Charly is a retarded adult male struggling to survive in the world. His frequent attempts at learning, reading, and writing prove worthless. His teacher, Miss Kinian, takes Charly to the clinic where he is observed by doctors who have Charly "race" a mouse, Algernon. Algernon, a once retarded mouse, is usually the winner thanks to an experiment that greatly raised his intelligence. This experiment is given to Charly, who at first does not seem affected. However, he gradually becomes more and more educated, eventually becoming a pure genius. Very emotional consequences are involved when Charly learns the truth of the experiment, however.