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What defines a “hero” can vary immensely, depending on whom you ask: some heroes can be veterans who fight for their country, while others can just be common citizens who help and save others. But could someone who survives a risky operation have the qualities of a hero? In the short story “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, the main protagonist Charlie Gordon, a thirty-seven year old adult with an I.Q. of sixty-eight, takes a life risking operation to triple his I.Q. After the operation when Charlie realizes the after effects that he will soon have, he grows regretful and suicidal feelings. As a result, he grows increasingly regretful and suicidal feelings. Although Charlie Gordon feels hopeless and suicidal, Charlie Gordon possesses heroic qualities because he has seen his fate through Algernon and chooses to accept his fate. In addition, Charlie has the courage to abandon his past and start again in a new environment just so his friends do not have to feel sorry for him. Even if Charlie Gordon did not directly help anyone, he still possesses the qualities of a hero.
For instance, Charlie Gordon takes part in an operation he does not fully understand, but after, he starts to have suicidal thoughts but Charlie has the courage to persevere. “I want to be left to myself. I have become touchy and irritable. […] Its hard to throw of thoughts of suicide” (533). Charlie’s feelings are very negative, but even then he still tries to fight them off and he states that it is very hard. Instead of crying and giving up, Charlie Gordon is still mindful of how his participation in the operation will help others like him in the future. After the effects of the operation completely wear off, Charlie does not feel sad, instead he feels grateful of what he experiences during his moment of intelligence, even for a fleeting moment. “If you ever read this Miss Kinnian dont be sorry for me Im glad I got a second chanse to be smart becaus I lerned a lot of things that I never even new were in this world and Im grateful that I saw it all for a littel bit.” Even though Charlie experiences all the pain and suffering, he still feels grateful for what he still has despite the amount. Other than focusing on what he has lost, Charlie concentrates on how he will grow from his previous experiences. Charlie Gordon is a very kind and extremely thoughtful man, he does not have a single bit of negativity in him.
Charlie is heroic because he has the courage to start anew in an unfamiliar environment where all sorts of people can belittle and insult him, just so everyone he knows do not have to feel sympathy about his condition “I dont want Miss Kinnian to feel sorry for me. Evry body feels sorry at the factory and I dont want that eather…” (538). Charlie is very considerate of other people’s feelings; he does not want them to feel sorry or guilty about himself. He loves and cares about all the people from his past and is willing to sacrifice himself into a new world just so they do not have to feel bad about anything. Charlie also knows how to defend himself against bullies when they insult him; he does so without harming them, as seen from his progress reports. “I told myself Charlie if they make fun of you dont get sore because you remember their not so smart as you once thot they were once your friends and if they laughed at you that doesnt mean anything because they liked you too” (536). Here, Charlie reassures himself that he does not need to fight back when his friends insult him. Instead, he tells himself that those who laugh at him “[are] not so smart as [Charlie] once thot they were” and so they have no reason to mock him. A mindset such as this shows how thoughtful Charlie is. Instead of openly criticizing his bullies, he raises his own confidence and self-esteem.
Some may argue that Charlie Gordon is an absent minded man that accidentally did something for science and may even call Charlie a coward for running from his past life. He never knew what he was getting himself into until after his intelligence triples from the operation. “Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur have asked me not to come to the lab any more. I know what they’re thinking, but I can’t accept it” (531). If Charlie Gordon realizes the risks and aftereffects of the operation before the doctors perform it,, he would never choose to participate. Charlie Gordon finally understands what he has gotten himself into and cannot accept what is going to happen to him. In order to have heroic qualities you must understand what you are risking and sacrificing and for whom in order to actually have the bravery and courage of a hero.
Although this way of thinking has logic, it does not take in the whole picture. The same evidence can support the completely opposite side if all points are taken into consideration.“Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur have asked me not to come to the lab any more. I know what they’re thinking, but I can’t accept it” (531). Even if Charlie does not fully understand the operation, he adapts to the situation he finds himself in after and bears the hardships. Charlie Gordon states that he cannot accept it, but in the end he ends up persevering and continuing his research to help other mentally disabled people like himself. Despite his condition, Charlie continues to care for everyone around him, even those who ridicule him.Charlie Gordon carries heroic qualities because he has the will the adapt to and fix any situation, no matter how difficult. He may feel suicidal and hopeless because of the operation, but he still persists in the research to help people who are mentally disabled. Charlie also has courage to abandon his past just so his friends do not have to feel sympathetic about his mental and emotional state.
Charlie is not a typical hero. He may not have superhuman strength or supernatural skills, but he cares immensely about people. He is thoughtful of people’s feelings, which is what makes Charlie a definite hero. Charlie Gordon was a hero in his very own way just as we all are every time we do something kind for each other. Everyone, from children to adults, even those with low cognitive abilities can really do something great for many people’s individual/personal view of the world, even if its something small such as kindness it has the potential to completely change someone’s view of the world.
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