The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Essay

Abstract

            Why do we call people weird? Is that because we consider ourselves to be weird, too? Is that because we see our reflection in other people’s actions and thoughts? Is that because other people do things that make us shiver? And ultimately, is that because we would be able to repeat those shivering things under the pressure of particular circumstances? All these are rhetoric questions; in other words, they do not need answers. Those who seem weird to us, prove the weirdness of everyone else. All of us are weird to some extent, and to call somebody else weird does not necessarily mean that we ourselves are normal. By the way, what does it mean to be normal? We don’t have an answer to that question, either, but one thing is evident: Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is just another proof for the fact that norm and weirdness walk hand in hand. A unique combination of the literary simplicity and humor, supplemented with the moral tragedy that borders on psychiatry turns our true weirdness into a social norm, which drives our actions from the very first to the very last day of our lives.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

            Introduction

            Why do we call people weird? Is that because we consider ourselves to be weird, too? Is that because we see our reflection in other people’s actions and thoughts? Is that because other people do things that make us shiver? And ultimately, is that because we would be able to repeat those shivering things under the pressure of particular circumstances? All these are rhetoric questions; in other words, they do not need answers. Those who seem weird to us, prove the weirdness of everyone else. All of us are weird to some extent, and to call somebody else weird does not necessarily mean that we ourselves are normal. By the way, what does it mean to be normal? We don’t have an answer to that question, either, but one thing is evident: Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is just another proof for the fact that norm and weirdness walk hand in hand. A unique combination of the literary simplicity and humor, supplemented with the moral tragedy that borders on psychiatry turns our true weirdness into a social norm, which drives our actions from the very first to the very last day of our lives.

            In his interview, Haddon suggests that his book is wonderful in the way it combines simplicity with paradox and irony that turns truth upside down and makes the truth sound as if everything were completely wrong (Weich, 2003). When we speak about Christopher’s Father, we initially position him as a “psychopath”. Yet, the reality is quite different, and while we are trying to evaluate the extent to which Christopher’s Father is abnormal, we gradually come to understanding that he is no less normal than we are – the readers. In the police station, where people finally perceive the importance and value of freedom, and where everyone is confident in everyone else’s innocence, the true Father’s cry “I want to see my son” will hardly seem abnormal (Haddon 2004, p. 16); rather, it will draw attention to the true feelings of Father toward his son. Certainly, Fathers use different ways for displaying their feelings; some beat their sons, others teach them to swim or play basketball. Christopher’s Father did not participate in any of such activities, but was persistently trying to protect his son from what he was seeing as REALITY. He might have been showing his love in a strange way, but it was better than not showing love at all:

Father was standing in the corridor. He held up his right hand and spread his fingers out in a fan. I held up my left hand and spread my fingers out in a fan and we made our fingers and thumbs touch each other. We do this because sometimes Father wants to give me a hug, but I do not like hugging people so we do this instead, and it means that he loves me (Haddon 2004, p. 16).

The way Christopher’s Father shows his love to his son is no weirder than the fact that Christopher does not like being hugged. While we are vainly trying to prove that both the father and the son are extremely weird in the way they react to each other, we have to recognize that we ourselves display similar attitudes to the small things in our lives.

            The biggest problem is in the small things. We use to impose distorted images and social norms on the little joys and sorrows. Christopher’s Father is a controversial personality, but he obviously has the best intentions toward his son, even when he hits him and even when he hides his mother’s letters from him. When we say that Christopher’s Father is abnormal, we fail to evaluate his multifaceted character and are able to observe only a small part of what is usually called “a character”. In fact, being attracted by somewhat unusual Father’s reactions to Christopher’s detective activity, we should rather ask ourselves, what makes us refer to Christopher’s Father as abnormal. Is it that he regularly breaks rules? But “people break rules all the time” (Haddon 2004, p. 29). Is it that he does not wear his seat belt when driving? But although the Bible says Thou shall not kill, “there were the Crusades and two world wars and the Gulf War and there were Christians killing people in all of them” (Haddon 2004, p. 29). All of us have something to hide, but the problem is that we tend to make things too complicated than they are in reality, and Father’s seemingly obvious abnormality is nothing else than his misleading protective desires and sincerely positive human intentions. There is nothing abnormal or weird in the way Christopher’s Father “carries little packet of artificial sweetening tablets around with him to put in his coffee to stop him from getting fat” (Haddon 2004, p. 43); and it is not abnormal that he has to recognize the fact of having killed Mrs. Shears’ dog. Instead of trying to find the reasons for calling Father weird, we should recognize a simple truth: “lots of things are mysteries, but that does not mean there isn’t an answer to them. It’s just that scientists haven’t found the answer yet” (Haddon 2004, p. 100).

            In Haddon’s story, we see only the top of an iceberg. This top prevents us from producing objective and relevant judgments regarding the quality and the consequences of Father’s performance. It is weird that Christopher’s Father did not teach his son to hug. It is weird that Christopher’s Father did not tell his son the truth about his mother. It is weird that Christopher’s Father killed the neighbor’s dog with a fork, but all these things are no weirder than those committed by notorious criminals or by those, with whom we talk at work, at home, in the street, in the mall, or in any other public place. Others’ weirdness and abnormality is the reflection of our own abnormality and weirdness, and we can never be absolutely secured from committing similar things in our lives.

            Conclusion

Christopher’s Father is just one out of many people, whom we will never meet in our lives, but who still have the right to take independent decisions. When we feel the need to judge somebody for their acceptable or unacceptable deeds, we must be confident that we have the whole picture at hand. He cooked Christopher’s meals; he cleaned his clothes; he looked after him every weekend; and looked after him when he was ill; he took him to the doctor; and worried himself sick every time he wandered off somewhere at night (Haddon 2004, p. 197) while Christopher’s mother did not come down to visit her son at least once after fleeing to London. This simple fact is much more abnormal than all weird things committed by Christopher’s Father while we were reading the story. Ultimately, the mere fact that the word “Father” always starts with the capital letter implies the significance of his NORMAL relations with Christopher – the relations stable enough to withstand weird attitudes and judgments of Haddon’s readers.

References

Haddon, M. (2004). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. Vintage.

Weich, D. (2003). The curiously irresistible literary debut of Mark Haddon. Powell’s Books.

Retrieved November 30, 2008 from http://www.powells.com/authors/haddon.html