Grit, Analysis 5

When I began reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, I noticed the incredibly accurate depiction of an autistic character in regards to the discomfort with variation. The first indication I found of this representation of a fixation on control was on page 13, when Christopher says “But I have decided to give my chapters prime numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and so on because I like prime numbers”.  He prefers numbers which are predictable and follow a precise pattern, which is much like my uncle in his routines as he lays out his movies and books in a distinctive arrangement I still cannot understand. Christopher also seems to find comfort in numbers and familiarity, showing his discomfort with the unfamiliar as is seen through his continuous statements throughout the book that he dislikes strangers because he does not know them.  Christopher also indicates that he prefers structured rules as are common in mathematics as he describes on interaction with a teacher saying “He said I liked maths because it meant solving problems, and those problems were difficult and interesting but there was always a straightforward answer at the end. And what he meant was that maths wasn’t like life because in life there are no straightforward answers at the end” (77). His inclination towards mathematics is not merely played off as a savant-like ability, but as a coping mechanism which I found refreshing.

Christopher also has a strong aversion to lies because there are too many variables in lying as well. He says on page 24,

“A lie is when you say something happened which didn’t happen. But there is only ever one thing which happened at a particular time and a particular place. And there are an infinite number of things which didn’t happen at that time and that place. And if I think about something which didn’t happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn’t happen.”

Christopher portrays this unique view of autism in this moment which reveals a truth many never consider about autistic individuals, that sometimes they can be overwhelmed by the hypothetical. My uncle has shown extreme discomfort when he tries to consider an intangible idea because he begins to picture all of the variables instead of focusing on just one. I applaud this book for trying to provide an accurate depiction of life on the spectrum for the autistic individual and their family.

I was also very impressed with the realistic portrayal of the treatment of autistic children by others as Christopher relays that “Terry, who is the older brother of Francis, who is at the school, said I would only ever get a job collecting supermarket trollies or cleaning out the donkey shit at an animal sanctuary” (32). This moment truly upset me because of the reality behind it, my uncle does collect carts at a store, and the fact that this book recognizes the limitations applied to people on the spectrum by their peers is hopeful for me. I decided to research the diagnostic requirements for autism once more to refresh my memory and found that this depiction contains examples of every indication used in diagnosing ASD. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book because I felt that the depiction was highly accurate and that the depiction was executed without stereotyping and dehumanizing the autistic character.

Lord, Catherine, and Susan Risi. Frameworks and Methods in Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders. Chicago, University of Chicago, 1998, pp. 90-96.

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

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One thought on “Grit, Analysis 5

  1. thaxtonl

    I agree with much of your post. In reading TCIDN, I was rooting for Christopher the whole time. I wanted him to be understood. I wanted him to be celebrated. I wanted his parents to get back together.
    As a fiction writer myself, I always struggle with accurately describing someone who happens to beon the spectrum or have a disability or, even, have a different sexual identity. A problem that I find is that it’s so hard for a story like TCDIN to not fall into “a story about an autistic kid”. I feel like in some parts it really excels at bring ASD to a new threshold, to some new exposure for these individuals. In the same vein, if the character doesn’t have any “outer” life that helps the story not be defined by their disability, then the story becomes much a disability story.
    TCIDN I think does a great job and bringing something new to the table. This was my first time reading the book as well, and though I loathe YA books (if this falls in that category), I rather enjoyed reading this story. I think that Christopher’s characterization is so well done that the very fact that he may be on spectrum seems to slip from my mind. Of course, I’m brought back to it through the people around him who scrutinize Christopher and his family. He’s a pretty sufficient and intelligent kid.
    I suppose I’m more interesting in seeing ASD as a character trait rather than a diagnosis. I feel like it can be a cop out for many authors and writers. “Oh, this character is going to have autism, so he’s going to be really methodical and not get jokes…” and here we have the classic Rain Man effect of super intelligent savants or more charming Sherlock Holmes. I want these characters to be more like “Character A wants x, and they just so happen to have [insert disability here].” I’m sick of the plot devices. I’m sick of seeing stories deduced to fit a certain genre or stereotype. I’m sick of individuals with autism being reduced to all of these.
    I’m glad that you have someone in your life that you can personally connect to in class. My brother has ASD as well, and I always joke with others that “I’m like, 10% Aspergian,” because I find my own brain working in ways that those with ASD might. So what keeps my brother on disability and not me? What keeps him stuck to his videogames through the night, when I could do the very same, and not be chastised by society for it?
    I’m not sure what you plan to do with your study here at GV, but hopefully you get the chance to ruminate on all of this in a creative fashion. I find it to be the perfect outlet for when society seems to get a bit much. Wonderful post.

    Like

    Reply

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