The "progris riport" that Charlie is trying to write explains much from what he is trying to explain with such a limited ability in literacy. Charlie has an IQ of 68 and is a poor at spelling. He is thirty-two years old, working for a mere eleven dollars a week at Donner’s Bakery, and learns to "reed and rite" in Miss Alice Kinnian’s class at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults. Dr. Strauss has told Charlie to write everything he thinks and feels in the progress reports.

A man named Burt has gives Charlie a “raw shok” test. Burt shows Charlie a stack of white cards with ink spilled on them called a Rorschach inkblot test and asks Charlie to tell him what he sees in the ink. Charlie, who does not understand what Burt is saying, says that he sees only spilled ink. Dr. Strauss and Professor Nemur have tested their intelligence-enhancing experiment on animals and would now like to test it on humans. Alice has recommended Charlie because of his strong sense of motivation.

A woman gives Charlie a test in which she shows him a bunch of pictures of people and tells him to make up a story about them. As with the “raw shok” test, Charlie does not understand. Burt then takes Charlie to a laboratory, where he shows Charlie a mouse named Algernon who already went through the surgery. Burt has Charlie race with Algernon by trying to solve a maze on paper while Algernon runs through a maze.

Charlie overhears the scientists arguing about whether the experiment will make him sick or not, but Strauss argues, saying that Charlie's motivation is a huge help. Nemur tries to explain to Charlie that they are not certain if the experiment will make him smarter. Nemur says that there is even a possibility that the experiment will succeed but will then leave Charlie worse off then he is now. Charlie is not worried because he is happy to become smarter, thus being able to beat Algernon and make friends.

Three days have passed after the sugery, and Charlie does not feel any different. A nurse named Hilda teaches him how to spell “progress report,” so he now has to correct his own mistakes. Hilda also tells Charlie that God did not make him smart to start out and that maybe Nemur and Strauss should not be messing with the power of God. The next day, Hilda is replaced.