Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

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Christopher: Ethical Vs. Unethical

Dictionary.com has defined the word ethical as "Being in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong." While we all have different opinions of what is right and wrong, most people have the same ideas to what is "socially acceptable." In the novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, the autistic main character Christopher Boone may not have the same views as the rest of us about what is right and what is wrong. Christopher Boone is a good-hearted boy but more unethical than ethical, yet most of the time unaware of his bad behavior due to his different views of the world. Does this make him "unethical" if his principles of right and wrong are different from everyone else's?
Christopher is more intelligent than the average teenage boy, has strong opinions, and has a different view of his surroundings than others do. Although Christopher sometimes doesn't know when some behavior is bad, he knows always telling the truth is what everyone is supposed to do. Christopher refusing to tell a lie is both ethical and respectful to others. "I do not tell lies. Mother used to say that this was because I was a good person. But it's not because I am a good person. It is because I can't tell lies." (Haddon 19) Most people think always telling the truth is a quality of a "good person". This quote shows that Christopher thinks telling the truth is a way of life, not just something people choose to do because it's the right thing. This also shows us that Christopher's refusal to lie about anything goes beyond ethics. "…and whether, when the police found out that she had lied, she would go to prison. Because telling lies about people is called slander." (Haddon 14) This quote is appropriate yet humorous because it shows how serious this autistic boy thinks telling even the tiniest of lies is. Christopher's outlook on lies and truth are something we call all learn from to show true ethics. Some may disagree due to Christopher's different ways of looking at things in life that may seem right to him, but unethical to another.
Christopher's autism has led him to a life scared of things such as strangers and being touched.

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He goes through many strong emotions that cause him to behave in an unmannered way; this behavior he doesn't know is wrong because he doesn't know any other way to handle these emotions. His worst habit and what has gotten him into trouble throughout his life is him hitting a person who is either a scary stranger and someone who has put their hands on him. "The policeman took hold of my arm and lifted me onto my feet. I didn't like him touching me like this. And this is when I hit him." (Haddon 8) Hitting a police officer could be the biggest mistake and the most unethical decision a person makes. Christopher likes policemen, but he hits him because he hates being touched, especially in a forceful manner. To most people the situation would be totally unacceptable, even Christopher realizes what he did was wrong and admits he didn't want to hurt him. "But father didn't let go, and he was shouting. And I hit him again. And then I didn't know what I was doing anymore." (Haddon 83) This quote clearly shows that when Christopher's father grabbed him, his emotions took over and led him to unethical behavior. When he says that he didn't know what he was doing anymore it shows that his condition is the cause of his ways of dealing with his emotions with unethical behavior. Can his autism be used as an excuse for his bad behavior, or does it not matter what a person can control or not when it comes to ethics?
Christopher's condition makes it hard to label him an ethical or unethical person. He looks at the world and has so many different fears than the average teenage boy. Because of his condition, Christopher doesn't base things on ethics, he does everything his own way. When he is taught the right way to do something he remembers and uses that information with others. For example, in one of Christopher's footnotes he states "…you are not allowed to tell people if they smell funny or if a grown-up has made a fart. And you are not allowed to say "I don't like you" unless that person has been horrible to you." (Haddon 47) This shows the ethical part of him, he does want to learn how to be a good person. What some would say is unethical about him are the things he cannot control. Until someone learns about his condition, his behavior is rude and unacceptable in society. For example when a woman politely offers help to Christopher at the gas station he replies, "Stand further away… I've got a Swiss Army knife and it has a saw blade and it could cut someone's fingers off." (Haddon 184) What he says to that woman is rude and even scary. At the time Christopher is confused and is faced with one of his biggest fears, strangers. The way he reacts to strangers is indeed unethical, but it's his own defense against his fears inside that people cannot see looking outside.
The autistic character Christopher Boone can be summed up as ethical looking from the inside out, yet unethical looking from the outside in. Most "normal" people know what the standards are to be socially accepted in society Many will agree that once a person becomes aware of a condition like Christopher's, the standards are set lower because autism may cause one to not be aware or able to control their behavior. It's shown that Christopher will do what he is told is ethical in society, yet so are all "normal" people who don't follow ethical standards and are completely aware of it. In the end, maybe Christopher has set a standard of his own that we should learn to follow.
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