A Change in Perspective
Christopher’s mother Judy, like many characters in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is not perfect by any means. She is best characterized as someone with good intentions, but contains many imperfections. This can be seen in the letters she writes to Christopher in an attempt to reconnect with her son. She admits to being a poor mother, and wants a shot at redemption by being able to establish a relationship with her son. Despite her good intentions, many of her actions appear to stress Christopher out more than they please him. This is especially apparent in chapter 233 when Judy postpones Christopher’s A level exam that he had been looking forward to for quite some time. If the passage had been written from his mother’s perspective, we would see a complete shift in the author’s purpose, a change in the way we characterize our main characters, and a shift in tone, theme, and pretty much all other literary devices due to the drastic difference in the perspectives of Judy and Christopher.
The characteristic of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time that best defines its originality is perspective. The first person narration of someone with a social disorder educates the reader, gives them insight, and leaves an impact on the reader’s own perspective. Reading books such as this one that are heavily influenced by a narrator’s background remind me of a conceptual song from an artist named Logic that discusses a theoretical concept of reincarnation and planes of existence. In a song titled “Waiting Room” the voice of God tells Atom “You see, I was once where you stand right now. It is not until you have lived every human life inside of your universe that I may take you from this place. Once you have walked in the shoes of every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, loving and hateful person, it is only then that you will understand how precious life truly is” (Logic). The song outlines the importance of perspective in the education and enlightenment of a person. In my opinion, that is Haddon’s main purpose in the novel. To provide the reader with a perspective that most had never thought about before. If the passages in chapter 223 had changed from Christopher to Judy’s perspective, the author’s purpose would change altogether. For example, in one passage Judy gets overwhelmed and pops off at Christopher, exclaiming “Christopher, I am just about holding this together. But I am this close to losing it, all right? So just give me some-” (Haddon 96). This specific excerpt from the passage illustrates how the author’s purpose would change from educating the reader on the perspective of someone with a social disorder and showcasing their struggles to the difficulties and frustrations of taking care of someone with a mental disability. Her relationship with Christopher explains her empathy for Christopher, as she quickly realizes that he cannot help the way he acts. We would likely gain more of an understanding towards the stresses, and other underlying factors that cause Judy to lose her temper.
Christopher’s disability can push people to their limit. I think his this adds an interesting dynamic to the way we characterize because we can learn about someone based on how quick they are to judge him, snap at him, or simply see how someone acts towards a person with a mental disability. Although he can’t help it, his very specific needs can be irritating for Judy. I believe that she has always seen the opportunity of reconnecting with Christopher as a shot at redemption, and a chance to fix the mistakes she made when she left him as a boy. However I don’t believe she was ever truly committed to this idea, hence why she never came to find Christopher herself. She liked the idea of reconnecting with her son, but now that the opportunity has shown up on her doorstep, she gets irritated with its implications. I think this is mostly prevalent on page 98 when she tells Christopher “I rang your headmistress. I told her you were in London. I told her you’d do it next year” (Haddon 98). The passage leads me to believe that she isn’t ready to take care of Christopher because she put her needs before his. If we had read this from Judy’s perspective, we would likely characterize Christopher as someone very frustrating to deal with, someone that thinks illogically, and someone incredibly difficult to compromise with. Other than the fact that she knows he is advanced in math, she probably has no idea just how intelligent Christopher is. Additionally, it would likely lead the reader to question people with mental disabilities much more than understand them, because they would only see the side that wouldn’t make sense to the average person.
Similar to a shift in the author’s purpose, if the passage were written from Judy’s perspective, we would see vast shifts in theme and tone. One of the main underlying themes of the novel is the quest for independence. This is a very understandable theme to me because in less than one month I will turn 18. Most teens experience this struggle to gain independence as they begin to break away from parental control, but the theme changes from the quest for independence to the struggle of raising a teenager as the perspective changes from teen to parent. The same applies to chapter 223. If it were written by Judy the theme would change from the quest for independence to the struggle of taking care of someone who’s heavily dependent. For example, Christopher needs to take his math exam in order to get into a university, and it’s something he’s set on doing. His mother, however, doesn’t have time to drive Christopher hours away so she puts his needs second to hers. This causes conflict for Christopher in the quotation “And Mother said she had rung Mrs. Gascoyne and told her that I was going to take my maths A level next year, so I threw my red ice lolly away and I screamed for a long time and the pain in my chest hurt so much that it was hard to breathe and a man came up and asked if I was OK and Mother said, ‘Well, what does it look like to you?’ and he went away.” (Haddon 96). If the passage were written from Judy’s perspective, we would likely gain more insight towards why Judy had to what she had to do. If you think about it, she has a job, priorities, things to do, but her son has just showed up on her doorstep and all of the sudden she is responsible for driving him hours away to take his test. I’m sure my mother would empathize much more with Judy and much less with Christopher than I.
One of the most defining aspects of a first person narrative is the the insight or the emphasis on the perspective of the narrator. In all of the books we have read up to this in the course, the narrator’s perspective is defined by their ethnic background. The novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, offers a very unique perspective of an extraordinarily intelligent guy who also has a mental disability. From the perspective of the narrator Christopher Boone, we gain insight towards the emotions, ideas, and logic behind someone with a mental disorder. While many with mental disabilities might be judged or regarded as inferior, Christopher proves these social stereotypes wrong. From his mother Judy’s perspective, he can be quite a hassle to deal with. Therefore if chapter 223 was written from Judy’s perspective we would see shifts in the author’s purpose, characterization, and theme.