Chapter 3

My criticism of stating emotions outright was unjustified. I don't see the need to "show" a POV character's internal emotions to any great degree, since they are, after all, internal. Besides, that's how I write about my own feelings. So what unsettles me about Christopher? He goes beyond a refusal to use overwrought descriptions of icy veins or knotted stomachs, beyond mere "that makes me feel angry", into a near-absence of any indication whatsoever of how he feels. The first chapter was nothing but cold descriptions of events. Even to me it seemed cold, like he didn't even care. The problem, I think, is that Haddon is trying to insert attributes into Christopher's writing that the real Christopher would try to avoid. I may not write like this AJ Humpage excerpt (quoted here):

What had begun in earnest towards the evening had continued as the sunlight sank behind the thick line of pines that veiled them, leaving beautiful saffron-tinted rivulets gleaming between the branches. Such beauty seemed lost within the cold, barren confines of the camp, and just as lost on the deathly-grey faces that filed from the cattle trains – confused, hungry and riddled with exhaustion.

He thought about the fresh mounds of flesh dragged from the showers, lives stolen, their eyes lifeless and yet brimming with riven reflections of their last terrible moments, their hands frozen into gnarled claws.

but I am no frigid robot.

On to chapter "5", then.

Christopher pulls the pitchfork out of Wellington and hugs him. He's still calling him "the dog", but at least he's retained his gender. Then Christopher explains why he likes dogs:

You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.

I'd combine the second and third sentences with a colon, since the third "sentence" is a fragment and is part of the previous idea.

I'm going to guess that he thinks the alleged "four moods" of dogs are the reason their thoughts are so easy to discern. I beg to differ. Thoughts and emotions overlap, hence the Greek word "pathos" that refers to both, but they are not exactly the same. When a dog is "concentrating", do you know what it is concentrating on? Probably not.

ASD people are supposed to be good with animals, and I think that's reality rather than a stereotype. I'm more of a cat person than a dog person, so I wouldn't know about dogs, but I would never say that "you" always know what a cat is thinking. Observation can reveal something of their personalities, but as with everyone, their minds remain sealed away, unfathomable. The reason I find animals easier to deal with is that they don't have all those complicated human expectations. They just want to be fed or let outside. If they actually do want me to make small talk about the weather or the latest pop music, or they consider some innocuous statement of mine to be outrageously offensive to a tiny minority group whose members are not present, I'm blissfully unaware.

Christopher's statement that "you always know what a dog is thinking" reads like it was made by someone who actually has very little experience with dogs and is overconfident, not someone with real insight. Someone with real insight would probably doubt themselves. (See Dunning-Kruger effect.)

Everyone says "dogs are faithful". It's true enough, but it's not a very deep remark.

I understand the value placed on honesty. I feel the same way, and it's a real trait. The way it's stated here, however, seems too emphatic. The entire list of reasons why Christopher likes dogs feels like two autistic traits drawn in broad strokes and ineptly tossed together.

I had been hugging the dog for 4 minutes when I heard screaming.

4 minutes, huh? Was he looking at his watch the entire time, or does he have an internal time sense? He's starting to remind me of Spock saying random hyper-precise calculations.

The screaming is coming from Mrs. Shears, who runs toward Christopher from the patio and shouts "What in fuck's name have you done to my dog?" She's awfully quick to assume he's at fault.

I do not like people shouting at me. It makes me scared that they are going to hit me or touch me and I do not know what is going to happen.

He sounds like he's been abused. I'm sure it's supposed to demonstrate his sensory issues with being touched, but the more obvious "sensory issue" is the fact that it's, you know, loud. That's why I don't like being yelled at, anyway. That and it means the yelling person is angry with me, which means I have to feel guilty. Just common sense stuff. Christopher, though, he sounds a little like those people who are constantly alert for any sign that they'll be lashed out at and keep asking you if you're mad at them.

Mrs. Shears yells at him to let go of Wellington, so he does:

I put the dog down on the lawn and moved back 2 meters.

I just realized this book uses American spelling (meters). It's British. Maybe they edited my copy for an American audience.

Again with the precision. I'm pretty sure he doesn't carry a tape measure or a meter stick with him, so he must just intuit these things. If he said about two meters, I'd understand, but he says it like it's exact. I'm reminded of a passage from Battlefield Earth quoted in this spork: "But there were no cockroaches that big. Not thirty feet long and ten feet high and maybe twelve feet side to side."

Mrs. Shears bends down, and Christopher thinks she's going to pick up Wellington, but instead she starts screaming again. He speculates that she doesn't pick him up because "she noticed how much blood there was and didn't want to get dirty". I have a vague feeling there's some subtext here that the reader, being neurotypical and all, will pick up on.

I put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes and rolled forward till I was hunched up with my forehead pressed onto the grass. The grass was wet and cold. It was nice.

That reaction seems over-the-top. He really hates the yelling, I guess. I've only ever covered my ears to block out yelling when I didn't want to hear the actual words.

He strikes me as either younger than fifteen or less high-functioning than plain old Asperger syndrome.

< Chapter 2 | Chapter 4 >

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This page was last modified on 26/06/2016 (dmy).