The novel ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,’ by Mark Haddon is a one of a kind piece of narrative which takes us on a journey through the life of Christopher – a boy suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. Through the book Mark Haddon has tried to paint the picture of the life of someone who has to live with the disorder. The story is immensely accurate, since it is written in the first person narrative. He has classic traits of Asperger’s Syndrome which add to the beauty of the story line.
As the story goes, Christopher leads a secluded life with his single parent father and enjoys mathematics. The story spins off with the murder of a neighborhood dog which leads the boy through various twists and turns, one of which includes finding out that his mother is not dead. Mark Haddon has tried here to show the life of a boy who has the syndrome. The protagonist is a very sharp boy but has trouble comprehending emotions. In the book, his idea of emotions is “just having a picture on the screen in your head of what is going to happen tomorrow or next year, or what might happen instead of what did happen, and if it’s a happy picture they smile and if it’s a sad picture they cry.” This is exactly how someone with the malady would react to the topic of human emotions.
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Christopher like other people with Aspergers Syndrome likes to stick to a meticulous routine life (till the dog dies).
People, who have the syndrome, like Christopher ‘decide’ their feelings; Christopher concludes his mood on the basis of things like the number of cars he sees, or their colors. Unlike the vast majority, the protagonist notices every single detail of everything he comes across. The boy has trouble with social skills, which is evident when he hits the police officer for touching him. Many of his traits fall in completely with someone who has the disorder. For example, the food that he is eating cannot touch, some colors i.e. yellow and brown, are bad and others are good, he has trouble communicating with people and lacks the basic social skills, and like most people with such a syndrome he is exceptional at one thing – in his case it is mathematics in which he ends up getting an A grade.
His various personality traits fall in completely with someone who has Aspergers’ Syndrome. And sure enough, someone with the disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic would be found, “displaying unusual nonverbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, few facial expressions; show an intense obsession with one or two subjects… such as baseball statistics; appear not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others’ feelings; have a hard time ‘reading’ other people or understanding humor…” (mayoclinic.com)
To give the work a touch of credibility or to add more value to the text the author has used several tools. He has used different styles to write the book; by successfully using many long sentences (to illustrate a connectivity of thought, lists (to show some kind of order, which is imperative for people with the disorder), pictorial representations (since Christopher wanted to show and not just talk about his experience).
All of these, when incorporated into the book work to give it a very authentic. The novel also manages to pull society into the circumference of the story. You see the toll that the disorder takes not just on the boy but also on the parents. The mother feels so alienated and ashamed that she cannot cope with her son’s illness that she runs away. The father is torn between loving and hating the son.
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However, at the end of the day one cannot help but feel that there are times where some things just don’t feel like they fit. To start with, for a person who has Asperger’s Syndrome the protagonist seems to extremely self-aware and analytical. His strength is mathematics not literature, but even so he somehow has managed to write the entire novel (albeit Sibohan, his teacher, checks the work).
We are also required to believe that although such individuals have no real ability to imagine anything beyond what they already know, Christopher somehow imagines himself as becoming an astronaut and in another instance under the sea; both settings he has quite literally never really experienced.
Christopher’s intellect is also at times not as believable as the author would hope. The boy has not had to strive in anyway to really understand his differences before he takes on the case of the dog. His self awareness and intellect are a contradiction to other autistic people. For example Donna Williams, the renowned author, talks about her condition in her book ‘Nobody Nowhere’. All of which point to the fact that she had to go through great labor to develop her senses in a way that her brain could handle the onslaught of sensory spurs. Haddon’s character has done no where near that work and seems to functioning on the same scale.
The books portrayal of a person with the disorder is a little sugar coated at times. It may give someone a false sense of hope because dealing with such a disorder is not that easy. It makes things appear as though Asperger’s Syndrome is an easy ailment to deal with when in reality many who have the malady cannot even communication a single word to their parents. And yet, the protagonist of this novel goes all the way to London to find a mother who was supposedly dead.
The main power and pull of this novel lies in the realistic characters. But like all work of art, it has its flaws. There are times where the novel is extremely realistic, however, there are pieces of the puzzle that do not fit in.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
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Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl, Donna Williams