The most obvious contrast between Flowers for Algernon and other short stories, such as “A & P” and “Miss Brill” is the length. But length is not the topic for this short essay. The predominant difference, besides length, is the number of fully realized characters in the story. In “A & P” and “Miss Brill” the only fully developed characters are Sammy in “A & P” and Miss Brill in “Miss Brill. ” In the short story “A & P” by John Updike, there is a character, Sammy, who is shown experiencing about 15 minutes (maybe less) of life in a market.
Besides Sammy, the rest of the people in the story are basically cardboard characters that create conflict for Sammy. The reader never really gets to know the store manager or the girls because they are all looked at through the eyes of Sammy. In a longer story, other characters might have been fleshed out and given more complex and real personalities instead of acting as catalysts for the plot. In the short story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield, there is a character, Miss Brill who is a completely developed character.
The other characters in the storythe people in the park and the two teenagers on the bench next to heronly help to develop Miss Brill further. The reader never knows any of the supporting characters (if they can even be called supporting). Just as in “A & P” they are nothing more than catalysts. In the long short story “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, Charlie Gordon is, indeed, the main character. In this story however, he is not the only character. The other characters in the story are not just things o move the plot along and develop Charlie as a character, but are full characters themselves.
Alice, Charlies “love interest” cares for Charlie even before the operation. She is conflicted in the way that she wants Charlie to be smarter, but is not so sure of the operation. Her feelings come out pretty obviously in the last scene when Charlie (after his high IQ has dwindled back to where he was, or even less) goes back to class. When she sees him back in the class for people with learning problems, she runs out crying because of what has appened to Charlie.
We understand why she does what she does, and also can relate to her feelings and emotions. The difference between stories like “A & P,” “Miss Brill,” and “Flowers for Algernon” is that short stories present an opportunity to focus on the personality of a single character while longer stories can have a more developed supporting characters. Focusing on only one character does not make a story of any less worth than a story with fifty developed characters. It is just a different style of writing.