With Holmes in Mind: Christopher’s Extended Allusion
Living in a world surrounded by people whom function in a different way could cause one to feel left out, but finding another person, fiction or non-fiction that shares similar characteristics can help solve that issue. In Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Christopher decides to write a mystery novel while trying to solve the mystery of his mom and the death of Wellington. While writing the story, he explains his love of Sherlock Holmes and their many compatible qualities. Though Christopher can be viewed as having unique characteristics, he finds comfort in comparing his individual traits with those of the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Holmes and Christopher share similar thinking patterns, personality traits, and social skills that set them apart from the average crowd.
Throughout the novel, Haddon adds different moments that help the reader understand the way Christopher thinks. The way he processes events in his life is different than the average person. Also, the way he approaches a situation is unique to him. He goes around the situation, figuring out everything about the things involved and then deals with the problem. This is similar to Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock uses his brain in a different way than his assistant Dr. Watson. Holmes deals with circumstances similar to Christopher where he takes in all the information he can before he comes to a conclusion.
Christopher states that his “memory is like a film” and that he can “simply press Rewind and Fast Forward and Pause like on a video recorder” when he wants to remember something (76). He does not understand the use of metaphors and is unable to comprehend the topic of supernatural. He states “Sherlock Holmes doesn’t believe in the supernatural, which is God and fairy tales and Hounds of Hell and curses, which are stupid” (74). He relates to Sherlock on this level because neither of them can believe that there is something that can exist but can’t be explained or physically seen. Christopher then mentions a time when Watson was talking about Holmes and he states, “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” to where Christopher comments that Sherlock “notices them, like [he] does” (73). Christopher can relate to Sherlock because he can understand why Sherlock thinks the way he does better than he can understand the average person and how they comprehend different things. Sherlock Holmes has a famous quote where he compares the human brain to an attic. He states that “a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and [one has] to stock it with such furniture as [they] choose” (A Study in Scarlet). He then says that “the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic” to which he is referring to himself and other intelligent people (A Study in Scarlet). This comparison to the brain is very similar to Christopher. Christopher and Sherlock both take the time to analyze how their brains work in comparison to other people, where Christopher’s is like a VCR, Sherlock’s is like an attic. Christopher at one point states that he “had to be like Sherlock Holmes and … detach [his] mind at will to a remarkable degree” (132). This showing how Sherlock thinks and how Christopher is referencing him at a tough time to help him through a situation. They appear to approach a situation in the same way.
One major thing about both Christopher and Sherlock Holmes is their distinct personality. Sherlock Holmes is known for his narcissistic personality where Christopher is very similar to that. Both believe that they are very smart to a point where they are almost smarter than the people that surround them. Christopher is very reserved and does not enjoy talking to strangers. Part of his growth through out the book is his confidence talking to strangers. Where Sherlock Holmes is a very conceited person and people find it hard to be around him due to his attitude toward them. Both share similar personality traits, which help Christopher to find Sherlock a relatable character.
Christopher starts his story with “my name is Christopher John Francis Boon. I know all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number to 7057” (2). This quote shows the personality of Christopher and the immense amount of information he knows. He states that he is going to “prove that [he is] not stupid” (44). He wants to prove to the people who don’t believe in him that he can do anything he puts his mind to. He is very confident in the way he talks about his intelligence. Though confident, Christopher is very shy around strangers. He “[does] not like strangers because [he does] not like people [he has] never met before” (34). Before his adventure to London, he had never been in a situation that required him to talk to strangers. This combination of confidence and shyness is what creates the personality of Christopher similar to the personality of Sherlock Holmes.
In one of the many stories containing Sherlock Holmes he states, “my name is Sherlock Holmes…it is my business to know what other people don’t know” (The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle). He, similar to Christopher, states what he wants people to know about him. By Sherlock stating this, he is openly showing his confident, narcissistic personality. Watson claims, “this (Sherlock Holmes) fellow may be very clever… but he is certainly very conceited” (A Study in Scarlet). Sherlock always attempted to make a point to prove that he was smart. This being similar to what Christopher wanted to do. Christopher wanted to prove his intelligence similar to the way Holmes does. Sherlock Holmes, parallel to Christopher, is not an adherent people person. He enjoys his alone time and is not ashamed to state it.
Christopher and Sherlock Holmes share similar social skills when it comes to having empathy or communicating with other people. Christopher and Sherlock both enjoy being alone and neither shows empathy toward any situation. Christopher struggles to pick up on people’s emotions and doesn’t know how to react when someone is feeling sad or angry. Sherlock Holmes deals with death on a daily basis and has yet to discover the correct way to react in that type of situation. Both do not enjoy the act of talking to strangers and try to avoid it best they can.
Christopher picks up on the fact that he is different from the people around him. He understands that he is able to comprehend things in a unique way and knowing this, he does not like the fact that he is alone in that sense. At one point in the story he talks about how he wished that “eventually there [would be] no one left in the world except people who don’t look at other people’s faces… and these people are all special people like [him]. And they like being on their own” (199). Christopher states that he would like this because he is unable to clearly pick out what emotion a person is feeling. It would be easier for him if the people around him were the same way and he didn’t have to worry about trying to figure it out. There is a point in the story where Christopher’s mom is crying and says “she made a loud wailing noise like an animal on a nature program on television. I didn’t like her doing this because it was a loud noise, and I said ‘ why are you doing that’” (193). This incident is just one pertaining Christopher and his lack of empathy. Instead of comforting his mother, he tells her to stop: this being very similar to Sherlock and how he handles different situations.
Sherlock Holmes is very similar to Christopher when it comes to social skills. Sherlock enjoys living alone and states that when he says “alone is what I have…alone protects me” (Sherlock TV). He too feels that it is hard to be around people who are not like him. In his case, the people he is with don’t move as fast as he does. His brain figures things out at a more rapid pace than those around him. He goes on to make fun of this by saying “dear god, what is it like in your funny little brain… it must be so boring” (A Study in Pink). He understands that other people are not as intellectually gifted as he is but he has a hard time slowing down for them to catch up. He, similar to Christopher, does not show empathy. He often says what comes to his head and does not use a filter or think about what he is saying before. Because of this, the people he works with are always skeptical of having him around. His coworkers are often annoyed to have him on a case due to the way he treats them. This similar to Christopher who says that if he doesn’t understand something he will either “ask them what they mean or [he] walk[s] away” (3). Showing how difficult it would be to world with either of them.
At the end of the story, the reader might look back on Christopher and not understand why he chose to bring Sherlock Holmes into the story. It seems though that with out Sherlock in the story, the reader might not understand why he chose to write his story as a mystery. He had said that he ‘like[s] Sherlock Holmes and [he] think[s] that if [he] were a proper detective he (Sherlock Holmes) is the kind of detective [he] would be” (73). Sherlock adds to Christopher’s personality and helps to expose more of what he enjoys. Sherlock was an example to Christopher that one with similar characteristics to him can still be successful and do what he wants. It gives Christopher motivation to become an astronaut and travel to London on his own. The comparison between Christopher and Sherlock helps show the reader that Christopher is capable of more than what has access to at the beginning of the book. It helps build sympathy and hope for Christopher to grow up and do what he loves, not letting any type of disability hold him back.
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