I am currently studying a novel called "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" by Mark Haddon (which is, by the way, REALLY good) and for my assignment, was asked to write an essay about "Though Christopher is born with a disability, it is his family and community that really disadvantage him. Evaluate the accuracy of this statement. Explore the way Christopher is treated by his mother, his father, and other people in his school and community". Could you please tell me what you think of it and how to improve it?
Novel Study: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
It can be argued that in the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, though Christopher is born with a disability, it is his family and community that really disadvantage him. Although many people have doubted the accuracy of this statement, a thorough inspection reveals that it is, in fact, correct. This can be shown by examining the way he is treated by the general public, his school community and even his own family. As a result, Christopher is unable to develop his full potential and becoming as useful an asset to the population as he might have been, creating a vicious cycle.
One major example of the way the community disadvantages him is by looking at the general public. People, having been brought up in a strict society with certain unofficial rules which must be followed, instinctively create a barrier against anything which they deem that does not belong, such as Christopher, and therefore, they either close themselves off, or even turn against him, as the two drunken men on the train had done by calling him a "train elf" (Haddon, 2003:206). On the other hand, there are also those people who believe they are being sympathetic and doing the right thing by "helping" the autistic population like Christopher through counselling and trying to find a "cure" for their disability when they actually don't want to be "cured", because the autistic way of life is the only way they know, and if they are treated, they won't be them anymore. Even classifying autism as a "disability" is a burden, because the definition of the word "disability" is "a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job." and autism should not be seen as a "handicap". It should be seen as a gift. By acting like this, the general public are disadvantaging Christopher by discriminating and insolating him from the rest of society.
In addition, this cycle can be seen within his own school. Due to his disability, Christopher is placed within a special school full of peers who are of lesser intelligence. As a result, he is not offered the same opportunities as other people of his age. He had once stated himself that "Mrs Gascoyn said they didn't want to treat me different from everyone else in the school because then everyone would want to be treated differently and it would set a precedent" (Haddon, 2003:57), which would not have mattered in an ordinary school. The staffs there, instead of helping Christopher reach his potential, spend their time teaching Christopher how to behave "normally". Because Christopher is in a secluded place cut-off from the rest of the world and with students who also have mental disabilities, he does not have the chance to learn how to communicate with ordinary people. Christopher has the ability to become brilliant, but instead, he is forced to spend his time struggling through an alien society.
Furthermore, this lack of understanding does not occur just inside his school, but within his own family. His mother, though kind and loving, having written forty-three letters over the course of the novel despite getting no response, is often embarrassed to be with him in public and prone to breakdowns when things do not go her way. She even blamed Christopher for her problems, stating in one of her letters that: "Maybe, if things had been different, maybe if you were different, I might have been better at it," (Haddon, 2003:133) instead of seeing him for who he actually is. His father understands him better and does not try to fight against him, carefully preparing every single one of Christopher's meals according to his likes and dislikes. But as a result, he overprotects him, defending him relentlessly against any outside harm, therefore not letting him experience events on his own and, in the end, doing more damage than good. Though his family obviously love him very much, in the end, it is them who disadvantage him most of all.
In conclusion, it is evident that the statement proclaiming that it is not Christopher's disability which disadvantages him, but rather his community, is indeed correct. This can be shown by barriers created by the general public against autistic savants such as Christopher, such as bullying him or pacifying him. It can also be seen in the lack of opportunities within his school to support a devoted and hard-working student like Christopher and the misunderstanding inside his family by his mother and father, despite the fact that they are only trying to do what is best for him. These reasons all contribute to the ways Christopher is disadvantaged in this world.