What can an autistic perspective in novels show us about the current judgement on autism?
Christopher Boone loves prime numbers and hates being touched. The behavioural problems of Christopher, the respective narrator and protagonist of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is never explicitly labelled as an autistic spectrum disorder.- An autistic spectrum disorder is any of various disorders, as autism and Aspergersyndrome, useally revealed in early
childhood and characterized by a lack of social and/or communication skills, repetitive behaviors, or a restricted range of interests.- In a brief statement, worth reading, Mark Haddon has written that “Curious Incident is not a novel about Asperger’s… If anything, it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider.” But it has been easy for readers to identify Christopher in these terms.
He lacks the ability to reconstruct and predict thoughts, feelings, desires, and reactions. The neurologist Simon Baron-Cohen has called this “mindblindness.”
The kind of knowledge Christopher lacks isn’t information — he has plenty of that. And imagining that lack means we imagine its negative image as well. the subject-supposed-to-know, the person without autism, who can read minds through his or her far more complete hold of the social world. In other words, we readers see things the narrator can’t, even though he is the one doing the description. It’s precisely this dramatic irony that drives the feeling of this novel. The difference in knowledge doesn’t just create distance between reader and narrator, it creates a kind of closeness, too.
Such relationships with characters makes us feel a little bit like parents. That is, they make us feel the kind of care that comes with knowledge and power. We know what kind of chaos and hurt will turn up when Christopher turns up unexpectedly to live with his unloved mother and her ‘lover’, and just because he doesn’t, we hope it’ll turn out all right...