Curious Incident: Pages 45 - 88
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Author:  Chris OConnor [ Thu Jan 26, 2006 10:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Curious Incident: Pages 45 - 88

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Pages 45 - 88 ) ::145

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 1/26/06 10:12 pm

Author:  Dissident Heart [ Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Christopher's Imagination

Christopher offers a slice of his imagination by sharing his dream of becoming an astronaut. I am puzzled at how he is able to provide such a lucid account of such imagining, considering he makes it clear he is writing this book the way he is, in the first person, and why he started with the dog, "because it happened to me, and I find it hard to imagine things which did not happen to me." (p.5)

Considering the strict parameters of his logical orderliness, this kind of extrapolation outwards into a future that hasn't happened yet, is interesting. Likewise, I am not sure how he is able to develop the notion of a Dream Come True. (p.51) It seems that this phrase and its relation to a non-existent personal experience (having never happened), is too close to the kind of metaphoric language he rejects early on in the book. Similarly, his use of the term "stroke of inspiration" (p.42) sounds deeply metaphorical too. Perhaps our Author is unable to consistently follow the restrictions he has created for Christopher's mind?

I'm also interested in his passion to prove that he is not stupid, and his vision of getting accepted to a University, then get a job, make money, and find a wife who will take care of him and save him from loneliness. It seems to conflict with his Dream Come True of being an astronaut alone in outerspace, with Toby his pet rat.

In any case, Christopher is proving to be a complex character inside and out. He is willing to hold secrets from his father and tell white lies too. His description of a white lie (simply with-holding some of the truth of an event or action) and his comfort with telling them; sounds similar to his discomfort with how people often tell him what not to do, leaving out the specifics, and confusing him by not clarifying when to stop following their instructions.

Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 2/6/06 11:38 pm

Author:  Chris OConnor [ Tue Feb 07, 2006 12:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Christopher's Imagination

Perhaps our Author is unable to consistently follow the restrictions he has created for Christopher's mind?

::171 I think you're right. And good work finding those slips by the author. I missed them myself.

Author:  MadArchitect [ Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Christopher's Imagination

Dissident Heart: Christopher offers a slice of his imagination by sharing his dream of becoming an astronaut. I am puzzled at how he is able to provide such a lucid account of such imagining, considering he makes it clear he is writing this book the way he is...

I wondered about that, too. Specifically, he says that other people have images in their head which are not strictly memory, but that he only has memory. But in nearby chapters he talks about imagining himself to be exploring sulfer chimneys or manning a space flight.

Perhaps our Author is unable to consistently follow the restrictions he has created for Christopher's mind?

I thought that might be the case, but having given it a little thought, I'm more inclined to the answer that Christopher isn't as consistent as he'd like to be. Throughout the book he's presented a number of behavioral rules, and found exceptions for just about all of them. He can't lie, but he can tell white lies. He never breaks a promise, but he's pretty aware that, no matter how careful he's being to keep to his actual promise, he's really going against his promise in his conversation with Mrs. Alexander. And I can't really imagine that Haddon could have written these chapters -- the ones in which Christopher eschews imagination and then turns right around and gives examples of them -- could fail to notice the inconsistency. It seems likely to me that it's intentional. It's tempting to take Christopher at his word, but I think Haddon, who has worked with autistic children, is being sly about hinting that our narrator isn't entirely trustworthy.

Author:  Jade [ Wed Feb 08, 2006 11:42 am ]

I know this one! I don't know much but I know a re-freaking-diculous amount about the unreliable narrator!!!

Christopher is only 15. Even if he were a normal 15 year old (if such things exist) he would still only have the perceptions of a 15 year old.

We are, quite naturally, inclined to trust our narrator.
This particular narrator is incredibly interesting because of his particular nature, his obsesssion with fact, and his (apparent) ability to view a situation without bias.

But what is it that we really know is true?

Author:  MadArchitect [ Wed Feb 08, 2006 7:54 pm ]

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.

Author:  Dissident Heart [ Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Chaos, Absurd Logic, and Manic Control

I'm finding myself wanting Christopher to be free of malice or deceit, not exactly the wise fool that MA refers to...but a simple saint.

"His autism protects him from the kinds of character flaws and vices the rest of us struggle with" is the narrative I have seeping into my reading. I think Caulfield is helping this along with the constant reminder that Christopher does not lie, always keeps promises, expects perfect justice, cannot imagine what is not real, etc..

Christopher is filled with ridiculous notions of meaning and importance: five red cars = very good day; three yellow cars = black day, etc.. This, I think, is Caulfield's way of challenging us to confront the absurdities we cling to, trying to hold our worlds together. Our lives, like Christopher's, are filled with nonsensical rules that provide little more than comfort and safety.

We will settle for absurd order if it can save us from chaos. And Christopher is terrified of chaos; thus his obsession with logical order and manic control. Perhaps autism (leaving aside any grey-matter malfunctions) is what happens to those souls too sensitive for the chaotic mess of existence?

Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 2/9/06 3:53 pm

Author:  Jade [ Sat Feb 11, 2006 2:25 pm ]
Post subject:  re:

I can see the whole 'free from our misperceptions' like with the believing in God thing... But personally? Christopher freaks me out.

I'll get back to that, when we get to a later chapter.

Author:  MadArchitect [ Sat Feb 11, 2006 5:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: re:

Heh, freaks you out? Looking forward to hearing about that.

Author:  Dissident Heart [ Tue Feb 14, 2006 4:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Memory

"My memory is like a film...." Says Christopher, utilizing a simile but launching into full blown metaphor as he describes his mind recording, rewinding, fast fowarding, searching, pausing, without the buttons of course, "because it is happening in my head."

Christopher says he uses this process when asked to recall persons or events, or when he needs to act in difficult situations. His memory simply searches, finds the needed data, and he is equipped with the right information with which to decide what to think or do next.

He asserts his memory is different from other people, who also have "pictures in their heads"; but, unlike them, all of his pictures are of things "which really happened." While others carry make believe, imagined, unreal images that have never existed.

His examples are interesting: they are people close to him who use their minds to yearn for something different in life; loved ones who are unhappy applying their imaginations to develop scenarios that might alleviate their miseries.

Christopher is void of longing, unable to wish or dream or fantasize for something better. This seems in direct contradiction to his desire to become an astronaut; or his claim that people can want things even if they can't come true.

I think there is something to MA's insight regarding Chritopher's defensive retreat mode. And I think a telling component to this is how Christopher answers the questions, "What would you want to say to your mother if she was here now?" or "What would your mother think about that?" His response: this is stupid because Mother is dead and you can't say anything to people who are dead and dead people can't think.

The questions aren't directed at Mother post-mortem, but Mother while living. Christopher should be able to simply extrapolate from his memories of how she responded to similar situations, questions, etc. and draw logical conclusions as to how she would act presently.

Perhaps it hurts too much.

Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 2/14/06 4:14 pm

Author:  ADO15 [ Fri Feb 17, 2006 9:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Memory

I think I can clear up some of these 'inconsistencies'. Both highlighted invovle a particular phrase. There is a process commen to many autists whereby they will store phrases, and play them back at a plausible point. You can believe you have engaged in a conversation, then come away and realise that the person has not used their own words, but picked up on phrases, and played them back in.

This also touches on Jade's point, which is very pertinent, about the reliability of the narrator. This is a particular issue, especially when you are hearing the story from, say, Holden Caulfield, when you need to measure each sentence against the clues you have picked up from the rest of the text.

So what we have in a lot of modern literature, from Tristram Shandy onwards, is a consistently unreliable narrator.

But what Christopher represents is a different challenge to the reader, in that we cannot be sure that the words and phrases he uses mean the same (or even anything) to him, as they do to us. And there is no gauge to measure this by, rendering us at points as confused as Christopher, knowing that something is going on, but neither precisely what that is, nor its import.

MA hits another excellent point when he highlights the switch to a digression immediately after a crucial point which Christopher appears ostensibly to have overlooked.

What we may be experiencing is a coping strategy in operation, by which Christopher allows his brain to assimilate information received before moving on, through the rehearsal of pleasurable activity like mathematics.


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