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Critical Review

1010 words - 5 pages

In the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon develops a story in which the narrator, fifteen year old Christopher, undergoes a series of unlikely events in order to discover the truth of his pasts and develop into a more independent person. It is more or less a typical coming-of-age story, with one twist: Christopher has autism, which affects his perception of any situation that he finds himself in and his relationships with others, particularly his mother and father. Christopher is a mathematical genius (knowing by heart each prime number up to 7,057) and is able to comprehend logic and numbers beyond that of a typical person; however, he is unable to understand the emotions of others or the tone of any situation and therefore is hindered due to his fear of unknown circumstances. Haddon’s simplistic and selectively descriptive writing style mimics Christopher’s own personality, and while he is able to encase the perception of an autistic boy in the narration, the story -- which follows Christopher as he first tries to solve the mystery of a dead dog, and evolves into his search for his supposedly dead mother -- is unrealistic. This novel’s strength lies in Mark Haddon’s ability to genuinely depict the mind of an autistic teenage boy; the subject matter, however, is lacking and its capriciousness draws attention away from the story.
The most remarkable technique that Haddon is able to utilize in this story is his complete immersement into Christopher’s character. The first person narration is unique and truly encaptures that of an autistic young boy; this characterization is able to carry the entire novel even throughout its randomness. Every aspect of the book is catered to the development of Christopher’s unique personality: the organization of the novel, for example, is based on Christopher’s fascination with prime numbers -- the chapters are numbered accordingly. Furthermore, the chapters themselves are heavily based on complex descriptions of the world as Christopher perceives it: his character is consistent throughout the novel in that his autism renders him incapable of common affection even in his thoughts and he is able to retain details that would go unnoticed by others while missing details that are understood by the reader simply due to context. In example, the introducing scene of the novel explains how Christopher is caught by his neighbor, Mrs. Shears, in her backyard, holding a dead and bleeding dog. Christopher is unable to understand her anger, and while the audience understands her perspective and how the situation appears outwardly, Christopher does not. In more explicit instances, such as when Christopher states “this is a murder mystery novel,” he is additionally characterized: he does not attempt to use implicit language, irony, or make jokes as, he explains himself, he cannot understand them. Christopher’s narration contributes heavily to the novel as a whole, influencing its style,...

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