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    Flowers For Algernon Essay (1054 words)

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    Compare and Contrast “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley and “Flowers For Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, Discuss the themes of alienation and isolation in both novels. In 1818 Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’, the story of a man, so consumed by ambition and a thirst for knowledge that in the end his desire to live his dreams, became his death. Almost 150 years later Daniel Keyes wrote ‘Flowers For Algernon’, this too chronicled one man’s ambition and looked at what happens when science and ethics cross.

    Today, in the year 2002 we are faced with endless dilemmas and questions of integrity- test tube babies, cloning, genetic coding and as time goes on and science improves more and more has to be taken into account, especially as attitudes change. Though these books were written at completely different times and initially seem very different both share similar ideas and both question the consequences when science loses its conscience. ‘Frankenstein’ was written in a time of great decadence, Shelley was reasonably well off and her works reflects her own, upper middle class status in society.

    ‘Frankenstein’ has now become classed as a gothic horror novel, with an air of romance to it. In the grand tradition of all novels in the gothic horror genre, ‘Frankenstein’ is a tangled tragedy, in which surreal occurrences take place in real situations. The term ‘romantic’ is placed on this novel, largely because of the time it was written rather than any particular part of the plot. During the 1800s, music art and literature acted as an outlet for the repressed society, through their work people managed to show passion and imagination, rather than order and form, novels of the time were remote from ordinary life.

    In the example of ‘Frankenstein’, although Shelley had led a rather colorful life, involving an affair and elopement, society at the time was not very interesting for women, through her work Shelley could take an absence from her own existence and could explore new and obscure ideas. The work of this time, particularly novels proved highly popular as the highly improbable occurrences provided entertainment, yet the realistic situations meant that they were easy to relate to.

    ‘Flowers For Algernon’ was written in the 1950s when technology and science were beginning to branch out as the world recovered after WW2. In America consumer technology had been on the rise since the twenties, but after the depression and the subsequent war all had gone quiet on the side of high-tech home gadgets. But the new decade brought with it a new positivity and meant that science began to work for the ‘good of the people’, as it supplied them with easy alternatives and helped them in their daily routine.

    One of the major scientific developments of the 50s was the exploration of space travel, and in America everyone was excited about the prospect of future changes, especially after, in 1958 NASA was created. Keyes had a degree in psychology, for his 5th work he decided to explore the inner workings of a seriously retarded mans mind, in doing this Keyes managed to describe the emotions and ambitions of Charlie Gordon, beautifully and meant that this novel, was touching as well as scientific.

    Unlike ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Flowers for Algernon’ is simple, its language is not self indulgent or overly lavish, this could be down to the different periods, or could be a more deliberate technique used by Keyes, the novel is made up of a series of progress reports written by Charlie, the language used, makes the story more believable and means that the reader is much more effected by the book.

    Keyes’ other works included some short science fiction influenced stories, this obviously had an effect on Keyes’ writing, as ‘Flowers for Algernon’ is centered around a somewhat far fetched idea of life changing brain surgery, yet the story is very believable. This technique of blurring the boundaries between the real and surreal is inherited from gothic literature, yet somehow Keyes work seems more mature and realistic than Shelley’s story.

    This difference may be down to the gap of more than a century between the novels, although today ‘Flowers for Algernon’ may seem slightly dated, it is still accepted as a piece of contemporary literature and still reflects some of the questions that still plague our society. ‘Flowers for Algernon’, is written in the first person, from the viewpoint of Charlie Gordon, a man in his 30s who is severely retarded.

    The book is a collection of progress reports written before, while and after Charlie receives medical intervention to help raise his intelligence levels. Ideally, the operation Charlie has, is meant to raise his intelligence and insure that that he remains “smart”, however as the first human to receive the treatment neither Charlie, nor the doctors have any idea how the story will end.

    Initially the treatment seems to be a success as Charlie reaches new heights of intelligence and even is termed a “genius” however it soon becomes clear that the treatment was not long lasting and Charlie’s mind begins to deteriorate as he implodes into his old self. As Charlie’s intelligence is increased he is forced to take into account a new set of issues that involve him, the book takes on a deeper stance as the reader learns of Charlie’s struggles and how isolation attacks his spirit.

    In ‘Frankenstein’ much time is spent describing Victor Frankenstein’s life and his creation, however a small section of the novel is donated to the ‘monster’ as the reader is able to view his life and struggles. The reader finds how the monster yearns for a history and wants to know more about his existence, to do this he tries to track his creator, Charlie reacts in a very similar way as once his intelligence rises he wants to now more about his past and wants to find his parents.

    ‘Flowers for Algernon’ opens with a progress report written by the then seriously retarded Charlie, in the weeks that follow Charlie is counseled, taught and undergoes pioneering surgery that boosts his intelligence dramatically. However as his mind expands he underdeveloped emotional intelligence is put to the test, as he begins to notice things around him and is forced to face tough questions about his existence, Charlie learns the hard way that ‘being smart’ does not bring happiness.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Flowers For Algernon Essay (1054 words). (2017, Nov 08). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/flowers-for-algernon-26836/

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