At first, thoughts and words are not related in any way whatsoever, however, once we look below the surface, some coherence begins to form. In ‘Flowers for Algernon’ we can see that only as Charlie’s vocabulary and phraseology develops, is he capable to ratiocinate at a higher and more convolute level. A child who has a limited lexicon to one thousand words is not able to delineate a sunset in such full expressive detail as an adult who has years of experience and the terminology to portray such a beautiful scene.
The child might describe it plainly as ‘ a lovely scene’, whilst the adult could say ‘When I gaze upon this pulchritudinous panorama, my heart is filled with an overflowing tranquillity’ he is linking a sunset to calm and peace. The child, no less right, is not yet capable of such expressive feelings and thoughts; instead, he would find it very irksome instead of appreciating the true value of a sunset. This shows that it is the language and lexis that determines the level of thought one is able to achieve.
Words are not only tools of expressing thoughts, but also the tools that create thoughts. Without a full understanding of musical concepts, we are not able to appreciate and understand the full beauty of a piece, or to think at a level which enables us to appreciate it that way. This is the same with words: without a high vocabulary, we are not able to express ourselves fully in a desired way. Without understanding the meanings of many words, we are not capable of thinking to the level that requires those words, so our thinking capacity is limited to our vocabulary.
However, there are times when we are thinking at a level higher than that which our limited vocabulary enables us, and it is at those times when we find ourselves speechless and lost for words. In ‘Flowers for Algernon’ we can see how Charlie’s phraseology changes. In the first few progress reports, he still understands the world from the views of a young child. He is not able to fathom that the ‘friends’ he had were just using him as a form of entertainment. His language is basic and he can only think at a rudimentary level.
He has not yet the ability to analyse what others say and do, or distinguish the differences between being sociable and obnoxious derision. A while after the experiment and he is taking Alice to see a film, we can see that as his range of vocabulary increases, he is able to think is a higher level. He is able to analyse the film and look beneath the surface of things, which is very important because later he will be able to look beneath the surface of the value of friendship and the reality of life.
Even further on, Charlie is able to think in many different languages and the words of that language can help him think at a different level to another language. English is a rudimentary language, which is hard to master owing to the need for word positioning and the aid of auxiliary verbs, much unlike Latin or German. Therefore, by thinking in German one is able to achieve a status of thought unachievable in English because of the need for supplementary verbs and syntax.
Therefore, from the many examples, we can see that words and thoughts are fundamentally alike and it is words that enhance our thinking and enables it to progress throughout our lives to higher echelons. Question: How does Charlie’s cognitive developments differ from his emotional developments? Give examples. Throughout the book, there are many different cases of how Charlie’s cognitive developments differentiate from his emotional developments.
He begins being a ‘retarded’ adult who has developed neither emotionally or cognitively. After undergoing the experiment, we can see that despite his intelligence increasing at a phenomenal rate, his emotional development just can not catch up. He is developing too fast for him to cope emotionally. For the duration of his childhood, his mother was continually neglecting him, causing him not to go through the same stages of emotional progression as the other children.
He linked emotional attachment to girls and libidinous stimulation as something wicked at depraved, and therefore, during his pubescent years, he never broke through the barrier that linked sex with malevolence. When he attempted to make love to Alice, he had a mental barrier (the old, ‘retarded’ boy Charlie), who stopped him. The subconscious young Charlie was able to allow the conscious Charlie to make love to Fay, because he was not actually emotionally in love with her.
However, with Alice, he is growing up (emotionally) and stopping himself simultaneously. His mind is in chaos as he tries to mature emotionally at the same rate as his cognitive development, yet his subconscious self can not handle this strain of the demands. This happens to most people when they are truly in love for the first time. They love that person and yet when put in a sexual situation, they cower away petrified of the situation. We can all contend with this situation, but Charlie’s rapid cognitive development is not permitting him to do so.
No one’s emotional development can grow faster than that which nature allows, because it all needs years of practice and experience. Usually, one’s emotional and cognitive development increases at the same rate until when they are twenty, so we are not caught unaware of love. However, Charlie’s cognitive development is outstripping that imperative emotional development, so he finishes with many unmanageable emotional problems and affliction, because he cannot cope with the emotional problems of someone with his intelligence when he is still emotionally a child.