The maze is an important symbol in the novel. Although it is a literal maze, it is also a symbol for life. Thus, as we move through life, we all must figure out how to navigate the maze. Algernon is literally a rat who runs in a maze, but we must also consider that as Charlies intelligence increases, he too becomes another individual caught in the human rat-race in the maze of life.
The novel is composed of a series of progress reports written by Charlie. However, the progress report itself is an important symbol. Most people believe that the role of science is to make progress, yet the novel calls into question the means and methods used to achieve progress, as well as the results of progress. It also prompts us to consider in what way(s) Charlie is making progress. At the end of the novel, when Charlie has regressed to his initial state, we are left wondering if he has made any real progress.
Rabbits Foot/Lucky Penny
Several times in the novel Charlie carries a good luck charm, most often a rabbits foot or lucky penny. These objects symbolize the dichotomy between the subjective world of superstition and the objective world of science. Of course, as Charlies life radically alters because of the experiment, readers must reconsider the meaning of the word “luck.” Considering all of the problems and emotional suffering he undergoes, was Charlie truly lucky to have been chosen for the experiment?
Rorschach (inkblot) test
The Rorschach test is an actual psychological test given to people undergoing psychoanalysis. In the novel, the test is used to demonstrate how Charlies imagination develops. Prior to his operation Charlie cannot “see” anything in the inkblots; however, as his intellect rises, his performance on the test becomes more sophisticated. As a symbol, the test represents the way science attempts to objectively measure a highly subjective thing: imagination or creativity.
Many key scenes in the narrative involve windows or frames. Charlie often looks out of windows or into a window-like device, such as a mirror. The window symbolizes the division between two worlds: Charlies personal world and the world at large. Initially, his mental state restricts his ability to fully interact with the world at large. Following the operation, Charlies “window on the world” is opened, with both positive and negative results.