Is uniqueness and originality in a novel enough to make one great? I believe that in order for this to be the case both need to be executed well. Mark Haddon in his novel, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time’ (‘Curious Incident’) executes uniqueness in such a way that it successfully creates empathy and understanding in the reader. This is done through the unique voice of the narrator who is a child with Aspergers. Haddon’s novel is not a narrative concerned with ‘overcoming’ a disability but rather about finding ways to co-exist with one.
His novel is great because it allows the reader to step into a worldview that they wouldn’t usually have access to. He achieves this successfully through literary techniques and quotes as evidence, ultimately exploring themes regarding Aspergers and relationships. In this essay I will explore how through a unique perspective Mark Haddon has produced a great novel. Haddon firstly highlights and explores the theme of Aspergers syndrome through the novel’s perspective. The narrator of the text is Christopher Boone, a young boy who has this syndrome.
By using this perspective the author creates a unique worldview (or allows us into a unique worldview? ) and allows us insight into a perspective that is original, ultimately allowing readers to understand and see into his condition on a personal level. For example, although the novel is a murder mystery, roughly half of the chapters digress from this main plot to give us Christopher’s thoughts and feelings on certain issues and thus we consistently see Christopher’s- the narrator’s stream of consciousness on display rather than the text focusing wholly on the mystery itself. It was seven minutes after midnight.
The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shear’s house. Its eyes were closed. ” From this opening quote we notice the use of specific? Detail and ultimately begin to catch a glimpse of the novels unique narrative style. As the novel progresses we continue to delve further into an understanding of Christopher’s mind through evidence of his language, anxiety issues and overall lack of social skill. Firstly, his language adds an interesting dimension to the novel’s uniqueness.
While his language is simple and direct you’ll find he often runs off onto tangents and whilst these tangents are perfectly acceptable to him, they do not have any actual effect on the murder mystery story itself. It is clear that Mark Haddon’s aim is to reveal Christopher’s unique perspective above anything else and let it be the feature that drives the plot.
These tangents and ultimately the novels interesting perspective is illustrated by the author’s use of Mac Guffin and is displayed when Christopher says, “Toby died because he was 2 years and 7 months old… nd I solved the puzzle… and mother picked me up from fathers house one day. ” This again, cleverly allows readers to see the working mind of a child with Aspergers and begin to see Christopher as a person rather than simply someone who has a disability. Furthermore, and most evidently we see features of Aspergers in Christopher’s overall lack of social skill and anxiety issues, expressed by Haddon in his novel.
Even though a considerate amount of the novel uses simple and direct language Haddon still cleverly delves further into the implications of Aspergers and reveals the emotional instability it includes, ultimately through the novels perspective and Christopher’s life. When Christopher’s emotions grow too strong such as when he finds out his mother is actually alive or when he travels alone to London, his anxiety and stress manifest into more of a physical manner such as being sick, blacking out or his mind overloading.
The impact this would have on a socially and emotionally unstable child is brought out (or made evident) for the readers to consider, producing an empathetic response. Haddon emphasises Christopher’s anxiety and panic through the use of ellipses used right throughout the text, as well as run-on sentences, “It’s like when you are upset and you hold the radio against your ear and you tune it halfway… turn the volume up… and… ” Here we see the rawness of Christopher’s condition, the evidence of his mind over loading and a shift begins to happen within readers who not only have an insight to his life but begin to share in his perspective.
Yes, we empathise with him, but we also begin to understand and more so see him as a real person, who is facing real difficulties. As we begin to understand him better and the struggle he lives through, readers are challenged to accept that this is real for many people in our world, and as relationships are introduced, to think about those who look after those who have Aspergers Syndrome. This novel allows us to understand the effect and influence Aspergers, or any disability for that matter, has on relationships.
This idea of struggle within relationships connected to those who have Aspergers and a dysfunctional family is a theme clearly explored in ‘The Curious Incident’ as Haddon highlights the behaviour of Christopher’s parents through Chris’ first person narration. Chris’ father is illustrated as a short tempered man, especially in the scene where he physically assaults Christopher when his frustration with his son gets to be too much. Haddon uses the novels perspective to force his readers to share Christopher’s view, be empathetic towards him and ultimately be on his side a fair amount of the time throughout the novel.
However, while the readers journey on this experience they still decide for themselves what is logical and fair. While Chris simply views his father’s actions as straight out assault, unable to see the bigger picture, readers can understand that his father is under immense pressure at this time as he struggles with the frustration he feels as a result of not always being able to deal nor understand Christopher’s behaviour.
Expletives emphasise his father’s short temper when he interrupts Christopher in the middle of his sentence to say, “Don’t give me that bollocks, you little shit. This dramatically contrasts with the emotive language his father later uses when he says, “I love you very much Christopher, please know that,” revealing the realistic struggle and hardship his father is dealing with in looking after his son. That even though he can clearly be cruel and crude at times as he attempts to deal with his son, he still persists and loves him. Moreover, Christopher’s mother is also portrayed as impatient when it comes to dealing with her son.
She is exposed as having emotional outburst like Chris, which shows her lack of maturity. This is shown through the use of polyphonic voices of Christopher and his mother. Haddon inserts the mother’s voice through the letters she leaves Chris, in order for his readers to compare and understand the unique and different perspectives of the story. “And you started to shout and that’s why I threw the food across the room. ” This highlights the mother’s impatience with Chris, as well as contrast with Chris’ emotional outburst.
The idea of a dysfunctional family is eventually and uniquely reveals as Haddon explores the attitudes and responses of the parents who struggle to take care of Chris who functions differently to an ‘average’ person. In conclusion Mark Haddon’s novel, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ is great, not simply because it is unique and original but because its uniqueness creates an experience in the reader that is meaningful as we step into a worldview that we wouldn’t usually have access to, consistently striving to challenge its readers and reveal the disabilities difficulties for everyone involved.
Mark Haddon cleverly explores these ideas through literary techniques and the themes of Aspergers and relationships, and ultimately, successfully achieves to reveal and highlight particular qualities of the syndrome and the difficulty in living with a disabled child.