Miss Kinnian's Contribution To Science

March 1st, 1965
Diary-
These two doctors from that science lab came to me for some experiment today. They need a tester – a guinea pig, if you will. Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur, that was their names, they told me to get back to them when I had decided which one of the students in my night school for adults I wanted to recommend. Everyone in that class needs help, whether to read or write correctly, or for math skills. They're all slow, but not dumb, and the doctors are saying that they may be able to triple the intelligence of whoever I pick. I've been thinking about all my students carefully, and there is one student I'd like to see getting somewhere. His name is Charlie Gordon. Although I know I'm not supposed to, I feel sorry for him. He tries so hard and wants to learn, but I'm not so sure I can teach him much. I'm fairly certain Charlie would be best for this experiment. He's an innocent boy, completely clueless, but he wants to 'get smart', as he says, more than anyone else I've ever taught. Both the doctors told me that the changes would only be temporary, but Charlie wouldn't care. He desperately wants to shake off whatever's dragging him back and drink in the knowledge he sees all around him. Maybe I'll dwell on it a little bit more, though, seeing as this could be life-changing to whoever I choose…

But you know what the strangest thing is, Diary? I can't shake this weird feeling that something might wrong. It's preposterous, Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur are highly trained professionals...but I wonder. If something did go wrong, would it be my fault for recommending Charlie?

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March 5th, 1965
Diary-
I decided. For a few days I was shaky on whether or not I wanted to choose Charlie, but today he said the sweetest thing – 'Miss Kinnian,' he said. 'Someday I'm gonna be your bestest student you ever has, because I'm gonna work hard to get smart.'
Something about hearing him say that made me want to help him so badly I contacted the doctors about him. They said thank you and told me to bring him to the laboratory. I was very pleased, and so is Charlie. I held him back after class for a while to explain everything to him. I don't think he exactly understands, but he gets the general gist. I told him that he's getting a second chance, and it might not last, and there was a small margin of error involved in the operation, but he didn't care much about that. When he finally understood, he was so happy, and positively glowing when he left. To tell the truth, I'm still slightly wary about letting him do this, but I think I'm just taking on the worry for the both of us, as he's completely oblivious to the dangers, however small.

Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur are still neutral about whether or not they'll take Charlie, though. They have a few more candidates they're considering, but, personally, I'm sure that they'll pick Charlie. As I pointed out to Dr. Strauss, Charlie has motivation unlike any of the other student's they are thinking of using. He agreed, though Dr. Nemur refused to listen to me. They're having Charlie start writing progress reports. They showed me his first entry, and I was pleased to see how much he's improved since he began coming to my classes, but at the same time it made me want him to be picked for the experiment so much more. You should see Charlie, Diary. It's like he's a little boy with a really good secret, simply giddy with excitement. I don't think he realizes it, but he's really quite funny when he acts like that. And I do feel the smallest bit guilty for laughing at him, but he has no idea, anyway, so it's alright.

The doctors also told me they'd be doing some tests on Charlie. I asked them what kind, because Charlie always seemed to choke up during written exams, but they assured me they would all be what they called 'personality' tests. I'm not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean, but Charlie ought to pass them with flying colors! I know he can do it!

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March 7th, 1965
Diary-
Well, Charlie didn't exactly pass with flying colors. He took a Rorschach Test yesterday – you know, the one where you say what the inkblots on the cards remind you of? Charlie didn't understand it, and although I maintain that they didn't explain it well enough, the doctors said Charlie had absolutely no comprehension of what he was supposed to do.
The Thematic Apperception Test, in which he had to look at pictures and make up a story of what was going on, didn't go so well either. He said he didn't want to make up lies about the people in the pictures, and refused to say anything. After that, they had Charlie try and figure out a maze on paper while a mouse ran through a model of the maze, trying to find the cheese. It seems to me that the thought of it made no sense to Charlie, but he obediently did as he was told. Ten times he raced the mouse, and the mouse beat him every time. It's a little bizarre that Charlie could not find the end of a maze faster than a mouse, but, after all, Charlie is very slow to understand things.

I talked to the doctors afterwards, and was so happy to hear that Dr. Strauss is all for using Charlie, even for his terrible performance during the tests. However, it seems that Dr. Nemur is still indecisive... I'm sure Dr. Strauss will convince him, though. Charlie has to get this operation. He has to.

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March 9th, 1965
Diary-
YES! THEY'RE GOING TO USE CHARLIE!

I am so happy I can barely write! Dr. Nemur had to be convinced a little, but in the end, he agreed to use Charlie. He's going to have surgery in a couple of days, and I can't wait to see him, to congratulate him. I have a hard time imagining Charlie with the intelligence of any normal adult, but that will hopefully all be solved in a matter in weeks, maybe even days! Although I am infinitely happy for him, for some reason I can shake the feeling that it might be a bad idea to do this to Charlie. Yes, I cannot wait to meet the new Charlie, but some small part of me feels guilty for it. Does that make sense, Diary? Maybe Charlie will understand things about himself and life, and other people, that he would have been blissfully ignorant about before. Is that good? Of course, it might be good, and more people will respect him and be nicer to him, but still. I can't even explain it, Diary, it's the strangest feeling.

I'll go and talk to him tomorrow. Then I'll feel better. Charlie has that effect on people.

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March 16th, 1965
Diary-
I'm terribly sorry for not writing for days, my schedule has been so chockfull of appointments I have had no time to myself. Dr. Strauss says that Charlie's operation went fine, but we're still waiting for the results. I haven't gone in to see him, but I'm sure Charlie hasn't even noticed. The doctors tell me lots of people sent him candies and teddy bears and good luck cards. I'm pleased to hear that. Everything seems fine, but I've been told that Charlie got a headache from, as he put it, 'thinking too much'. For some reason that worries me, but Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur tell me that's only to be expected, and that Charlie is fine. It excites me to think that, if this works with Charlie, the whole world might be subject to this revolutionary innovation. Imagine using it to current geniuses! The possibilities! Charlie, get smart for me!

P.S. – some of the other adults in the night school have asked about Charlie, and I've tried to be vague about it…I don't want everyone swooping down on him when he comes back…if he comes back.

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March 24th, 1965
Diary-
…to tell the truth, I'm a little disappointed. Nothing's happened at all. Charlie is still as slow as he always was, and they even made him go back to work. It's simply ridiculous. Isn't Charlie supposed to have some amazing revelation where he sees that his brains can be used to a full extent? There has not even been an inkling of a hint that that is going to happen. I feel a little let down. In some twisted way, I blame Charlie. Maybe his brain was too damaged, or he was just too slow for it to work on him. He tried racing the mouse again. He lost. And he's obsessing over it. He hates that mouse, Algernon, that's it's name, and from what Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur tell me, he even refuses to race it anymore. It's ridiculous, completely ridiculous.

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March 29th, 1965
Diary-
Charlie isn't going to come back to my classes. Admittedly, they've been slightly lackluster lately, but that's only because I'm worried about Charlie and the experiment, or operation, or whatever you want to call it. The doctors have been very busy lately, but Dr. Strauss dropped me a note to reassure me that Charlie is getting more intelligent every day. I tucked it in this diary, I hope it doesn't fall out. It also says they want me to come to the laboratory especially for Charlie, to teach him apart from my regular classes. At first, I was the smallest bit offended, for them to think that I can just take time out for them. But I suppose it's all in the name of science, right, Diary? And I have the time to write in here. Taking on teaching Charlie means less time for diary writings, I'm afraid, but I shall try and keep you up to date if anything worth remembering happens.

I still can't shake that feeling in the pit of my stomach that this is wrong. The funny thing is, everything about this experiment is completely right. Science is using Charlie for a huge advancement. If this experiment succeeds, his name will be remembered in scientific history forever. He'll be honored…right?

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April 10th, 1965
Diary-
My, my, it's been well over a month since my first entry. I've been meaning to write an entry for a while now, but finally I get some time. Well, Diary, there's been plenty going on, and I'm not sure whether it's good or bad. I had a few lessons with Charlie, and I'm definitely seeing some improvements. But every time I hear that he learned something else, some strange beast rears the ugly head of worry inside of me, and I get this feeling that something is going to go wrong. You know the sort of thing – too good to be true? Anyways, he beat the mouse Algernon for once. Charlie told me that Algernon is a very pretty mouse, and that he is going to be Algernon's friend from now on. He told me he would like to introduce me to Algernon sometime. He must have noticed how edgy I seemed because he told me to relax, and that he wasn't smart yet. I thought that his comment was ironic, and laughed at it, and then something just sort of spilled out of me. What may have been foolishly, I told him I had confidence in him, seeing the way he struggled to be the best he could be, and how much he strived to read and write better than anyone else. At worst, I said, you will have this for a short while and give your contribution to science through that. I think he was very happy to hear that, and felt good after I had told him, even if I knew in some part of the back of my mind I wasn't sure if it was true.

Am I as bad as everyone else, Diary? I heard his two so-called friends that he works with, Joe Carp and Frank Reilly, constantly make fun of him, and then even took him out drinking the other night! They laughed at him and made fun of him, then ditched him! Could I possibly be sinking as low as them by telling him these things I barely believe myself?

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April 15th, 1965
Diary-
I am appalled. At myself, at Charlie's co-workers, at Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur, I am simply appalled. Just the other day, I overheard the doctors discussing Charlie's improvement and I am disgusted. It turns out that some of the other animals that they had tried this on did not only lose their smarts, but died. Died. The excuse is that they are animals, and everyone knows that animals have a much shorter life span than humans but I don't believe a word of it. I obviously can't say anything to Charlie though, however much I now hate the way we've been treating him. Something about the news that Charlie may die has opened my eyes to the way we have been acting with him. Charlie is a human being, and not a doll to be played with and laughed at. I am so afraid for him Diary, and it tears me apart to see him so eager to learn, so eager to be smart. Today I said to him that for a person who was given so little, he's done so much more than people with brains that they never used. I think that maybe I had to say it out loud to truly believe it. Although he is completely oblivious, I think he'll be hurt when he discovers how people just aren't as kind as he thinks they are.

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April 28th, 1965
Diary-
Charlie, no, Charles, is coming along amazingly. He's using spelling and punctuation almost perfectly now and soaks up anything he can get his hands on. Remember the Rorschach Test they made him take way back before he got the operation? Well, he took it again, and understood it so much better. I'm happy for him. He doesn't race Algernon anymore. I keep wanting to check that mouse for any signs of unhealthiness. It still scares me, the thought of something serious happening to Charles, but I think I'm slowly regaining my trust in science. As well as history, geography and arithmetic, I suggested that Charles start being introduced to foreign languages. I think I may be wanting to pack as much knowledge as I can into his head before he loses it all. What a shame that will be, if, of course, that time ever comes.

On top of everything, Charles officially asked me to dinner to celebrate a raise of his at work. I must have been delusional or something, but I said yes, and we had dinner and a talk earlier today. While we were having a conversation, I let it slip that he was going to pass me in intelligence quickly enough. He laughed at that. Although I tried to contain myself, I think he's caught on that I'm worried about him. More than anything, I hope he enjoys his intellect while it lasts.

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May 15th, 1965
Diary-
Charles is starting to scare me. It turns out he quit his job. He's truly intimidating, with all his nonsense about current events and other things that involve big words. I know that sounds absurd, but it is so true. Half the time, I don't even know what he's saying because he insists on using words that could mean anything instead of a couple direct words that simpletons like me can understand. He analyzes everyone he meets, and he won't hesitate to share his analysis with anyone who'll listen. And then how he scoffs anything that is interesting in the news! It's tiring to even be in the same room as him. Somehow, I think I liked him better when he was dumb.
They are now paying him to write his reports and such. It seems to me that he forced his eyes open a little too wide, and that it's damaging to his health to let him think that everyone is below him. Many people were horrible to him before, I'm afraid, but that's no reason to go around claiming your superiority over all others. I think he wants to be depressed, but he's much too smart for that. The doctors have him on a typewriter now, and so apparently his progress reports have gotten longer with the ease of typing.

In other news, Charles and the mouse Algernon are being presented to the American Psychological Association. They are creating quite a stir and I can't seem to determine whether I should jump for joy or hide my face with shame.

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May 24th, 1965
Diary-
Another tiring experience with Charles the other day. That man is much too smart for his own good. What in the world does he mean by 'the mathematical variance equivalent in Dorbermann's Fifth Concerto?' When he tried to explain, I was overwhelmed by the fact that this was the same man who I had been teaching how to read not long ago. I laughed, and I think it hurt his feelings, which also must be super-sensitive since the operation. He hasn't spoken to anyone except for me in a while. It's disconcerting but, unfortunately, a relief. Maybe it's better for him to just back off for a little while.

The white mouse, Algernon, is not eating. It is vicious and won't let anyone handle it. When I heard, I could not help but laughing. I had this sudden image of Charles' head on a mouse body, snapping at extra-large fingers reaching for him... Sad, I know.

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June 11th, 1965
Diary-
Dear me, things have certainly gone awry. Charles is not to be returning to the laboratory, but now has one of his own, and spends day and night in there working on something I must be too low to understand. He even sent a letter to Dr. Strauss (I have a copy tucked in right here, so I can try and decipher its meaning later). And Algernon. Poor Algernon. The mouse has been breaking down for a while now, just as I feared may happen. A few days ago, he could barely move, and I'm sure that Charles is convincing himself that these symptoms will be his too. He is not stable emotionally, and, from what I've heard, often forgets small things.

Yesterday, Algernon died. Charles has locked himself in his lab. My macabre sense of humor informs me that if he was to die there, we may not know for days until someone forces entry.

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July 5th, 1965
Diary-
I feel for Charles. He must be so alone. Dr. Strauss, who visits him, keeps me updated on what's going on. Charles is suffering from mild amnesia. His theory is that it is going to progress until he is the same level of intelligence he was when he came into my class and then…well, I don't want to think about and then. Charles has started to handwriting all his entries again. It's a shame to hear that he doesn't even understand his own papers anymore. Well, I don't even understand his papers, so nevermind that. Charles says he doesn't want to speak to or see anyone. It breaks my heart, and as I read back to one of my first entries, I see that the thoughts I had then are reoccurring. That strange feeling of worry?... I should have listened to myself then. This is all so terrible. I don't want it to end the same way it did for Algernon, but sometimes I wonder if it will end his misery.

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July 25th, 1965
Diary-
Things have been going downhill for Charles. He can barely read and writes just as badly as he did when he started. It hurts to let him go through this, and to think that it's my entire fault. I went to see him today. Although I tried pleading with him, he refused to see me. I think he was crying as well, but I'm not sure. He told me all these terrible thing, like he didn't like me anymore, and he didn't want to be smart anymore. But I know that's not true. Charles is just as desperate as ever to be smart, and I hate to hear him deny it. There's nothing left for Charles to do, he has to go back to work, and although I see how much he doesn't want to, he needs money for his rent.

Is it bad to be hoping he'll be so slow again that he'll come back to my classes?

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July 29th
Charles came by my class at the adult center the other day. He went in like normal, sitting down and looking at me with those dull eyes of his. Trying hard not to break down, I called his name. He replied, "Hello Miss Kinnian, I'm ready for my lesson today, only I lost my reader that we was using."

I could not say anything. Despite having hoped for this, when it came down to it and I saw that Charlie, this Charlie whom I had taught and this Charlie, who had surpassed me, was now sitting in my classroom waiting for a lesson like any other day, I left as quickly as I could, unable to hold back tears. When I finally got myself back together, he had left the classroom. However much I was shaking, thinking about Charlie, I had to finish the lesson.

And now…and now Charlie's gone. I can barely take in the information. Dr. Strauss sent a typed copy of all his progress report entries to me, and I've saved the one that hits me the most. The last one he wrote.

Now this is all my fault, isn't it? Dr. Strauss doesn't want me to think that way, but I'm sure that's only because he wants to take the blame. We all feel equally responsible for this in some way, but I can't stop thinking that if I hadn't recommended him, he would still be here, in my class, maybe getting smarter all the time. I've cancelled my classes for the time being. I'm mourning Charlie. It's hard to imagine that Charlie might actually die, but I'm so distressed. I ruined his life. I ruined his dreams.

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August 1st, 1966
Dearest Diary,
It's been a full year. How strange it is to read my entries, so concerned about Charlie. I spent plenty of time thinking about Charlie, missing him, and wanting to go after him. I find myself wondering where Charlie is more and more, but trying not to wonder about his current state of being. Maybe he died a long time ago, and he was buried and forgotten by those around him, yet I, I who have not seen him in a year, cannot forget him. Maybe he taught himself, and is successful now, possibly with a family. Maybe this is all a big dream. But of course it isn't. This is not a dream, this hurts like real life. So, after the intelligence-tripling operation idea was struck down, and all of Charlie's papers published, I write down my last thoughts about my former student, my former friend. Charlie Gordon was a good man, innocent and so full of understanding that I could never comprehend before. Diary, I hope that with this final entry, I can being to think straight again, without my guilty conscious slowly creeping into my head and poisoning my thoughts, once and for all.

Still, I lay flowers on Algernon's grave every week, in remembrance of Charlie and the little white mouse that started it all. There's one pressed between these pages, as accusations pressed against my mind. Now, though, I believe I can let go. When I close you today, Diary, I vow to never open you again. All the same, I vow to remember Charlie, not as the result of my bad judgment, but as someone who loved unconditionally, and who had good intentions right up to the end…

Goodbye, Diary. Goodbye, Algernon. Goodbye, Charlie.


Written for a school project almost two years ago. Miss Kinnian is of course Charlie Gordon's teacher in the short story "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes. This is not based on the novel or movie, by the way, but just the original short story. I love, love, love, love, a thousand times love that story.

Tell me what you think :).