How does this extract from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time introduce us to the important ideas in Haddon’s novel? Disability or being different in society can be isolating. Disability, particularly those people with behavioural differences is a topic that has only become socially acceptable as a topic of conversation in recent times. Historically, any form of disability was seen as taboo and was not considered appropriate for ‘polite’ conversation. Haddon takes on an unconventional issue in a most unconventional way throughout his novel ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’.
Not only is the novel an exploration of the effects of disabilities in a conformist society BUT he takes the responder on an expedition into the world of difference via the narrator, Christopher. Disability may negatively impact one’s ability to cope with life’s complexities. Individuals that have behavioural differences are often misjudged. Christopher is a unique character who sees the world as orderly and has very low tolerance for disorder. As his audience, we are implicitly invited by the author to observe a more complex perspective beyond Christopher’s world view.
He usually obsesses over schedules as he finds it difficult not to follow a schedule. Christopher has difficult connecting to people on an emotional level and relies heavily more on logic to understand the world. His developmental disorder is one major factor in which Christopher is an unreliable narrator as he frequently veers away from the main storyline to discuss irrelevant topics such as physics or even the rate of growth of a pond’s frog population. He regards the metaphor “The dog was stone dead” as a lie as it requires a type of thinking which Christopher is neglected from due to his disability.
He needs to map every aspect of his life as a means of fixing his place in the world to belong. The readers rely on the narrator to tell the story, but in this case, the readers gain more understanding of Christopher’s disability and his perspective of the world, making this a different and unique story. Christopher’s disability impacts his ability to notice the series of increasingly destabilizing events such as learning of his Mother’s affair and his Father’s deceptions.
An example of this is Christopher leaving Swindon to find his mother in London; he crosses through a massive urban landscape which symbolises his facing reality and all the complexities the rest of the broader world faces. Another technique that helps reinforce the complications of Christopher’s disability is the continued use of emoticons, logic puzzles, math problems and maps. These visual diagrams symbolise to Christopher the part of the world that is ordered and logical. Christopher uses these items as tools to organize his thinking, like when he uses the so-called Monty Hall problems to explain why his intuition regarding Mr. Shears has been wrong.
Christopher utilises these tools as a form of communication, whereas Haddon has placed them in order for the reader to understand his disability and be engaged in the novel, specifically when he encounters new information that has not be fully processed or when he experience a particularly confusing or disturbing event. For instance, when his thoughts become jumbled in the train station in Swindon, Christopher thinks of the visual riddle called Conway’s Soldier to pass the time.
He heavily relies on maps to navigate and achieve his goals. He specifically uses a map when he searches the neighbourhood for Wellington’s murder, again when he attempts to find the train station in Swindon, and yet again in his effort to find Mother’s apartment when he arrives in London. These visuals provide Christopher with a strategy to follow when a complicated problem arises and there are too many variables for him to reach a clear solution. His disability is further emphasised throughout the story by the use of emoticons.
Christopher explains that he has difficulty determining people’s emotions from their facial express but yet he can name each country in the world, their capitals, and every prime number up to 7. 057. Christopher is only able to identify sad faces which represented how he felt when he found Wellington dead, and the happy face, which shows how he feels when he wanders the neighbourhood at three or four in the morning. Any other emotions, he was not able to identify representing his lack of ability to understand basic emotions and his perspective of the world he lives in.
Individuals that have behavioural differences are often misjudged. Christophers’ behavioural disability makes him want a world where it is ordered and logical. He uses tools such as logic puzzles, maths problems and maps to organise his thinking. Christopher robotic like capability of learning and understanding of concepts in regards to emotion is clearly seen through the emoticons specifically the facial expressions portrayed on page 2-3 which allows the reader to understand disability in a new light.
His simplicity of understanding the two main concepts of ‘sad’ and ‘happy’ was shown through the use of the emoticons as it allowed him to visually see what they both meant. This reinforced the idea of disability that is conveyed throughout Haddon’s novel as it allowed the readers to gain a better understanding of the complications the narrator is facing. Many of the characters in the novel become irritated with Christopher at one time or another because of the difficulty they have communicating with him.
Christopher has trouble understanding metaphors, such as the dog was stone dead. He also has difficulty with nonverbal forms of communication, such as body language, facial expressions, and even the tone of someone’s voice. He tends to take statements literally and requires very specific instructions in order to follow a command. He says, for example, that when people say “Be quiet” they don’t specify how long he should be quiet for.
As a result, we often see characters struggling to make Christopher understand them since their ordinary way of speaking fails to communicate their meaning to him. These exchanges underscore how Christopher’s condition affects his social skills, and they emphasize for the reader the difference in perspective that Christopher experiences compared to the average person. Many of the motifs in the book represent either controlled order or chaotic excess, as these are the things which most concern Christopher as narrator.
Mathematics is the most common motif in the book as it helps Christopher best in understanding the world around him. Throughout the novel, there are many parts which are completely devoted to issues about maths and science which may sometimes confuse the reader with its complexity. Mathematics is a way for Haddon to show the readers Christophers’ intellectual capabilities separating him positively from society. In Christophers’ case, his autism and the limits it places on his brain makes the use of maths and sciences a more urgent coping tool than for other people.
This does not always simplify the outside world, but at least provides a mean to better grasp complexities he cannot master. In conclusion, Haddon uses a number of distinctive techniques in order for readers to gain a better understanding of disability and its complications that may impact one’s life. Not only is the novel an exploration of the effects of disabilities in a conformist society BUT he takes the responder on an expedition into the world of difference via the narrator, Christopher.