My name is Charly Gordon. I had an operation. I will become smart. I have a chalkboard. I write things on the chalkboard. This helps me to remember. Today I will run amazed with Algernon. Algernon is a mouse. I want to win the amazed. I like the teeter-totter. When I am up in the air, I am free. I like to make funny faces in the mirror. Miss Kinnian showed me a raw shok test. I failed. I want to be smart.
From the time we encounter Charly until he is told of his operation, every thing Charly does are for reasons unknown to him, but are required for survival in the human world. Charly has no emotional association with the chalkboard except that he relies on it for remembering his routine. By observing Charly, it is noticed that he applies equal amounts of pressure and concentration as he writes on the chalkboard. He spells his words by sound and arranges his letters in backward strokes, but he never gives up until the word is on the chalkboard. Today’s word is school. Charly writes the word school on the chalkboard, but spells it skool. Although Miss Kinnian tells Charlie the correct spelling, he easily forgets.
After the operation, Charly gradually learns to associate the words he writes on the chalkboard to their meaning. Charly is so fascinated with recognizing words that while on a ritual bus trip sightseeing Boston’s Historical buildings, he encounters the word school and writes it down on a small piece of paper. Charly checks every letter and corrects himself while writing it down. Soon after Charly arrives home, he does not feel like he has become smarter. He becomes angry with himself and finally sits in front of the chalkboard, and begins to write down his list of words of his activities for the next day. After he writes the word school on the chalkboard, he checks his small piece of paper from earlier and realizes that he wrote the word school correctly. From this moment on, Charly has the confidence of achieving his goal, to become smart and to win the maze race against Algernon.
The chalkboard is a significant attribute in Charly’s life because it gives stability and makes him feel important. Before the operation, Charly really did not consider himself important. Charly wants to be loved and accepted, but is unable to tell anyone his deep inner feelings, because he is not intelligent enough to form the correct words. As his process of intelligence increases, Charly is very much unbalanced between the intellect and emotional levels and once again, a misfit is created.
While in the classroom, Miss Kinnian has Charly complete the assignment on the chalkboard. Charly then turns the chalkboard over so Miss Kinnian can solve a question that Charly had put on the other side. The turn of the chalkboard is relevant to the change of Charly. This change is the understanding that a progressive transformation into the intelligent world has occurred in Charly.
Although Charly is becoming increasingly intelligent, the use of the chalkboard becomes less of a tool for him. Charly recognizes the importance of his intelligence and the significance of why he was chosen to have the operation, but does not understand the consequences. The potential outcome of his intelligence will help the future of mentally retarded people. Reading books on philosophical issues help Charly to understand the evolvement of his intelligence. When Charly reaches a higher intellect, he is only a match for computers and Algernon. Charly becomes aware of Algernon’s slow deterioration and he pays close attention to his own regression and confusion. With the aid of the computers, Charly is determined to find the missing link, which will enable him to understand the decline of Algernon and to inhibit further damage to himself. Shortly the chalkboard will again be a major part of Charly’s life.
The playground equipment is another avenue for Charly to feel important. When Charly is up in the air, reaching toward the sky on the teeter-totter, he has a feeling of freedom. The symbol of the teeter-totter is to indicate that Charly has no set guidelines within his mental intelligence, whereas, everything is done randomly and with out forethought. The teeter-totter is also suggesting that Charly does not have his feet firmly on the ground. He gradually becomes more stable after the operation, and only uses the playground equipment for an escape. The swing, which Charly also likes to ride on, is a sequence of backward and forward motions. Charly’s life is very similar to this motion and there are times when he becomes entangled in an emotional swing as well.
When Charly’s life begins, it is an environment of neglect, because he is mentally retarded. Charly is a person who becomes intelligent, by having an operation, and regressively becomes mentally retarded again. Charly is always looking for acceptance and love. He thinks the material things around him will provide this, until his increased intelligence is able to help him realize that he himself is more important. Charly’s life is like a pendulum, swinging in the mist of the unknown causing his own reflection to take a good look around him to notice things he has not seen before.
Looking into a mirror is one of the memorable moments for Charly, because he makes funny faces in them. There are many mirrors in the laboratory. The mirrors represent a two-fold process, the Charly before the operation and the Charly after the operation. In the beginning, Charly sees a mirror and makes silly faces, because mentally that is acceptable. After Charly has his operation, the mirror is reflecting the image of a new Charly. As Charly gains more intelligence, he views himself in the mirror as a reflection of the past and a possible hope for the future. Not until the deterioration of Algernon does a haunting image of the old Charly appear, and the emotional forward and backward swing begins again. The swing and mirror are very significant to Charly’s ability of growing intelligence. As Charly rides the swing and goes higher into the sky, consequently, Charly’s is also gaining in intelligence, which becomes bigger and fuller. This is similar with the mirror, as Charly’s intelligence increases so does the size and image of him enlarge in the mirror. The obvious point to make about Charly and the association with the mirror is that his confidence increased while the operation was proven to be successful. Slowly, Charly loses that sense of confidence when the regression of his mental abilities starts to decline.
A chalkboard, playground equipment, and mirror all give purpose and significance in the two worlds of Charly Gordon. The chalkboard signifies the change from having an IQ of below 70 to an IQ of well over 200. The playground equipment is crucial by relating Charly with all the instability he has in his life. While he is up high on the teeter-totter, he has no control of his feelings, emotions, and life. The mirror gives equal importance for Charly, because the mirror gives a reflection of the past and a reality check of the present. There is no image of dimension for Charly except to see his reflection in a mirror, on the window of the bus or even on the jukebox. As his intelligence grows, so does his reflection of the past. Charly realizes how he was treated by his coworkers and how he was humiliated by being clumsy. Charly never seems to gain control of his life, only temporary intelligence on account of an operation.