I remember reading this back in middle school, but I don’t remember it being quite so long, so maybe we didn’t read a different version? I liked it at the time though, and it definitely holds up well (especially considering it was written in 1959 — you’d probably never guess).
“How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibilty, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes—how such people think nothing of abusing a man with low intelligence.”
So we probably all know the plot of this one — god knows it’s been parodied enough on television. Charlie Gordon has an IQ in the 60s, and has been selected for an experimental procedure to improve his intelligence. The experiment worked on a mouse named Algernon, who can now learn new mazes quickly. Charlie’s been selected because he wants to learn — he attends school at night and always tries to work harder to retain knowledge. It just slips out of his grasp. So he has the procedure done, and it improves his ability to retain what he learns. Unfortunately, the smarter he gets, the more he realizes how people treated him before. He also begins to remember some pretty terrible childhood experiences. And after time, just like it did for the mouse Algernon, the intelligence begins to slip away, and Charlie ends up back where he started.
Keyes doesn’t portray Charlie as some simpleton who prefers being less intelligent — he wants to learn and improve himself. Unfortunately, society resists him at every turn. They’re cruel when he’s disabled, and they’re suspicious when he’s intelligent. It’s really more of a story about how society treats the mentally challenged than it is a story about improving Charlie’s IQ. And even though it was written 60 years ago, it doesn’t seem like too much has changed in that regard.