Thursday, October 23, 2008

Math Level A

Three men, an economist, a logician and a mathematician are on a train to Scotland. They see a brown cow from the window.

Economist: ‘Look, the cows in Scotland are brown.’

Logician: ‘No. There are cows in Scotland of which one, at least, is brown.’

Mathematician: ‘No. There is at least one cow in Scotland, of which one side appears to be brown.’

And that is why, Christopher, the protagonist narrator of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” loves math. Christopher is a 15 year old English boy, a math prodigy and genius, and a victim of Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild of form of autism.

Suffering from autism, Christopher lives in a world separate from others. His world is characterized by extreme seclusion. He hates crowds and strangers. He cannot be in a closed room with people or he will be sick. He simply cannot understand human emotions. He never allows his parents to touch his hands. He cannot understand any facial expression except “sad” and “happy”. His most beautiful dream is apocalypse. His world is completely abstract. He adores math. He is a math genius, indeed. Math is his looking glass through which the whole world is reflected. Therefore he loves the truth and cannot understand lies. He hates metaphors because there is no math and truth in them, but he likes similes because they are mathematically possible. If he hears a lie he will feel sick.

One night, Christopher finds his neighbour’s dog killed by a garden fork and he decides to find the murderer. Christopher’s Sherlock Holmes’ adventure leads to the dark realities of his own life: that his mother is not dead, and that his father had lied to him because mother left them “to do sex with another man”. Christopher is sick because he has been lied to. He should leave father because father has lied, and it is not possible to live with someone who has lied. “Father might kill him.” So he leaves their small town to find his mum in London. And so the journey begins. To get to his mum, Christopher needs to pass through everything he hates. Crowds, closed spaces full of people, filled with strangers, strangers with different facial expressions. He cannot get it. His mind cannot solve all this not-Math.

The beauty of the novel is Mark Haddon’s striking ability to write about the inner life of someone suffering from autism. Apart from that, Christopher represents any child who has to deal with the implications of living with a single parent.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” is a good read. The prose is easy, and the plot is very absorbing. However one weak point it that Haddon, at one point, forces his way into Christopher’s mind and, in a chapter hardly relevant to the events of the plot or to Christopher’s concerns, announces his being an atheist. Another weak point is lack of one epiphanic ending, which could be very suitable for such a well-writ novel.

My Rating Out of 10:
Mark Haddon; “The Curios Incident of the Dog in the Night Time”: 6.5


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