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Collapsing upon crisp sheets with a good book in hand on a breezy afternoon when the sun is too hot to bear, may be one of my favorite feelings of summer. I started reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, in the very beginning of summer, savoring the relaxation and leisure of reading on my own time. I took it with me to the pool where I would lie out in the sun and read a few chapters but mostly I just liked to sprawl out in my bed and read to my heart’s content. I read the book in about a week, reading for sometimes longer periods of time when the story was too good to put down. To be able to just lie down and flip open a book with all the time in the world is somehow greatly satisfying. Whoever thought of sitting in a chair to read has apparently never experienced the gratification of reading on a freshly made bed on a beautiful summer day.
Christopher John Francis Boone is a 15-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome. He is extremely smart, his brain functioning solely in logical sequence. Christopher is a mathematical savant, highly observant, and he has a photographic memory. He can recite every prime number up to 7,057 and knows every country and its capital city. Despite his high intelligence, he is unable to understand human behavior such as emotion and relationships. In this sense he identifies with animals more because they are much simpler. He cannot recognize feelings or facial expressions beyond “happy” or “sad.” He is very organized and likes facts and making lists. Often when he is frightened or angry he closes his eyes, rocks back and forth, groaning, and lists off prime numbers in his head to calm himself down. He does not understand metaphors and jokes; Christopher cannot distinguish the further meaning in metaphors because they just aren’t true. He is unable to lie although often he doesn’t give the complete truth and is aware that he is telling a white lie. Christopher is afraid of anything new, especially strangers and new places because he doesn’t have a picture in his head of what lies ahead of him; it is just blank. He is overly sensitive to things he doesn’t like or situations he is uncomfortable in and will often react impulsively and violently by either hitting anyone who touches him or screaming uncontrollably.
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I found the scene in which Christopher’s father finds him with the letters from his mother an extremely gripping point in the novel. The scene is powerful and Haddon did a great job of painting a vivid image for the reader to see. Christopher is in a shocked state of mind in which he can hear his father calling out his name but he is just frozen solid. He does not scream or react with violence as he would normally do but is perfectly still and silent. This is more terrible and heartbreaking than anything else he could have done. Reading this scene I could see his father’s distraught face and hear his broken sentences of pleading apologies and sobs but Christopher can barely hear him. After Father is done speaking he is silent for a long time and then touches Christopher gently on the shoulder. Christopher remains still and allows him to take off his clothes and lead him to the bathroom to take a bath. This scene is depicted with so much emotion that it really stood out for me. This scene shows a turning point in the novel and a transition in Christopher.
A major theme in the novel is that we all search for order and stability in life. Christopher Boone’s world is turned upside down, and he searches to restore order. The novel opens with the death of his favorite dog, and his desire to learn who killed the dog leads him to the discovery of his parents split and their deception. Before, his life had been routine and simple, but now it is a swirl of chaos, lies, and confusion. It has always been a necessity for Christopher to have order and routine, but through his adventure he learns that life cannot always be controlled or revolve around him. Haddon shows the reader that even Christopher, suffering from autism, can overcome his fear of disorder and learn to let go of things he cannot control and live and let live.
When I was younger, I was in my church choir and, coincidentally, there happened to be an autistic boy I sang with whose name was Christopher and his dad was British. When I read this book, I was amazed to find the similarities between the two people. The Christopher I knew was eerily like the character Christopher in the novel. He too was a mathematical savant and also a highly gifted musician. At ten years old he could look at any complex piece of music, whether it be the requiems and sonatas of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and after one glance, he could play it perfectly. Watching his fingers move effortlessly at the piano was remarkable. When not practicing piano or studying, however, his social interactions were those of a hyperactive, obnoxious five-year-old boy. When he would act up during rehearsal our choir director would get frustrated with him and retort with rude, rhetorical questions. Christopher, of course, didn’t understand Mr. Boles’ blatant anger. One occasion I remember Mr. Boles turning to Christopher and asking, “How old are you, Christopher?” “Two!” he shouted with a gleeful, almost mocking grin on his face, as if knowing this answer would anger Mr. Boles. After one frustrating rehearsal with Christopher constantly causing disturbance, Mr. Boles responded with the typical, “Who do you think you are, young man?” and to all the children’s amusement Christopher shouted, “I’m a rooster!” and raised his arms to do the chicken dance and squawked as loud as he could. At the time I thought this was all highly enjoyable and loved watching a harmless ten-year-old boy push our uptight director’s buttons. Christopher stayed in the choir for not even a full year; it was just too much stress on everyone else, I think. Reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time automatically reminded me of this experience I had with a boy so similar to the novel’s protagonist. Now looking back on this experience I had when I was about twelve, I wish I could have understood him more then but all the same I always liked him and I think there is a lot to learn from people like these two Christophers.