Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

14Jun07

How would you feel if all the natural sights and sounds of your external world become mysterious and overloaded for your little mind to decipher? Or your skin feels a pang of irritation when a loved one tries to hug you? Or you are not sure if you have to feel happy or sad when your teacher tells you have passed an exam? This, in short, is the world of Autism.

Mark Haddon, in his award-winning debut The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, introduces us to the mind of an autistic child, through his protagonist Christopher Boone – a 15 year old autistic child. For Christopher, the world outside is full of chaos and symbols that convey special meanings.

He studies in a school for Children with Special Needs where his teacher Siobhan teaches him how to understand the world, the facial expressions of people with cartoons and drawings. Christopher is good at maths, doesn’t like the colors yellow and brown, and cannot stand if someone touches him. His parents have a unique method of hugging him – they spread their hands like a fan and let him touch their fingertips.

The story begins when Christopher finds a neighborhood dog killed and decides to find out who killed the dog and write a book about it. Driven by his favorite book The Hound of the Baskervilles he begins assimilating clues and deciphering them. His unique, emotionless mind is so disconnected from the world we are used to, that he can only think one way – Logical.

I was frightened in two ways. And one way was being far away from a place I was used to, and the other was being frightened of being near where father lived… and they were in inverse proportion… so that the total fear remained constant as I got farther away from home and further away from father…

He doesn’t understand what a friendship or marriage is – except how the dictionary describes them – and would do whatever it takes to find who killed the dog; and in the process pushes himself into an adventure that would reveal secrets of his own life and that of his parents.

Haddon’s experience in working with autistic children has certainly enabled him capture the innermost thoughts of the child very lucidly. Right through the story one can find Christopher at once both frightened and perseverant – typical of an autistic child. He studies simple things around him – like the railway map, roadside hoardings, food menu, people using an ATM, their facial expressions – and uses maths to identify patterns that could help him understand the world around him. He relates people’s faces to the drawings Siobhan shows him in school and tries to understand when a person is happy or sad.

And this is how I recognize someone if I don’t know who they are… I do a Search through my memories to see if I have met him before… If people say things which don’t make sense like “See you later alligator”, I do a Search and see if I have heard someone say this before.
And with these patterns he embarks on a journey that would change his life forever.

Haddon uses simple sentences to narrate the entire story – a book of 272 pages, double spaced, with drawings and patterns interspersed, one you can finish reading in one sitting; making you feel as if it were actually written by Christopher Boone himself. Every little thought expressed gives you an insight into how an autistic mind thinks, which is both educative and shockingly revealing. It is often the lack of knowledge that hinders the natural existence of a person with autism. We are so used to the natural rhythms of our sensory impulses, that an understanding of this rare other side is sure to make you feel empathic towards those suffering from autism.

The story makes you genuinely feel for the child, be it his autistic inhibitions or his sense of unbelievable perseverance. And by the time you read his last lines, you are bound to be taken over by a gush of emotions to give the little kid a tight hug. Or, just spread your hands like a fan and let him touch your fingertips.

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8 Responses to “Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

  1. 1 shub

    Liked the book too. And lovely review :) Specially the last paragraph.

  2. :-( My skin always irritates when someone hugs me…

  3. 3 Jax

    Picked up his next book last night for reading…

  4. 4 Holly

    I absolutly loved this book…

  5. 5 don

    what does the word “skip” mean?

  6. 6 jjjonsie

    i love the review! best one i have found!


  1. 1 Brandon Colker
  2. 2 Joe Olujic

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