Finding One's Self- A Review of Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon”
The quest to find one's true self, often times, leads us back to the place we began.
The quest to find one’s identity is the heartbeat of humanity. The quest for identity can be attributed to many things that lay the foundation to one’s identity, such as race, culture, sex, or even personal history. Daniel Keyes’ writing of “Flowers for Algernon” is an example of one man’s journey to find himself. Everyone lives their life as a journey to simply find their one true self.
Everyone deserves to be treated as though their life has meaning and value. Incidentally, Charlie Gordon defends his right to be seen as somebody. “” But I’m not an inanimate object” I argued, “I’m a person.”” (Keyes p 89). This argument of his has the haunting element of the many peoples who have been trapped in the bonds of slavery over the years, proclaiming their right to be seen as equals, also that statement can be ingrained in a society of oppressed people such as the Jews who were horrifically persecuted and maimed simply because of being Jewish and their desperate cries to be seen as a real people, who deserved a place and a right in society as much as any other nation of people.
Another standard by which some choose to use as a form of personal identity is one’s status. For some people, the more they have, whether it is friends or possessions, the more popular or revered they will be. Charlie Gordon believed that if he gained more intelligence, was smarter, everyone would like him more and he would have more friends. He recorded this theory as he was writing in his progress reports before he had the surgery to make him smarter. “If your smart you can have lots of friends to talk to and you never get lonely by yourself all the time.” (Keyes p 15). This is much the same way of thinking by people who believe that the more nicer things they have, such as, expensive sports cars, boats, or expensive material things the more status they will have and therefore people will look up to them and admire them. It also correlates to the idea that others have, in that, if they “go with the flow” and do what the “in crowd” does, they will have more friends and not be lonely; such as, if they go clubbing or to bars and drink and party like everyone does, they will always have lots of friends around and never worry about being lonely. However, sadly enough, this way of thinking is shallow and generally lends itself to reckless actions that leads on to finding themselves in a much worse place than they were before they tried to use their status to forge friendships.
Charlie learned after his operation that intelligence is also an identifying factor in one’s identity. People become categorized by the level of their education or intelligence and others react to them accordingly. Often times people of higher intelligence tend to look down or dismiss the validity of someone else because they are of lesser intelligence. In a conversation between Charlie and Alice, this idea was addressed as she pointed out to him that he, in fact, made her feel awkward following the operation because she could not keep up with him intellectually and stated that next to Charlie, she felt dull-witted. She went on to say to him that now, most days that they see each other, after she leaves him, she goes home with a miserable feeling that she is now slow and dense about everything. She explains that she reviews things that they have said to each other and thinks of things that she should have said and thinks of all the bright and witty things that she should have said, then feels like kicking herself because she did not think to say them when they were together. This kind of intelligence segregation begins early in life. One can see it in schools where the smart, or more commonly referred to as, “preppy” kids demean or simply ignore the lesser aptitude students. It is also prevalent in the workplace as higher up the management chain. The more educated and higher salaried employees do not really do any kind of socializing wither the lower educated and lesser salaried employees. In many cases, it falls back to the status ideology, but mostly in these situations, it simply rests on the principle that at different intelligence levels, they do not have very much in common and do not have the ability to communicate on the same intellectual levels.
From birth, one’s family, culture, heritage, and ethnicity begin laying the groundwork to their identity. As one progresses through life, factors such as education, work experiences, status, friends, and relationships mold the clay and help to define their one true identity. Each individual lives out their lives in a way so as to find that quest on one’s true self. Charlie Gordon gained just enough intelligence to realize that no matter how much one can alter their life, deep down, there is no changing who a person truly is. The core value of the idea is that all men are created equal, but society sets the standards by which all men are perceived.
Keys, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon. Orlando: Harcourt, 2004. Print.