Conflicting Takes on Christopher Boon’s Representation

November 1st, 2016

As the title of Greg Olear article asserts, Mark Haddon’s debut novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, perpetuates negative stereotypes of autistic individuals. Christopher Boon is characterized as apathetic, violent, painstakingly literal and cripplingly dependent on adult supervision. When Christopher is (falsely) informed that his mother had a heart attack, his response not only reveals how unaware he is of the emotional weight of the situation, but only shows his elitist or egoistic character- he would have liked to go to hospital because he likes hospitals. Even the unconscious content of his mind is shown to be filled with violent images of death; in his dreams the only people who survive are clever people like him. His response to human touch is quite extreme. He either screams or punches anyone who dares to touch him – even his father is not allowed to trespass that boundary.  Olear’s point is that it is not like there isn’t any literature available on autism, but because of the novel’s commercial success, autistic community will have to face the negative consequence from the image in which Christopher Boon is presented. Olear raises an interesting question, whether author should be responsible “to the dangers of irresponsible fiction?” (Page 4). It is quite difficult to argue with Olear’s points, that Christopher is characterized in a stereotypical fashion. But that is exactly what Mcinerney does in his article “The Remains of the Dog.”

Mcinerney claims that Haddon presents us with a character that is round, and life-like. He states, “Haddon manages to bring us deep inside Christopher’s mind and situates us comfortably within his limited, severely logical point of view, to the extent that we begin to question the common sense and the erratic emotionalism of the normal citizens who surround him, as well as our own intuitions and habits of perception” (Page 22). According to Mcinerney, Haddon does enough to show why Christopher is unable to engage, understand or participate in normal social intercourse. The reason why he is that way is because his mind is extremely logical as evidenced by the fact that Christopher considers the use of metaphors as lying. Plus Christopher is a young kid who has to contend with the messy and often illogical relationship of his parents. And as if that wasn’t enough, his father and mother keep secrets from him, which he discovers on his own. Mcinerney stresses, that the main mystery of the novel is to answer whether Christopher “is capable of change”, and that’s a central question that is explored in novels.

These two articles present different viewpoints on Haddon’s novel. Which one of them is right, well I will let you answer that.


4 Responses to “Conflicting Takes on Christopher Boon’s Representation”

  1. sumaria on November 1, 2016 6:57 am

    I didn’t really concentrate of whether Chris changed or not, but I feel like I have to agree with Olear when he said the book felt like a gimmick, with an especially weak last act. The book ends with Chris announcing he knows he can do more than he expected, because he left his home, took this trip by himself, etc. It reads like an afterthought though that was tacked on because the novel is expect to answer if Chris can change.

    And it’s funny that it reminds me of the review by William Schofield. He says he relates to the character a lot (he even writes in a style like him!) and on his list of shared characteristics is “I don’t like new places” and “I don’t like new ideas”. I’m not so sure how much Christopher did or even wants to change.

  2. Yazmin Estrada on November 1, 2016 8:53 pm

    I really like how you ended your post because after reading so many reviews I started to realize how not at lot of them give you the opportunity to have your own opinion. Instead all the reviews mostly talk about what is wrong, what is not, what if acceptable and what isn’t. This is very important in reviews but I also like having my own conclusions. Like for example the scene where Christopher’s dad tells him that his mother is in the hospital and that he wants to go visit her because “he liked hospitals,” as you put it. Which is very true, I do agree that Christopher didn’t seem to acknowledge the severity of hospitals and someone being a patient in the hospital. However Olear fails to mention that later on Christopher suggests they bring his mom food in the hospital because he remembered someone he knew that went to the hospital and the food tasted bad. In my eyes this thought and gesture did mean a lot because I felt like he was worried about his mom eating and not liking the food. This is probably his way of expressing concern. It’s something very small but for some reason that made me feel like he did care. But that’s how I saw it. I honestly don’t know what to think of Christopher though and how I feel towards him. That’s someone I’m still trying to figure out.

  3. tracy on November 8, 2016 6:08 pm

    I think the book felt like a gimmick because it want meant to be informative, just sort of a good read. I made this point on my post as well as a comment on Krystals. The book wasn’t supposed to be one of information or accuracy at all. It’s kind of like expecting Hogwarts to be real after reading Harry Potter. The reason why that book doesn’t face any scrutiny is because the whole thing was fictional and made up, whereas autism is a real thing so people took offense to the way Christopher was portrayed.

  4. Radheeka Sharma on November 22, 2016 9:44 am

    I agree with Tracy and Sumaria on how the book was just suppose to be a light read, not informative. I cannot tell you which article is right or wrong. I think each, honestly, have a good point to make. In the end,Haddon came out saying that this is not a book about Asperger’s and then if the author himself says that, then I would think it is not meant to be. But in a sense, if the character is highlighting some traits and then generating a negative stereotype for people with Asperger’s, then that would be on the public? I don’t know which is right, it is an interesting question to think of and I don’t know if there is one person that is right or wrong because this whole question on whether the character had autism seems to be subjective.

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