Since reading Me Before You, I’ve become very distrusting of authors who write characters with disabilities without having that experience themselves. This is not the case with Mark Haddon and his character Christopher who is on the autism spectrum in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Mr. Haddon has had some experience working with young people on the autism spectrum which informed his formation of Christopher, but Christopher’s disability is never the center of the novel.
Instead, Christopher’s unique perspective is merely the background to his story searching to find love and autonomy at an important moment in his life. By not making the disability the central focus point, I think that Mr. Haddon escapes the pitfalls that other authors have fallen into. The reader becomes aware that Christopher has something unique about him implicitly. Christopher mentions it in the first few chapters but it quickly becomes clear that this is not what the book is about.
Christopher has his heart set on sitting for the A level exams in math. However, family drama gets in the way and he learns that in life, even the ones you love will sometimes get in your way. But through using what power and autonomy that we have available, we can make a new path to our dream.
I appreciated that the young man is never victimized. You almost forget he’s on the spectrum. What stands out is the people who adjust their behavior, not their expectations, in order to relate to him. From a neighbor lady who adjusts to asking yes or no questions, to a police officer who is very clear about his expectations, to the father who clearly understands Christopher and does whatever is necessary to maintain a relationship with his son. It’s a lesson to all of us.