The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
The Curious Relationship Between Facts and Truth in Mark Haddon’s Novel
The title of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a reference to a famous Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Conan Arthur Doyle. Baker Street’s most famous resident deduces who committed the crime in this particular story by interpreting a clue in a much different way than normal: the mystery gets solved not on account of a what a dog did do but rather on account of what did not do: bark. In light of its relation to Haddon’s novel, it is interesting to note that the character of Sherlock Holmes has moved from being seen merely as a emotionless, robotic calculating machine into, as one very famous recent TV show described him, a high-functioning sociopath. The facts of Sherlock Holmes remains unchanged; it is the interpretation that has changed. If The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time had been written twenty years ago, the interpretation of the narrator’s unnamed “behavioral condition” might have been interpreted as retardation or even mild schizophrenia. Today, it is easy to interpret the condition as autism or Asperger’s. The real lesson that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time seems to aiming for is that facts detached from interpretation do not equal truth.
Point of view is everything in the novel. Christopher Boone at one point observes that “the mind is just a complicated machine.” The book is full of declarative observations of facts or opinions like this, but this assertion is one of the few times that he makes an attempt at interpreting what is a fact to him. What eventually adds up into a great big pile of brutally honest factual statements by Christopher should by all accounts have the effect of making it incredibly easy to understand him. But, as Christopher observes, “the rule for working out prime numbers is really simple, but no one has ever worked out a simple formula for telling you whether a very big number is a prime number or what the next one will be.” For Christopher, this is merely mathematical fact and any interpretation will be equally applied to math, but the reader can interpret that what is true for prime numbers is also true for people. There is no simple formula for using just the facts of someone’s life to figure out what’s really going on inside their mind.
Christopher almost seems to intuitively realize this. At one point he admits “I didn’t understand about other people having minds.” That may seem like the kind of bizarre statement that only someone suffering from a brain disorder like autism could make. (Or like someone suffering from schizophrenia could make if you were interpreting it twenty years ago.) However, he then goes on to say that he worked around this failure by deciding to look at how other people think as “a kind of puzzle, and if something is a puzzle there is always a way of solving it.”
While it may seem bizarre to not understand that other people have minds, isn’t that really how most people treat others most of the time? Just because you realize that other people have minds of their own doesn’t mean you don’t expect that mind to work exactly the same way as yours. So it makes sense that the whole book is driven by Christopher’s desire to solve the mystery of who killed the dog. If you are going to try to solve a crime, you have to expect that you can think like the person who committed the crime. Since Sherlock Holmes is such an important “character” in the novel, it’s hard to ignore the difference in point of view between the books about him and this book about one of his biggest fans.
Christopher writes down a lot of information like facts and opinions. These fact and opinions build up over time to become clues and evidence as we try to figure him out. Every time Sherlock solves a crime and Dr. Watson writes about it, the reader gets more clues and evidence to solve the mystery of Sherlock himself. But if you stop to think about it, everything that is ever known about Sherlock Holmes is only known because Dr. Watson says it’s so. Christopher seems to realize this when he observes it is Dr. Watson who writes that Sherlock’s mind is always trying to connect various disconnected bits of information to form a logical conclusion before going on to add “that is what I am trying to do by writing this book.” The reader’s initial response to the story told by Christopher Boone is that it must be one-hundred percent truth since, according to Christopher himself, “I do not tell lies. Mother used to say that this was because I was a good person. But it is not because I am a good person. It is because I can’t tell lies.” Throughout the book, Christopher demonstrates not just an inability to tell lies, but a rather strange inability to even determine what a lie actually is. He often misapprehends any kind of statement that is not literally true as a lie, even those lacking any inherent attempt at deception. Over time, these example of how much Christopher hates lies build into a kind of theme that suggests you can never really get at the truth of someone unless you can get at just the facts. And yet all those facts the reader learns about Christopher don’t really help to understand him, either.
One example of how Christopher doesn’t seem capable of interpreting the difference between lies comes when he himself is brutally honest: “I like Sherlock Holmes, but I do not like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” Christopher dislike of Arthur Conan Doyle has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes. He dislikes Doyle because he was so easily fooled into thinking obviously faked photographs of fairies were real and author’s belief that “you could communicate with the dead.” Christopher’s reasons for disliking the man who created the fictional character who’s had the greatest influence on him is especially interesting. After all, are there not still many people who think believing you can communicate with someone suffering from mental issues like autism or schizophrenia is just as impossible as communicating with the dead?
By the time the end of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is reached, most people will have to admit that you really can’t honestly say you know how Christopher’s mind works any better than when you started reading. Christopher begins his story by informing the reader that it’s a murder mystery novel. Only through interpretation of this fact does it prove true. He ends by writing “I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.” That closing assertion is one of the few times that he provides interpretation alongside fact, but the average reader must surely find this interpretation highly dubious, not to mention a supreme example of overconfidence. From the reader’s perspective, nothing that has happened to that point provides any clue that Christopher should feel such confidence. But maybe that’s the point. Christopher starts the novel by telling us it is a murder mystery and ends with an affirmation that he is capable of doing anything. Maybe the real murder victim here was that part of Christopher that was holding him back and maybe he is the only one who can know this fact happens to be a truth because he is the only one capable of interpreting the facts of the novel accurately.
Realistic Infinitism in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
When discussing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Haddon has made it clear that he sees it as a piece of realistic fiction that is actually realistic: no lucky encounters, no interventions from a deity, just humdrum life. However, some have leveled critiques that The Curious Incident doesn’t meet these ideals because it uses odd events like a dead dog and an impromptu sprint to London to move the plot forward. Parallels can be drawn between this and Occam’s Razor. Occam’s Razor essentially states that in most cases, the simplest solution should be considered first. In other words: extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Realistic fiction books rarely meet this standard. For example, The Great Gatsby relies on a reclusive millionare so in love with a lady that he situates his house. Technically, that could happen but, in reality, that would almost never happen. And, in any case, The Great Gatsby never covers the day to day events of Nick’s life. Despite what the critics say, Christopher’s reaction to climatic events of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is not escapist and aligns with Haddon’s philosophy because his reaction is proportional to the events and realistic.
The entirety of the book is spent inside Christopher’s mind. This is, for the most part, a delightful experience. He has a unique way of thinking and we are privy to his every thought. Haddon uses this omniscient perspective into his mind to follow through with Haddon’s philosophy of “use[ing] your imagination and you’ll see that even the most narrow, humdrum lives are infinite in scope if you examine them with enough care”. Christopher certainly proves this true by discussing mathematical concepts like the Sieve of Eratosthenes and his arbitrary limits like “I think I’d like the pink squares but not the yellow squares because I don’t like yellow”. On the face of it, this is an extraordinarily boring paragraph because of its mundane subject material. However, Haddon has Christopher deliver it in such a fascinating way that it engages the reader and teaches us a lot about them. Haddon clearly puts a lot of effort into developing the day to day life of Christopher. Haddon manages to grab the reader’s attention with the most mundane events.
Haddon’s presentation is boosted by Christopher has Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s safe to say that the vast majority of the audience of the book never would have spent much time thinking about the mind of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. However, from the first paragraphs meticulous description of the dead dog, we can tell that something is different – even if he is discussing mundane events. This allows Haddon to describe mundane events and be truly realistic fiction while truly enjoying the reader. For example, when the policeman is questioning him about his potential involvement with Wellington’s death, Christopher thinks “he was asking too many questions…They were stacking up in my head like loaves in the factory where Uncle Terry works”. This clever way of thinking draws the reader’s attention while sticking squarely to the philosophy of being as normal as possible while using imagination as the “hook” for the readers to stay engaged in the story (as opposed to unrealistic plot jumps like most pieces of realistic fiction). This gives Haddon more liberty to talk about the sort of mundane events because he can rely on the Asperger’s Syndrome to engage the reader.
The critics contend that while Haddon executed the early parts of the story well, it falls apart in the latter half. In the latter half of the story, Christopher goes into his father’s room to search for something and instead finds a collection of recently dated letters from his supposedly dead mother. He freaks out, refusing to talk to his father and lies on the ground groaning. Based on what the readers has learned thus far, this is perfectly normal behavior for Christopher. It’s the next plot twist that has critics crying foul: he escapes the house, runs to the train stations and gets on a train to London. This development reeks of a deux ex machina because very little of what we think we know of Christopher would have led us to believe that he was capable of this. Upon closer examination of the context, we can see that it actually makes perfect sense that Christopher would run off like that.
Throughout the story, we consistently see that Christopher values order above all else. Even if it requires seizing onto arbitrary patterns (like the color of cars that he passes in the street being used to determine the quality of his day), he wants his life to have a lot more order than most people demand. The foundation for this order is objective facts. We constantly see him listing facts in a very plain manner. We also see that his tolerance for people who are wrong is not terribly high. When discussing the famous Monty Hall problem, he plainly states that the mathematicians and Mr. Jeavons were wrong. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that a huge lie (such as the one his father told him about his mother) would have set off such a toxic chain of events. Just because it was an extraordinary event does not necessarily mean it represents escapism if there was an appropriate rationale. The shock of rediscovering his mother combined with Asperger’s Syndrome provides that rationale. It’s unfair to say that Haddon is engaging in escapism after he spends the entire book establishing character traits that would suggest he’s capable of this.
This proportionality is key to the book. Most every event is normal because most events in life are normal. However, some events are not normal. Their existence does not mean that Haddon is engaging in escapism. Rather, it means that he is simply following his philosophy and reflecting life as it is.
The Importance of the Father in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Hiding truths and replacing them with lies are often very devastating to family members and even more so when a son’s whole life has been built upon these lies. Mark Haddon, in the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, explores the effects of discovering a world of lies. The father builds up an extensive web of lies around Christopher in attempts to protect Christopher from the harsh truth and also due to the father’s own emotionally unsettling mishaps. All of these events eventually reveal themselves to be essential in the plot development within the story. Thus, as the story progresses with more bits and pieces being revealed, the father plays an important role in plot development through his lies with Christopher, relationship with Mrs. Shears, and his absolute unwavering love for Christopher.
The father heavily affects the plot through his relationship with Mrs. Shears, it was the relationship that sustained the father in his darkest times, and the relationship that would be the source of the central plot, the murder of Wellington. Once Christopher’s mother had left, his father found reassurance with Mrs. Shears whom had also lost a loved one in her life. When the father flew into a rage at Mrs. Shears’ resistance towards having a relationship between two, the only thing he thought about was that “she cared more for that bloody dog than for than for me, for us” (121). He then goes on to answer one of the key plot questions, who had killed the dog. The father’s words on describing his reasons also reveal further information defining a multitude of characters in the novel. Whereas Christopher once had to search for this information, his father now tells us vital information regarding characters such as Mr. and Mrs. Shears. More clarification is gained on the events that passed between Mr. Shears and his mother, as well as how the father lasted through some of his darker times. It was also his relationship with Mrs. Shears that caused Christopher to eventually find the dog in Mrs. Shears’ yard. Amongst the opening lines of the book Christopher states, “The dog was dead” (1). A simple line, yet it is the basis of the entire novel. As Christopher attempts to solve the mystery of who had killed the dog, it opens up worlds of lies and secrets that had been wound around Christopher. Christopher eventually learns of the murderer, his father thus solving the original plot, yet at the same time, create more conflict believing his father to be a murderer. As a result of the father’s relationship with Mrs. Shears, the dog is murdered, the event that is the essence of this entire novel, it also leads to the father building up an endless web of lies around Christopher.
The world of lies that the father builds around Christopher also plays a key role in establishing the plot because all of Christopher’s trust for his father is replaced by a fear that drives him away. In the beginning Christopher is unaware of many secrets in his life. He even goes on to say about his father that, “he always tells me the truth” (87). This comment from Christopher regarding his father indicates the high level of trust that Christopher places in his father. The story is told from Christopher’s point of view and how Christopher views his father is a very important factor in plot development. Without any trust in his father, or the belief that his father loves him, Christopher would have ran away at the first sign of impatience. Even so, the damaging effects of this misplaced trust becomes clear when Christopher realizes that “Mother had been alive all the time. And Father had lied about this” (112). This marks a major turning point in the plot. Not only does it reveal that much of Christopher’s world had consisted of lies, it also reveals a separate plot, specifically where the mother was located. Many events that follow thereafter also occur due to the single truth being revealed. It destroys any and all trust between Christopher and his father. The plot is further advanced when it is revealed that Wellington had been killed by his father in a fit of rage. With the father also revealing and admitting that Christopher’s mother was still alive, we see that the plot moves from who killed Wellington to become the question of Christopher’s future. Thus it can be concluded that the expansive web of lies that is built around Christopher is a major factor in developing the plot. The collapse of the lies reveal that the father killed Wellington, but at the same time, also reveals the major driving force behind the plot, the father’s unwavering love for Christopher.
Finally, the father reveals his motivation behind the entire plot, and that is his love for Christopher. This clearly illustrates the reasons behind each event that occurs within the novel in great detail. After the father’s confession of breaking up with Christopher’s mother, the question remains of why the father would hide the truth in the first place. He then proceeds to answer with, “‘I did it for your good Christopher’” (114). This indicates how the father viewed many of his own actions and how desperate he was of protecting Christopher from many of the harsh truths. The world of lies came from a single lie and a single event that had happened in the past, however the unwavering love for Christopher stopped his father from directly disclosing the actual events. The father did not wish for Christopher’s image of both his mother and himself to be tarnished with the ugly events that had happened, and especially that the mother had left Christopher. Many events following the divorce are also affected by this steadfast love. Unwilling and careful to never show signs of a breakdown around Christopher, he turns towards Mrs. Shears whom had also lost her husband. This then moves on to reappear later in the plot as Christopher rediscovers the information that his father had attempted to hide. The events cumulate in one final statement from father where he tells Christopher, “‘you have to learn to trust me…And I don’t care how long it takes’” (218). It clearly demonstrates how desperate the father is to sustain the relationship between Christopher and himself. This desperation comes from his resolute love for Christopher and the fact that he doesn’t believe himself capable of dealing with the loss of another loved one. Many of the resolving events within the novel are also sourced from the father’s love, and desire to hold on to a loved one. He constantly attempts to regain Christopher’s trust in hopes that Christopher will not leave him. It then becomes quite clear that the entire plot within the story is driven through the father’s love for Christopher. The source of the main conflict, the death of Wellington, is originated through the father’s need and desperation to stay strong for Christopher. The climax is also derived from the collapse of a web of lies that the father had built in wishes of protecting Christopher. Lastly, the multitude of events that occur during the resolution are all related to the father’s love for Christopher as the thought of Christopher leaving, and losing another loved one is too much to bear for the father.
Overall it is quite clear that the father holds a key position in the establishment of plot in this novel through his lies surrounding Christopher and developing a relationship with Mrs. Shears while the key motivation comes from the father’s love for Christopher. While the entire story is told from Christopher’s view, his father is the source of everything within the novel. A man that has done both great and terrible deeds, a figure of both trust and hate within Christopher. The father tried everything he could to hold his family together, and when it fails, the world comes crashing down around him and his son. Fatherly love in this story is definitely not obvious on the surface, but when attempting to fathom the complex plot of this story, the role that the father and his love plays becomes very important. This is a novel, told by a son surrounded in a world of mystery, and a father who decides what passes and what doesn’t.
Coming of Age in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is the story of Christopher John Francis Boone’s adventures as told by him. The protagonist, Christopher, wrote the book as a murder mystery, describing his investigation of the killing of Mrs. Shears’ dog, Wellington. However, as he tells his story, the reader gets a clearer picture of Christopher’s life, learning about his mother and all of the secrets present within his family. Boone has some mental and behavior problems. Throughout the text, he has to struggle with his own issues as he investigates the murder of the poodle and searches for his mother. Through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon presents the themes of coming of age and bravery.Christopher John Francis Boone from Swindon is a unique, yet genuine, honest, and innocent individual. The protagonist clearly has a mental and behavioral disorder, which cause him to have many eccentricities. Some of his behavioral problems include “not talking to people for a long time, not eating or drinking anything for a long time, not liking being touched, screaming when [he is] angry or confused, and not liking yellow things or brown things” (46). When the police officer tried to remove his watch “[he] screamed” (13), a behavior uncharacteristic of a teenager. He “does not like hugging people” (16), even his own parents. It makes him feel uneasy and uncomfortable. These behaviors are not normal for a fifteen-year-old boy. In addition, he never responds to statements, only questions. He “find[s] people confusing” (14) because he has trouble reading people’s facial expressions to understand their emotions. When he does “not know what someone is saying, [he asks] them what they mean or [he walks] away” (3), and odd, but normal behavior to him. He has trouble picking up and understanding his father’s emotions from time to time, tending to only understand himself. When Christopher’s father was “sitting on the sofa watching snooker on the television and drinking scotch, there were tears coming out of his eyes” (21). The protagonist cannot comprehend his father’s distress after picking up his son from the police station. In the end, Christopher decides “to leave him alone because when [he] is sad [he] wants to be left alone” (21). In addition, Boone makes the odd comment that one might think privately to himself, but would never be said aloud. For example, he adds how “Jason at school smells because his family is poor” (38). He is unaware that it is socially wrong for him to make such a comment. Finally, he never tells lies because he claims that he “can’t tell lies” (19), a mindset that most kids unfortunately do not have. Christopher clearly has a disability, but he does not let his disability stand in his way.Just because Christopher has some mental disabilities does not mean he is lacking in intelligence; it is the complete opposite. Christopher notices everything to the last detail, even the “little red hole in the policewoman’s tights on her left ankle and the red scratch in the middle of the hole” (6). He notices minute details that others would not “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” (73), but Christopher does take the time to make these observations. Christopher describes his memory like a film:When people ask me to remember something I can simply press Rewind and Fast Forward and Pause like on a video recorder, but more like a DVD player because I don’t have to Rewind through everything in between to get to a memory of something a long time ago. And there are no buttons, either, because it is happening in my head. (76)The protagonist describes what appears to be a photographic memory like no other. He sees the world slightly differently to others, but creates a creative comparison. However, he claims that he is not clever, and that “[he] just [notices] how things are, and that [is not] clever” (25). In addition, he even has some out of the ordinary talents. For example, he knows “all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,057” (2). Clearly, he is gifted at math and is even preparing to take the math A level exam, which he later receives an “A” grade on. When considering an issue or problem, he always uses logic and mathematics to answer his questions. Christopher comments how “sometimes things are so complicated that it is impossible to predict what they are going to do next, but they are only obeying really simple rules” (102), when discussing how to decipher the population of animals. He comments to his readers how when theta “is greater than 3.57 the population becomes chaotic…proving that people can die for no reason whatsoever, just because that is the way the numbers work” (102). Some things that would appear very complex to the average individual is simple for Christopher, as he uses his mathematics background and logical reasoning to come to conclusions, highlighting his intelligence.Mark Haddon has a coming of age, maturation, theme running through his text. Christopher has to live with his disabilities, and at times, those problems can get in his way. Throughout the text, the protagonist shows a growth in maturity in the sense of becoming more independent and self-sufficient when dealing with his mental and behavioral disabilities. At the start of the text, Christopher has to deal with his idiosyncrasies, especially his fear of having people touch him. Towards the end of the text, when he is with the police officer, he has obviously not conquered his disability, but he recognizes that he has one. He tells the cop, “You mustn’t touch me…because I got a caution for hitting a policeman, but I didn’t mean to hurt him and if I do it again I’ll get into even bigger trouble” (150). He knows that if the policeman grabs him that he will become overwhelmed and would react negatively. Recognizing his weakness, he warns the police officer, a sign of maturity. At the start of the text, Christopher has to rely a great deal on other people, and has much insecurity about talking to others. He admits to himself his insecurities though saying, “It takes me a long time to get used to people I do not know” (35). Recognizing his faults is a large part of handling them more effectively. When he wants to go to London to live with his mother, Christopher takes matters into his own hands, and does not rely on his father for help. Showing independence, he gets himself to London in one piece. In addition, Christopher has a hard time emotionally. He finds it challenging to feel sad. When he tells his readers that his mother is dead, and that Mr. Shears is no longer around, Boone comments how “feeling sad about something that isn’t real and doesn’t exist…would be stupid” (75). However, later, when he finds out that his mother has really been alive for years “[he] feels sick” (112). He was incredibly upset by what his father had done. Christopher is maturing because he is overcoming the disability that is standing in his way. At the end of the text, Christopher has more self-confidence and believes in himself. He comments, “I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington? and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything” (221). Over the course of the text, the protagonist became more independent, gained maturity with his disabilities, and became more self-confident overall. A coming of age theme is clearly prevalent in Haddon’s text. Bravery is another theme in Mark Haddon’s novel. Because Christopher Boone has a disability, many people do not understand him or have patience for him. He is called as “mad as a fucking hatter” (184), and can sometimes be truly alone in the world. Having to rely on only himself requires bravery because it can be difficult. Once he discovered that his father had murdered Wellington, he became worried that his father could murder him. “[He] had to get out of the house” (122) and find a way to get to London by himself, something he had never done before. This would be a challenging task for a normal teenager, let alone someone with special needs. He “had never been anywhere apart from the shop at the end of the road on [his] own” (129), so traveling to London was quite the feat for him. “The thought of going somewhere on [his] own was frightening” to him (129). It required a lot of bravery for him to trek out into the unknown. Christopher described it “like stepping off the cliff on a tightrope” (145), but he just attempted to stay calm, taking “lots of deep breaths” (137), which made it less painful for him. His mother knows what a feat this was for her son, commenting to him, “You’re very brave” (193). He conquers his fears and makes it to London safely, displaying the upmost bravery, a theme prevalent in Haddon’s text. Through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon presents the themes of coming of age and bravery. The story describes Christopher John Francis Boone’s adventures as told by him. The protagonist, Christopher, wrote the book as a murder mystery, describing his investigation of the killing of Mrs. Shears’ dog, Wellington. However, as he tells his story, the reader gets a clearer picture of Christopher’s life, learning about his mother and all of the secrets present within his family. Christopher Boone has some mental and behavior problems. Throughout the text, he has to struggle with his own issues as he investigates the murder of the poodle and searches for his mother. The protagonist overcomes the obstacles in front of him and by the end of the text, realizes that he can do anything if he puts his mind to it – a valuable lesson for any reader.
The Curious Case of Christopher’s “Disability”: Critical and Psychological Perspectives on Haddon’s Novel
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time introduces fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, whose counselor has suggested that he write a book. Christopher’s book is about his quest to find out who murdered his neighbors’ dog; however, while searching for clues about the dog Christopher learns new things about the world, his family, and himself. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is written in first person and with Christopher as the narrator. It is from this perspective that the reader is forced to see the inner works of Christopher’s brain, and how he interprets the world. From this, the reader can begin to process how even, what could be considered the most obvious signs that Christopher is disabled, are really just logical thoughts, and adaptive language skills. This essay argues that through it’s simple plot, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time manages to show the reader the ways in which a disability places social constraints on people who have disabilities. Through Christopher’s seemingly easy quest to discover who killed his next door neighbors dog, he is able to demonstrate the social confines of disability and its factitious standards.
Sarah Ray argues that Christopher can’t be described as disabled nor abled, because it is not explicitly said which raises the possibility “that disability is in the eye of the reader not the character himself” (Ray, 2). She also goes on to argue that the novel shows the reader some of the ways that disability is a social construct. Shannon Wooden, however, urges that Christopher has Autism and the novel suggest the readers task is to figure out where he lies on the Disability Spectrum. Sarah Ray and Shannon Wooden both seek to prove confirmations about Christopher’s alleged “disability” throughout their journal articles.
Within the first five pages of the novel we learn from our narrator, “This is a murder mystery novel,” (Haddon, 4 ) and that all that this story is meant to be. It is from this statement that the author is directly telling the reader what the novel is and what it will be about. Even with these direct confirmation about the novels plot Wooden still believe the novel is “more complicated” because Christopher’s “quest plot carries the additional weight of Christopher’s obvious, clearly demarcated, but unnamed, special needs.”(Wooden 278,279). Shannon R. Wooden is direct proof of the ways in which a disability places social constraints on people who have disabilities. Her article raises the question of what makes it obvious that Christopher has specials needs ? This question is constantly suggested through Christopher’s memorable way of viewing the world. The novel challenges this question by logically explaining every unconventional tick that Christopher thinks of. For example, Christopher’s special education teacher explained to him how unusual it is to write a murder mystery about a dog. To counter this thought Christopher made the sound reasoning that he likes dogs, he wants to write about something that really happened to him, and that he doesn’t know any people who have been murdered. All these make sense and are logical so why is it seen as unusual. Christopher’s idea of him writing a novel about a dog is discouraged because it runs the risk of drawing attention to his disability, which in accordance to Wooden, is a weight. This demonstrates the bounds that we, as humans, put on one another, especially on those seen as different or assumed to be disabled.
Additionally, besides the fact that Christopher has a special education teacher, there is no other reliable sign that Christopher has a disability. Never in the novel does it directly say that Christopher has disability, there are only suggestions and certain qualities in Christopher that would indicate that he is disabled. Sarah Ray proposes that “By never explicitly diagnosing Christopher, author Mark Haddon suggests a disability studies perspective from the outset:the “medical model” of disability is not central to Christopher’s own experience of the world.” (Ray 2) This further emphasizes that those who deem themselves as “able” are also the same as those who deem others as “disabled”. Even without confirmations of Christopher’s health, certain aspects that the reader picks up on, allow the reader to label him and place social constraints of their perceptions of his abilities.
Both Ray and Wooden surround the entirety of their articles around the concept of Christopher’s disability and how to prove if he has one or not. Disability was never introduced in the novel so how did it become a subject of discussion throughout researchers. Disability is in the eye of the reader, like how in society disability is in the eye of the beholder. Ray notes that disability is a social construct by exploring the idea of disability not being located in the individual, but instead “located in the contingent relationship between the individual and social expectations behavior and productivity.”(Ray 2) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time exemplifies this by making the novel from Christopher’s perspective. Never in the novel did Christopher describe himself as disabled although many readers label Christopher as disabled, and believe that the novel is about his disability because he may do things out of the norm, think things through using only logic, not liking to be touched, or because it takes him longer to comprehend certain thing.
Language is a huge theme in the novel and perhaps the strongest hint at Christopher’s alleged disability. On page 7, Christopher, when in conversation with the policeman, answers all of the questions literally. Reading that the cop was left confused, Haddon allows the reader to see how people react to Christopher, but reverts the readers “he must be disabled” theory by putting the whole scene in Christopher’s point of view. To the outside Christopher’s language may appear as strange, but to Christopher it is logical. It is the readers assumption and forced constraint on Christopher that he must speak differently to others because he may have a disability. Christopher answered the police officers answer correctly and honestly, why should the cop be thrown off. Wooden introduces the idea that because of Christopher’s distinct and logical language he hints to the reader that he is challenged. Wooden states, “While Christopher gives concrete facts and a detailed accounting of his thought processes , he also unwittingly reveals information about his behavioral challenges and the dysfunction of his family.” (Wooden 280) But, in chapter 79 Christopher’s father very specifically tells him things he’s not allowed to do namely, go around asking people about the dog, and anything involving “this ridiculous bloody detective game” (Haddon 23), Christopher does exactly that. Christopher uses language as directly as he can, and he even picks up on the complications society puts on language yet chooses to ignore them simple because he enjoys simplistic language. It is in the chapter that Christopher acknowledges that he understand he father wants to leave the whole Dog incident alone, yet because he only told Christopher to do not do those three things he will listen and act accordingly. This correlates with Ray beliefs Christopher having “a more ethical mode of being in the nonhuman world”.(Ray 5) Christopher says that all the other students at his school are stupid. “He knows he shouldn’t call them stupid: it’s better to say they have learning disabilities.” Christopher is a faster learner in maths then his classmates, but just because the need more time to understand math doesn’t mean they are disabled. Similarly, just because it may take Christopher more time to understand a joke this doesn’t he can be labeled disabled. With today’s “disabled logic” everyone in the world would technically have learning disabilities because we all learn at different paces, we all are faster then someone, yet slower then another.
Humans all handle things differently then one another, because one does something differently then the majority doesn’t mean they should be labeled abnormal. The definition of normal is artificial, and has made up rules, just as disability does. Ray acknowledges that society is abnormal in some of its ideals so why when some choices to do different are they considers abnormal. She states “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” destabilizes dominant notions of normalcy. It paradoxically shows us how normal Christopher is, and, though Christopher’s perspective, how silly societies ideas of normalcy”. In chapter 29 Christopher explains why people confuse him. He explains how Siobhan told him that “if you close your mouth and breathe out loudly through your nose it can mean that you are relaxed, or that you are bored, or that you are angry and it all depends on how much air comes out of your nose and how fast and what shape your mouth is in when you do it and how you are sitting and what you said just before and hundreds of other things which are too complicated to work out in a few seconds” (Haddon, 15 ). If we think about this logically, determining someones mood from how much air comes out somebodies nose is quite confusing and actually very unnatural. However Wooden states that it is because he can pick up on the abnormal the “very early, we discover something is “wrong” with Christopher and however else we read from that moment forward, we are also reading his story with an eye to diagnosing him”( Wooden 283)
Many points of the novel that may suggest Christopher’s disability are unreasoned. Reviewing Ray’s many arguments on normalcy and how its constructs correlate with disability, and disproving Wooden’s beliefs of the many symbols in the novel that confirm Christopher alleged disability, allowed me to witness how people with disabilities are restricted. One of the major confines people put on with disability, is this almost obsession and constant focus on, to them, perhaps a minuscule aspect of their life. To Christopher is was such a small aspect he didn’t bother to mention weather he had a disability or not. To the reader some may feel short changed because it is never said or confirmed weather Christopher is disabled, but this arises the question of why should it matter? Instead Haddon chooses to release Christopher of any constraints people have put on him by concluding the novel with Christopher receiving the best possible score on his exam, successfully travel to London on his own, and solving the mystery of who killed the dog in the night-time.
Wooden, Shannon R. “Narrative Medicine in the Literature Classroom: Ethical Pedagogy and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Literature and Medicine 29.2 (2011): 274-96. Web.
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. New York:Vintage, 2004. Print.
Ray, Sarah Jaquette. “Normalcy, Knowledge, and Nature in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” DSQ Disability Studies Quarterly 33.3 (2013): 1-12. Web.