in Chicago? How is he treated by the scientific community?

4. The question of identity surfaces in this work. Is Charlie, after the operation, the same person he was before the operation? Charlie fees a sense of disconnect with his past—to what degree does our past define us as human beings?

5. Why does he not reveal himself to his father?

6. How does Charlie change by the end of the novel? What does he come to learn about the gifts of superior intelligence? What trade-offs are involved as Charlie develops his genius... and, again, as he begins to revert to his previous state?

7. What does Algernon represent to Charlie? What are the parallels between their conditions?

8. Talk about the differences between Nemur and Strauss in terms of how they view or practice science.

9. How about the style of writing? While reading Flowers, did you find the misspellings and grammatical errors of Charlie's early progris reports irritating and distracting? Did it get in the way of the story for you? Or did you find the style authentic in a way that enhanced Keyes's storytelling?

10. Watch the 1968 film adaptation, Charly, either all or selected clips. How closely does the movie follow the book? Where and how does it differ?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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