Study Guide

Flowers for Algernon Guilt and Blame

By Daniel Keyes

Guilt and Blame

Now I know what they mean when they say "to pull a Charlie Gordon." I'm ashamed. (9.42)

If you need proof of what a stand-up guy Charlie is, take a lookie right here. Why would Charlie be ashamed for the poor actions of others?

His whimper becomes a soft crying as suddenly he can control no longer, and he sobs and covers his face with his hands as he dirties himself. (10.75)

As a terrified kid, Charlie has a physical reaction to being made to feel guilty. Of course, this perpetuates the cycle of guilt—his mom yells at him for pooping his pants, and he feels even worse.

I can tell you, you'll be sorry you stuck your nose in. I always stuck up for you. I should have my head examined. (11.96)

Gimpy gives it to Charlie straight, blaming Charlie for threatening to turn him in. Do you think Charlie is getting revenge on Gimpy for treating him poorly?

I know there's no reason to be ashamed, but it's an empty feeling not going in to work every day—not seeing the shop, the ovens, the people. (11.109)

What exactly is Charlie ashamed of here? Is it because he's no longer a productive member of society with a job at the bakery? Is he having some kind of existential crisis?

My confused feeling for her had been holding me back, and I had clung to her out of my fear of being forced out on my own, and cut adrift. (12.126)

Charlie and Alice have one complicated relationship. Does he keep coming back to her out of guilt? Does he feel like he owes her something?

As shocking as it is to discover the truth about men I had respected and looked up to, I guess Burt is right. I musn't be too impatient with them. (13.154)

Let's see: here's a perfect opportunity for Charlie to cast all the blame on the men who basically used him like a guinea pig. But he doesn't. We're not totally sure why not… Are you?

It has to do with Charlie. For some reason, he won't let me make love to you. (14.204)

Rather than just acting and dealing with the guilt later, Charlie operates out of fear of guilt. He's afraid that if he has sex with Alice while pretending she's Fay, he won't be able to live with the guilt later on.

You've boasted time and again that I was nothing before the experiment, and I know why. Because if I was nothing, then you were responsible for creating me, and that makes you my lord and master. (16.247)

Get it, Charlie—way to show Nemur what's up. In the process of unleashing his resentment, Charlie simultaneously reclaims his autonomy, too, which is pretty cool.

I was furious at being trapped here. I didn't want to see Norma. (16.268)

So Charlie doesn't have a problem forgiving his mom, but he gets upset when his sister gets home… Sounds like someone isn't too sure about where to place the blame, which is pretty understandable given the way his family has treated him.

But why am I so irritable? Especially when Alice is so good to me? (17.296)

Remember when Algernon got inexplicably cranky when he was losing intelligence? Why do you think Charlie goes through the same thing?