This book is regarded as a classic, but I only recently heard of it. I heard of it twice within a short time span, which is why it captured my attention. I was told that it was written in the same style as "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", which I really liked, so I was sure I'd like this one too.
The book is about Charlie Gordon, a mentally retarded adult who has a low IQ and works in a bakery. Scientists had performed surgery on a mouse,Â Algernon, which increased his intelligence dramatically, so next they want to try the experiment on a person. Charlie is selected for the operation and the book is written in the form of progress reports that Charlie writes in order to document his experiences and thoughts.Â The first progress reports are written before the surgery and correctÂ spelling and punctuation are almost non-existant. As the book progresses the spelling and punctuation improve, the sentences lose their simplicity, and Charlie is able to express more complex thoughts. So the reader experiences Charlie's growing intelligence right along with him.
After the operation Charlie begins having flashbacks to memories from his childhood - episodes that he didn't understand when he had a diminished IQ, but now that he's a genius he is able to analyze and reflect on those events and comes to a greater awareness of his personal history. He realizes that people he thought were his friends and laughed with him were in fact laughing at him because he was retarded and so easy to fool. Charlie struggles because while his intelligence is growing by leaps and bounds, his emotions and social skills are still lagging. It's as if he's still a child but with an adult's intelligence.
The scientists, of course, write about Charlie and parade him before their peers, believing that this breakthrough will be able to help more people like Charlie. At this point Charlie really starts to identify with Algernon and feels like another lab ratÂ or an animal at the zoo. He is discovering the person that he is, and always was, but he doesn't feel that anyone else treats him as a person, but rather as just the subject of a successful experiment.
At one of the medical conferences Charlie finds out that Algernon has been acting strangely. He has been going into fits of chaotic behavior and refusing to run his maze on occassion. Is Algernon regressing? Will Charlie regress back to his former self as well? You'll have to read the book to find out.