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Curiouser and curiouser

I’m not sure what the rules are with posting about books the Club are currently reading. Perhaps I should add a disclaimer: If you haven’t yet read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I suggest you stop here, and come back when you have.  I am sure you would prefer to read it without my opinions clouding your vision!

Being inside the head of a 15 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome was an incredibly revealing experience. What an amazing mind. Coming from the perspective of someone with a genetic predisposition for Obssessive Compulsive Disorder, I noticed some similarities. Christopher’s desire to find out who was responsible for Wellington’s death was more than an interest – it was a need. He became obssessed with the situation, which is what also occurs for people with OCD.

But it is this same driving compulsion to find answers which makes Christopher’s mind so brilliant. I think the tendency is to believe that people with mental illness are lacking in some capacity. In Christopher’s case, he may be struggle with  social understanding, but there is certainly no spaces in his brain. The maths problems and solutions in particularly astounded me (probably because I quit math at fifth form and struggle with basic addition. My credit card bill shows a great understanding of subtraction however).

He’s also incredibally logical. He sorts through everything and arranges his thoughts so carefully. His powers of deduction actually would make him a fantastic detective.

I don’t think that any emotion he feels, or any act he commits, is alien to me. In fact, the only difference is in the intensity. What he feels, thinks, and does are normal human behaviours – he just takes them to an extreme others manage to avoid because they are conditioned to do so.

In fact, I find other characters’ behaviour more unacceptable than his: his father killing Wellington, his mother abandoning him, the way they both speak to him. To me those things are far more shocking than him curling into a ball and moaning when he feels overwhelmed. I’ve felt like doing that many a time!

The scenes that touched me the most were the railway chapters, when he’s on his way to find his mother. They highlight the way that humans fail so completely in understanding one another. There’s all these people, rushing back and forth, bouncing off each other and making no connections. It’s more resonant of insects than thinking, feeling human beings. To me it speaks of how we can be in the biggest crowds, surrounded by thousands of people, but we are still essentially alone. Due to the very nature of our physical beings, no matter how hard we try, we exist in our own little capsules. So is it really any surprise that no one understands Christopher? Is it anything to do with his illness? Or is it basic human nature?

In comparison with the people who bounce of him swearing, Christopher’s attempt to save his rat shows more compassion than any of the so-called “normal” people who stream past.

I don’t there there is one of us who hasn’t sat in a rail way or bus station, staring at the gobbledegook of a million mindless advertisements, feeling completely overwhelmed by the river of humanity rushing past.

What a brilliant character. Haddon’s message, to me, is clear. You may have a mental illness that causes you to look at life and experience it differently than others. But that does not make you any less human.

Did anyone else notice that Christopher was the only one who asked, out of all the people in his neighbourhood who would have turned a blind eye; “Why would you kill a dog?”

Compassion, humility, determination, logic, intelligence, and emotional depth. And we call it an illness?

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@writehandedgirl) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

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