I'VE READ: Flowers for Algernon and Unbearable Lightness of Being

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Alternative book cover for Flowers for Algernon ♡

I've read two books so far this year. Yes!! I'm happy about it, because I honestly don't remember the last time I sat down and read a novel. This post contains spoilers, so if you're not the type to get spoiled, you may read at your own risk! 

I've always just been borrowing books in the library, or borrowing from my friends. I love books yet I don't own much books. Oh the irony. I did get to buy a book one time (I hope my mom or sister doesn't read this.. please don't show this post to them lol) when I went with my colleagues to the bookstore. That was the time when we suddenly thought of making a book club of sorts. ♡♡

Flowers for Algernon

From a person who had low IQ, to suddenly becoming the most genius person in the world, our main guy learned about life in the shortest span of time. They operated on him to see if they'll be able to make him smart, and the same procedure was done previously to a lab rat named Algernon. It goes well at first, although Algernon eventually deteriorated.

This book made me sad. I was happy at first, seeing how the main guy got smarter and that the operation was successful. But then it opened up his awareness to many things too:

“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.” ― Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

“Its easy to make frends if you let pepul laff at you.” ― Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

1) He thought he had friends, although he found out that he was only being made fun of. His previous self wanted to be liked and accepted, so he would act all silly without really understanding why people laughed at him. He took their laugh as an acceptance, which hurt him a great deal when he got smarter.

2) The psychologists did not see both his old and new self as a human being, rather they saw the dumb him as a participant in their study, and the smart him as their own new creation. This brought to light the fact that people with low IQ are not seen as normal or able to function, and thus are deemed inferior to those who are able.

“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.” ― Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

3) When he got smart and finally understood and absorbed knowledge more than the average person is capable of, he eventually felt lonely. People started feeling intimidated with the fact that he might be belittling them because he knows more than they do.

4) He gained an awareness of what was right and wrong, acting upon them through his own judgment. Learning that everyone may not have the best of intentions.

5) He remembered his traumatic experiences with family. I think for me this is the saddest because try as they might with making him get smarter, they eventually gave up and chose to live a life separate from his.

My colleague lent me this one:

Unbearable Lightness of Being

This book drew me in quite instantly as it contains a lot of existential themes. Lightness and weight both play a big role for our protagonists. Lightness pertains to seeing life as it is and nothing more to it. There is no significance to anything that ever happens, and that beauty is only fleeting. Weight on the other hand pertains to seeking after meaning of different things, such as situations, relationships, etc.

To live with a lightness of being is to cast all nuances aside and simply live, while to live with weight is to struggle to find meaning.

These two perspectives in life are reflected through our protagonists, which are two couples. One of them is either light, or heavy. We see it as how they go through with life and their relationship. One can never be tied down, while the other one willingly devotes their entire self to the other. It's a push and pull of defying forces that threatens to pull them apart entirely and then brings them close when we least expect it.

There are two passages from this book that interested me the most. First would be this:

“There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, "sketch" is not quite a word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.”  ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

1) The idea is that we have no basis for comparison, on whether our decision is the best one. Maybe this is why we get occasionally anxious thoughts at the back of our heads. Because we don't have a second, third, or fourth life to compare it to. As I discussed this with my good friend while on the bus, she pointed out that maybe this is why we tend to compare ourselves with others... what a thought. But then I guess life wouldn't be as it is if it weren't for all the mistakes and challenges that came with it. It's not meant to be perfect.

Another favorite would be:

"For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes." ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

2) It gets all the more complicated when someone else is involved or when they are the reason for your distress. Compassion certainly does sound heavy, as it means to feel for or feel together with someone else. It's like trying to reach out to someone, because you don't want them to bear all the pain. I think compassion will always be a heavy term.

I didn't focus so much on the romance aspect of the novel, since that wasn't really the main point of the story. I felt like I was onlooker, observing their lives unfold as they go on with their daily lives, which included decisions and reactions towards certain situations. I enjoyed watching how lightness and weight were at play.


I like books that make me ponder about life. It makes me become more intentional with everything I do and with the time I have.

“That's the thing about human life--there is no control group, no way to ever know how any of us would have turned out if any variables had been changed.”
― Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
What books have you read lately, and which passages struck you the most? :)


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