Dog and Nighttime Mark Haddon's the Curious Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1734 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children

Dog and Nighttime

Mark Haddon's the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a particularly unique glimpse into the mind of an autistic child. Largely, the book is successful because the disorder is described through the eyes of a character who suffers from it. Haddon's use of language, pictures, and problems to fully illustrate the autistic frame of mind is exceptionally compelling because it achieves more than a mere diagnosis or listing of symptoms could ever do: the genuine experience of being exposed to a child with autism is revealed within his writing. Undoubtedly, Christopher Boone represents a reasonably functional autistic child, and his actions are necessarily driven by the plot of the story. In many ways, Christopher can be looked at as the ideal patient suffering from autism; his social skills are not completely hindered, and his thought processes are fairly easily conveyed. Although Christopher may be, chiefly, a creation of fiction, his parents, and the manner by which they interact both with him and each other is perhaps the most authentic aspect of the novel. Overall, Haddon's book is accurate, not for the idea that an autistic child could compile a cohesive book, but because it helps to convey the thoughts and emotions that define what it is to be autistic.

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Autism is, in short, a mystery. Although there are many theories upon its origins and symptoms that can be recognized it lacks the direct cause and effect correlations indicative of other disorders. Currently, the pervasive theory holds that autism is, in some way, related to one's immune system. "Researchers have found evidence that the brains of some people with autism show clear signs of inflammation, suggesting that the disease may be associated with activation of the brain's immune system." Despite these speculations, the evidence is not yet conclusive. Consequently, autism is usually defined along diagnostic parameters; these parameters are necessarily dependent upon behavioral characteristics rather than any outward or physical hints of the disorder. The major symptoms are as follows:

Term Paper on Dog and Nighttime Mark Haddon's the Curious Assignment

Difficulty using nonverbal behaviors to regulate social interaction; failure to develop age-appropriate peer relationships; little sharing of pleasure, achievements or interests with others; lack of social or emotional reciprocity; delay in or total lack of development of language; difficulty holding conversations; unusual or repetitive language; play that is not appropriate for developmental level; interests that are narrow in focus, overly intense and/or unusual; unusual insistence on sameness and following familiar routines; repetitive motor mannerisms; and preoccupation with parts of objects."

Obviously, not every child is going to exhibit all of these symptoms. In fact, merely six of them are required for a diagnosis of autism. If the number is only six, the child is usually considered to suffer from high-functioning autism. High-functioning autism is normally associated with children who exhibit relatively normal thinking and language skills. This form of autism is, presumably, what Haddon hopes to portray in his novel. This list of symptoms will be utilized as a model to evaluate Haddon's success regarding Christopher Boone.

The first symptom regards the child's difficulty recognizing nonverbal communication. Haddon's character almost explicitly states this as one of his problems. He writes, "I find people confusing. This is for two main reasons. The first main reason is that people do a lot of talking without using any words.... The second main reason is that people often talk using metaphors." These illustrate Christopher's central difficulties concerning communication with others. Consequently, he admittedly experiences the first symptom indicative of autism.

Christopher also seems to fit the diagnosis of a child with autism with regard to the second symptom. Throughout the novel, his closest friend appears to be Siobhan, who we are later informed, is his teacher. In fact, he mentions the extent to which the other children tease him and yell "special needs!" At in his direction. Consequently, Christopher feels that he needs to prove his intelligence to the other children; this is his driving force behind achievement in mathematics, and it also reveals his relative inability to fully grasp the full nature of their teasing. "Teasing requires the ability to understand intention, non-literal communication, pretense, and social context. Children with autism experience difficulty with such skills, and consequently, are expected to have difficulty with teasing." Essentially, Christopher is depicted as experiencing the first and second symptoms of autism, and they are necessarily correlated with one another.

The third characteristic of an autistic child, however, does not seem to accurately fit Christopher Boone. Clearly, he is capable of communicating his interests with his father -- who he informs of his intent to investigate the murder of the dog -- and the act of writing a book suggests that he is able to express his motivations with some level of clarity. Doubtlessly, this was a requirement for Haddon's character; otherwise, producing a powerful and enlightening novel would have been nearly impossible.

Christopher makes a list of his behavioral problems and recognition of others' emotions is clearly present. Two of his confessed problems are, "Not noticing when other people are angry with me," and, "Saying things that other people think are rude." This mimics one of the central warnings of childhood autism. Thus, Haddon is successful in bringing his character one step closer to a fully accurate portrayal of the disorder.

Still, Haddon needs to create a high-functioning autistic character for his novel to be successful. Accordingly, it would be impossible for him to display an inability to hold conversations, or a lack of development language. In this regard, Christopher is almost fully functional. Still, the authenticity of Haddon's character is made evident by the type of language demonstrated in Christopher's writing. Haddon makes use of repetitive wording whenever possible. Christopher's repeated reference to "good days" and "black days" reveals both his preoccupancy with the notion of good and bad days, and his inability to elaborate upon such a concept once an adequate definition has been arrived at. As a result, his language is repetitive, though it remains fairly descriptive.

Of the remaining symptoms from the list, the two that appear to fit Christopher most accurately include: having interests that are narrow in focus; and having a preoccupancy with sameness and routines. The first is the most apparent characteristic illustrated by the book. After all, an insistence upon solving the murder of a neighboring dog in a Sherlock Holmes style is by no means ordinary; and the vigor with which Christopher immerses himself within the investigation could easily be termed an obsession. This is, perhaps, the most prevalent aspect of Christopher's character that would suggest to doctors that he is, perhaps, autistic.

Additionally, Christopher insists upon sameness of routines to some extent, but more importantly, upon the sameness of his own surroundings. Explains this problem, "This is why I don't like new places. If I am in a place I know, like home, or school, or the bus, or the shop, or the street, I have seen almost everything in it beforehand and all I have to do is to look at the things that have changed or moved." Essentially, this poses a problem for Christopher because he "sees everything." The fact that he notices every menial detail concerning his surroundings makes it difficult for him to function when he is surrounded by an infinite number of unexplored details. Although, this is one of Christopher's key problems, it is somewhat overcome through the plot of the story. Christopher travels to London, alone, to find his mother. This aspect of the story is, perhaps, the most questionable with regard to accuracy. Christopher is ultimately unsuccessful in navigating his way through the city, but the limited success he does display is likely to be far more than most individuals suffering from high-functioning autism would be capable of. In this way, Haddon seems to bend the rules of autism, and specifically, Christopher's symptoms. Nevertheless, it is skillfully done and undeniably essential to the plot of the story.

On the whole, Christopher is as close to an accurate depiction of an autistic child as could be hoped for in fiction; he admittedly suffers from six of the ascribed symptoms, although the last, he partially overcomes. Yet, the feature of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time that is most gripping, and is likely to be the most truthful, is Haddon's interpretation of the inter-familial relationships within an autistic household. The toll the disorder takes on the Boone's stands as the foundation for the action, and is the backdrop for the mental interpretations of Christopher's thought. Annoyance and outright intolerance of an autistic child's habits is extremely common, though not readily admitted to. With reference to the increased preoccupation autistic children exhibit concerning certain activities, "Fifty-seven percent of parents said that they had tried to control or curtail their child's special interest, usually by reducing access to it of placing limits upon the circumstances and the length of time it could be discussed." This represents the intolerance and impatience parents can sometimes have for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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