The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Vintage, 2004

Read from May 18th to 22nd, 2013

My rating: 3/5 stars


It suddenly hit me: postmodernism is kinda, autistic-like, literature. It mixes styles (literary, scientific, advertising, journalistic, etc.), it uses images to enforce ideas, it blurs the line between imaginary and reality, it gently parodies other literary works, it questions the reliability of the narrator… It is apparently so messed-up that it always amazes us how it seems to find its way in the end Rigolant.

This is mainly to explain why I don’t care much about the medical condition of the narrator, which provoked many a reaction from some readers that vehemently contested the accuracy of the hero's behaviour. Autistic spectrum disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, whatever, why should I care whether Christopher’s disability falls into a certain medical category or not? The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is not a medical book, or a guide for parents with autistic children, and shouldn’t be judged as one. The story is simply about a boy whose perception of the world is different from ours, and maybe the postmodern approach (intended as a joke) could be a key of lecture for a book that develops the alienation theme in a surprising and very modern way. 

An interesting question concerns the narrative voice: is Christopher a reliable or an unreliable narrator? (I had the same question about Benjy in The Sound and the Fury). Arguably, he reports whatever he sees and he sees almost everything (provided that he is not too scared) with the impartiality of a mirror. He does not interpret what he sees, like an ideal omniscient narrator, but unlike the latter, he does not see everything. The mirror is distorted, since he cannot interpret facial expressions, and stained, since there are lapses in time whenever he separates from the world (Benjy didn’t feel the time at all so his unreliability consisted in the impossibility of establishing a timeline of the events).

The world according to Christopher is different from ours: it is governed by order and rules to maintain this order and it is devoid of emotion. Lies, crowds, metaphors, touching disturb this order and upset him so no wonder his favorite dream is about an Earth inhabited only by him. This Little Prince understands better animals and numbers than humans and even the relationship with his family is superficial and emotionless. 

On the other hand, is he different from any other adolescent in search of independence who struggles to sever his family ties? And isn’t the world of the yesterday child as puzzling as it becomes for the adolescent Christopher? And his perpetual quest for order could not be interpreted as his way to cope with all disturbances he experiences, like violence towards animals, like disintegration of the family, like dangers in the street, like weird adult behavior? 
Let’s not forget that, as overwhelming as the world is, he succeeds in finding its secrets and restoring the order in the end. This is the beauty of the novel: for once, innocence is neither slaughtered, nor corrupted. The little prince may remain alone on his little planet, but whenever he chooses, he can visit other worlds, no harm done.

2 votes. Average: 5.00 / 5.

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