Question: How does Daniel Keyes create a protagonist and an antagonist within one character in the story? In Flowers for Algernon, the developmentally disabled Charlie Gordon lives a very innocent life. However, Charlie is harshly treated by his coworkers and his mental superiors, causing him to be viewed as the protagonist of the story. Due to the fact that the story is written in the perspective of Charlie, the reader begins to develop a strong relationship with him.
When Charlie catalogues his days, the reader discovers things that Charlie does not fully understand: “They gave me lots of drinks and Joe said Charlie is a card when hes potted. I think that means they like me” (Keyes 30). When Charlie is so clearly deceived by his so called friends, he does not realize it. He thinks that they are complimenting him when in reality they are insulting him right in front of his face. Due to Charlie’s lack of understanding, he is not offended by their harsh words.
This is what keeps him innocent and pure. When Charlie undergoes experimental surgery to increase his I. Q. he begins to realize more about the world and the insensitive comments that were made about him, This is reflected in the way he explains his flashbacks: “I see little Charlie Gordon – fourteen or fifteen – looking out at me… it’s doubly strange to realize how different he was” (Keyes 115). Charlie’s use of the third person to tell his flashbacks represents his attempts to distance himself from his past.
Charlie has fallen from innocence and is ashamed of his former self. The way he now portrays himself is far more intellectually aggressive, and he acts in a manner that parallels that of the people who insulted him his entire life. After the bond between the old Charlie and the reader has become so strong, this new, uncaring Charlie is seen as an antagonist. Creating a circumstance in which the main character is both the antagonist and the protagonist is a very intricate literary feat, and Daniel Keyes does this successfully.