Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Crying Substitute

First, it must be said that I do cry pretty easily when I really get into a story. I hear it gets worse when your pregnant. But even if I hadn't been pregnant, I probably still would have cried.

I substituted for an English class today and in the 8th grade English class I was to read aloud the last few pages of a condensed (and cleaned up) version of "Flowers For Algernon." Now, surprisingly, I've never read this book before, and though I had heard of it, I didn't know anything about it. So I started reading, out loud to 30-odd 8th graders, right at the climax of the story and we finish it. It's a "science fiction" story that really is about humanity. It's about a man named Charlie who is mentally disabled and recruited to take part in a neuroscience experiment that will triple his IQ. The entire story is his journal entries pre and post-operation. It is wonderfully written. He is a very motivated and hard working, loving man who wants to desperately to be smart. But a few weeks after the operation, and after he has achieved genius level IQ's, he discovers that the operation has actually ruined his brain and it will begin deteriorating as quickly as it has advanced. The experiment was also done on a mouse named Algernon, who becomes his pet. When Algernon dies, he faithfully puts flowers on his grave once a week. His last request is that someone else continue doing.
So I began reading the story from his discovery and continue with his descent back into mental retardation and it is painful to read and so touching. So much so, that by the second to last page I have to pause so I don't break down. that only prompted a student to ask, "Are you crying?" Which caused me to lose it. I finished the story, weeping, and them gave them their assignment. I went to lunch and joked/complained to the other teachers that that was not a very nice thing for Alissa (the absent teacher) to do to a sub. Then I went back for third period. Which was 8th grade English, and did it all over again. Now I have a headache.


  1. SUCH a good book! I can't believe you hadn't read it. There is a movie of it made in the 1960's. Very retro with split screens and cheesy music. Love it! We watched it in 8th grade after reading it.

  2. That was actually the first play I was in, in high school my sophmore year. I was in the ensemble, but if you want to get really specific, I played one of his friends that was mentally retarded at the school that Charlie went to. It is a sad book.