Flowers For Algernon
Alice Walker
Contributed by Jennefer Ruano
Chapter 11

Charlie becomes infatuated with Alice Kinnian. They go on a date to a movie and dinner, and she comments that she is afraid he may be hurt by the experiment. Charlie tries to tell her that he loves her, but it’s a very awkward evening. He wants to kiss her, but she doesn’t want to become emotionally involved with him because it might get in the way of his progress and his obligations. Charlie vows that he will kiss her the next time they go out.

Charlie is confused by his memories. He has a nightmare in which he is afraid that he’ll lose something he’s received but isn’t sure how he got it. A bloody knife figures as a symbol in the dream. Contemplating the dream, Charlie remembers a time when he spied on his sister as she was taking a bath. He also recalls being chased and getting cut with a knife and remembers finding a pair of his sister’s blood-stained underwear.

Charlie realizes that Gimpy has been stealing money from Donner’s bakery. He doesn’t want to believe it, but he finally accepts that it is happening. He reasons that Gimpy has made him part of the theft by having getting him deliver under-priced packages to customers. Charlie’s emotions turn to anger; he wants to strike Gimpy for his actions, but he doesn’t believe that he could actually perform an act of violence on another human being. He knows he must inform Mr. Donner, but he’s unsure what to do. He discusses the issue with Nemur, who says he need not inform Donner; Strauss, who says he should inform Donner; and Alice, who tells him that he must make the choice himself or forever remain a child. She suggests that he trust his own judgment, and Charlie is stunned by the thought.

Charlie tells Alice that he loves her, but she insists it’s too early for him to think this way, suggesting that it’s mere puppy love, his first experience with such emotions. She agrees to see him again, and they make a date to attend an evening concert in Central Park.

Charlie decides to tell Gimpy to stop stealing. He confronts Gimpy in a clever but indirect manner, and Gimpy, feeling trapped and angry, agrees to stop stealing.

Charlie now spends hours at the university library, but the college students and even the professors seem childish to him.

On their concert date, Charlie tries to make love to Alice, but a young voyeur distracts him. Charlie chases the youth but can’t catch him. He becomes disoriented and starts hearing a strange buzzing in his head. After discussing the episode with Dr. Strauss, he comes to believe that the young boy was a hallucination brought on by his anxiety of dealing with women and sex.

Charlie gets fired from the bakery. The other employees have begun to hate him, and Mr. Donner releases him to keep the peace in this business. Charlie notes that Mr. Donner has been a father figure for him. Even though he realizes that work at the bakery is beneath him, Charlie is frightened of life without it. Charlie confronts Frank and Joe before he leaves, and it’s clear they feel inferior to him. A more sympathetic coworker, Fannie Birden, refers to the Bible, and suggests that it’s not natural for man to know more than God has allowed him to know. She implies that perhaps Charlie has made a bargain with the devil. Charlie can’t understand people’s reactions to him, and without the bakery he feels more alone than ever. Charlie visits Alice’s apartment and discusses his feelings; it’s clear that he’s feeling depressed. Alice suggests that losing his job at the bakery is symbolic of losing his real family; she opens up to him and tells him that she will comfort him.

The report ends with Charlie recalling a time when a woman exposed herself to him as he made a delivery from the bakery. Naturally, Charlie became frightened. This sparks a memory of how his mother beat him and threatened to send him away whenever he got an erection. Alice tries to calm him by cradling and kissing him, but Charlie’s sense of panic is too much and he breaks down.


Charlie’s date with Alice demonstrates a natural development in his personal relationships, but it also reflects his juvenile treatment of the issue. The imagined voyeur and Charlie’s flight from the arms of Alice suggests that there may be some deep-seated sexual problems he has yet to face. On other levels, however, his emotional development is becoming more sophisticated. The episode with Gimpy proves that he is developing a sense of conscience, for he is concerned with issues of right and wrong, justice and injustice, as well as guilt and responsibility. Charlie’s reaction to Alice’s suggestion that he trust himself shows that he is maturing; however, it is also clear that his blossoming intellect is starting to make him feel ostracized.

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