Charlie Gordon gives us the scoop on who he is and why he's writing progris riports: he's thirty-two and a student at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults. He works in Mr. Donner's bakery and has a really terrific teacher named Miss Alice Kinnian.
But he's a man with a plan, trying to boost his IQ with a totally experimental surgery. What could go wrong? Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur are running the show, after all.
A guy in a white coat named Burt Selden gives Charlie a raw shock test to figure out how smart he is. Charlie is pretty sure he failed, because how the heck can a bunch of inkblots on a page measure intelligence? You might be onto something, Charlie.
In Charlie's third progris riport, Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur run into a snag with the surgery plans: turns out Charlie's parents will have to consent to the surgery, and they're out of the picture. Time to track them down.
Charlie meets Algernon, a neato little mouse who's already had the smart-making surgery. Burt makes Charlie and Algernon race against each other in an identical maze, but it's no contest—Algernon takes the gold medal every time.
Charlie's long-lost sister Norma gives permission for the surgery, though she's not too interested in a family reunion. Charlie is looking like the perfect surgery candidate, which makes him pretty darn excited.