Re: BAHAHA THE UNRELIABLE NARRATOR!!
Yeah, I think one of the things that's going on in the story is that Mark Haddon is playing around with our perceptions about people with autism. And one way he's doing that is by presenting Christopher as too "different" to be as untrustworthy as we are. But that doesn't seem to me at all the case. He's got to be a little sneakier about it because he apparantly has certain mental blocks, but he's no more an arbiter of the plain truth than, say, Holden Caulfield.
The other way it strikes me that Haddon might be skewing our perceptions -- then again, maybe he's not -- is by playing on the hoary old trope of the wise fool. Fortunately no one here has really made that jump, but it seems to me that he's inviting us into the trap of thinking that Christopher is spouting profound knowledge when he talks generalities about life, math, science, and so on. More often than not, it seems to me that his digressions on, say, the human mind, are a kind of defensive retreat.
Pay attention to where these digressions turn up. It seems to me that they'll often show up in a new chapter directly after a chapter that has ended on an dramatic high-point. For example, Chapter 97 features a pretty upsetting revelation; we may have seen it coming, but Christopher hasn't. Still, he shows no emotional affect. The chapter that follows is 101, in which Chris discusses the complexity of math, illustrating it with The Monty Hall Problem. This has almost nothing to do with the revelation of the previous chapter, even if it's germaine to Christopher's characterization. But it seems to me that the best explanation for this digression appearing where it does is that Christopher, as our narrator, needs to back away from the information that he's just received. So he retreats into a more comfortable world.
I'm almost tempted to say that there's a bit of social critique here. But for the moment, I'd rather speculate on the nature of autism. Because one thing that I'm picking up about Christopher as I read -- and if Christopher is based on Haddon's experience working with autistic individuals, then it may be true of actual people with autism -- is that he filters the world around us, that he latches on to our preoccupations as a culture.
For instance, in chapter 131, Christopher lists wood as one of the things that justifies his dislike of the color brown: "because people used to make machines and vehicles out of wood, but they don't anymore because wood breaks and goes rotten and has worms in it sometimes, and now people make machines and vehicles out of metal and plastic, which are much better and more modern".
In saying so, he's taken fairly practical considerations and elevated them beyond any reproach or critique. Moreover, he's made them part of an intense phobia.
I'm starting to go on and on, so I'll stop here. I hope this train of thought sparks some comment.