Why Was Flowers for Algernon Banned?

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  • 0:04 Flowers for Algernon Synopsis
  • 1:36 Risque
  • 2:09 Challenged
  • 2:38 Banned
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

''Flowers for Algernon'' is a poignant fiction novel that has been banned and challenged all over the United States due to its sexually explicit nature. The science fiction novel is more thought provoking than explicit, but the intimacy of the writing has made this a controversial read.

Flowers for Algernon Synopsis

Flowers for Algernon is a fantasy sci-fi story, written in 1959, about Charlie Gordon, a mentally handicapped man. He yearns to be smarter and knows that he is not normal, so when he gets the chance to undergo a scientific experiment that will inject him with a solution to make him smarter, he says yes. Algernon, a mouse that was the original experiment, shows real promise and increased intelligence, which is why they move onto human trials.

In the book, it shows the evolution of Charlie in journal entries within the book. As he grows smarter, he loses his friends, because he realizes what he thought was real friendship was pity. All the negative behavior he had once never seen is something he is now vividly aware of. However, during this hard time, Charlie develops a relationship with Alice, his teacher at the school where he works. She had always thought of him fondly, but as he becomes smarter, their relationship blooms.

They fall in love, but the relationship and continued evolution of Charlie, unfortunately, falls apart. The solution that had been making him smarter fails, and he devolves back into his original self, leaving Alice forever in love with the man inside Charlie that is, yet again, hidden by his disability. Before he loses his intelligence, he tries to correct the formula throughout his journal entries, but the story ends with Charlie back to his original self but with fond memories, making him more contented.


Although this story is one of sadness and learning how to empathize and be compassionate with those less fortunate, the book was attacked for the small sex scene within its pages. In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie and Alice have a moment together, and he documents it in his journal, which is how we see it in the book. The snippet about this encounter is small and more introspective than risqué; however, because this book is usually read in high school English courses, parents were outraged at allowing this to be shown to their children.

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