Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon, on which the musical is based, is one of the defining novels that many young adults read. The book has been translated into 27 languages, sold in more than five million copies worldwide, and the film version (Charly) won the Oscar for the Best Actor in a Leading Role in 1969. The story tells the tale of infinite endurance and hunger for being loved in the life of the 32-year old, mentally underdeveloped, Charlie Gordon. The boy has the mental age of 6 yet he would like to be “smart” like others, so, taking a deep breath he offers to take part in a medical experiment. As a result of an operation, his IQ increases, learns several languages, acquires expert knowledge in various fields of science and even outperforms the doctors who carried out the medical procedure in analysing the results of their research. Yet the experiment on Charlie Gordon poses some stark questions: in what circumstances and to what extent can we carry out experiments on humans? To what extent must we regard our fellow human beings of lower intelligence as our equals, and how much responsibility do we have for what happens to them? Perhapsthis story offers a recipe for survival, a parable about us doing things we never thought we were capable of.
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