The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime essay conclusion

Adolescence marks a time for social interaction. Between school, sports and other activities, these social settings are the platform for peer groups to form and either accept a child or create an outcast. When discussing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Haddon has made it clear that he sees it as a piece of realistic fiction that is actually realistic: no lucky encounters, no interventions from a deity, just humdrum life.

Living in a world surrounded by people whom function in a different way could cause one to feel left out, but finding another person, fiction or non-fiction that shares similar characteristics can help solve that issue. Living in a world surrounded by people who function in a disparate way could cause one to feel neglected, but finding another person, fiction or non-fiction that shares similar characteristics can help one feel valuable. Remember me. To the extent that language "speaks a word for nature," as Thoreau famously tried to achieve in his writing, it runs the risk of replacing nature's voice with a human voice, thereby silencing it all the more.

How can any language speak for nature or any silenced other without being tainted by the speaker's interests? Christopher's views about language resonate with this ecocritical view, and, as I will show below, The Curious Incident 's disability critique is inextricably tied to its sensitivity to the complicated relationship between language and nature. The concept of normalcy is of central concern to disability studies.

Like critical race studies and feminist theory, disability studies does not merely aim to put one more voice at the table of power. Rather, like these other fields, disability studies seeks to challenge the fundamental paradigms that construct that table. Disability studies emerged around the same time as the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

Although the Act itself was an attempt to recognize unequal treatment of people with disabilities and give them greater political visibility, the field of disability studies developed a more critical agenda, focused on historicizing and deconstructing the very premises of "disability.

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime Essay

In his groundbreaking book, Enforcing Normalcy , disability studies scholar Lennard Davis argues that "before the early to mid-nineteenth century, Western society lacked a concept of normalcy" The prevailing paradigm was that of the "ideal. Those who do not are at the extremes—and are therefore abnormal" Instead of pursuing an ideal, people in the past years have been encouraged to strive to be "normal. In response to this "tyranny of the normal" a type of "tyranny of the majority," perhaps , disability studies scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson coined the term "normate," which refers to the imagined figure of the person who is the epitome of normal.

She explains that the term "normate" "is the constructed identity of those who, by way of the bodily configurations and cultural capital they assume, can step into a position of authority and wield the power it grants them" 8. The normate is able-bodied and of sound mind, and therefore deserves the power he is granted. By giving a name to this otherwise veiled, implied subject, Garland-Thomson adds "able-bodied" to the list of other qualities dominant society values, such as 'white', 'male,' and 'middle-class. Rather, "normal" is a social construction that arises out of particular historical circumstances, serves particular social ends, and defines "disabled," along with categories associated with race, gender and sexuality, as its Other.

For example, it is only in the context of the industrialization of production, in which "labor is standardized and bodies [need to be] interchangeable" Davis, , that a person with a disability is seen and rejected as failing to meet the "norm" of ablebodiedness required for work on an assembly line.

Or, to put it more crudely, it's not the wheelchair that makes it difficult for a person in a wheelchair to climb stairs, it's the stairs. Historical developments, social expectations, and physical environments all create conditions of disability. Disability is thus not located in the individual so much as it is located in the contingent relationship between the individual and social expectations of behavior and productivity. Ironically, however, people considered abled rely on a whole set of aids, technologies, and medications to perform according to the norm.

Do we think of Gor-Tex being an accommodation we require to be comfortable in bad weather? What about anti-depressants, or Viagra? If "disabled" is defined by requiring accommodations to perform a certain standard, as the Americans with Disabilities Act suggests, then why are these "normal" accommodations not associated with disability? Perhaps Christopher in The Curious Incident articulates this point best. In response to being categorized as "special needs," Christopher compares himself to the people around him, trying to locate himself in this order of normalcy: But this is stupid because everyone has learning difficulties because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult and also everyone has special needs, like Father, who has to carry a little packet of artificial sweetening tablets around with him to put in his coffee to stop him from getting fat, or Mrs.

Peters, who wears a beige-colored hearing aid, or Siobhan, who has glasses so thick that they give you a headache if you borrow them, and none of these people are Special Needs, even if they have special needs.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

By deconstructing the language, Christopher challenges the assumed dichotomy between "normal" and "special," and subverts the basis for the social stigma of disability. If we view the apparatuses used to accommodate autism as comparable to the apparatuses that help "normal" people function, then the category "special" makes no sense. They are only different in degree, not kind. Disability is therefore an arbitrary social category, and would perhaps be better understood in terms of a spectrum of abilities that are relative to environmental conditions.

Disability studies scholars hold that identity is not fixed, but they also add that identity is not static; that is, ability varies according to environment and stage of life. One person's disabling conditions may be another person's ideal conditions. In this passage, then, Christopher articulates one of disability studies' most important critiques of normalcy by challenging what it means to "be," as opposed to "have," "special needs.

Disability theorist Susan Wendell claims that all bodies are in flux, not just those of the disabled. The rigid binary of disabled-nondisabled is a myth: "we are all disabled eventually. Most of us will live part of our lives with bodies that hurt, that move with difficulty or not at all, that deprive us of activities we once took for granted or that others take for granted, bodies that make daily life a physical struggle" Indeed, depending on the situation, one can be abled and disabled at the same time.

Disability studies thus exposes the instability of the category "disabled" and the cultural work that it does. The Curious Incident dramatizes these themes. One way that it does so is precisely by destabilizing dominant notions of normalcy. It paradoxically shows us how normal Christopher is, and, through Christopher's perspective, how silly society's ideas of normalcy are. For example, Christopher's life goals are perfectly "normal": he wants to get a degree and a job, earn lots of money, and "get a lady to marry me […] so she can look after me so I can have company" This characterization of a "normal" life trajectory shows that "normal" people are not any different from him, despite the tyranny of normalcy that constantly stigmatizes him.

And, in contrast, normates are irrational, unobservant, and mean to animals , in Christopher's estimation. They "leap to the wrong conclusions," as in detective novels 99 , they stupidly make decisions based on intuition rather than logic 65 , and, as Christopher reasons, "sometimes people want to be stupid and they do not want to know the truth" Perhaps normal is not ideal. Furthermore, everybody exhibits idiosyncrasies that make them identifiable to Christopher, differences that mark them as abnormal: Christopher writes, "I see what they are wearing, or if they have a walking stick, or funny hair, or a certain type of glasses, or they have a particular way of moving their arms" Nobody can hide behind a veneer of normalcy; everyone is different in some way.

And Christopher reads bodies—clothing, affect, accommodations—to prove this. Indeed, at times in the novel, we are struck by the thought that this boy is more normal—or, at a minimum, more adjusted and knowledgeable of himself— than the "normal" people in the novel. This depiction challenges the hierarchy implied by the dichotomy between abnormal and normal, and reveals the instability of the term itself.

Another way that the novel dramatizes the insights of disability studies is by privileging Christopher's individual experience and authority over the external, disciplining, normalizing gaze of a third person narrator. Haddon's choice of perspective is crucial; point of view has everything to do with the novel's critique of normalcy. As poststructuralist, feminist, and critical race theorists have argued, there is no objective "truth" out there, other than our own subjective perspectives.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Pretenses of "truth"—or "truth regimes"—serve to fortify dominant orders and oppress marginalized groups. The presumption that there is only one way to correctly and fully know the world has the effect of neglecting non-dominant ways of knowing the world. Thus, feminist theorists such as Donna Haraway argue for "situated knowledges," an idea extending Hartstock's theory of "standpoint theory" that allows for multiple ways of knowing the world based on unique perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.

For Haraway, all forms of knowledge are partial and based on subjective experience; there is no such thing as objectivity outside of subjectivity. She goes as far as to insist that "only partial perspective promises objective vision" Everyone has their own situated knowledge, but disability studies offers a particularly cogent argument for thinking in these terms, since the world is designed with the normate in mind. By privileging Christopher's point of view, Haddon reminds readers that knowledge is situated. Indeed, even the fact that Christopher is writing a murder mystery and sees his role as the "detective" reinforces the fact that this novel is fundamentally about epistemology.

His role underscores that how we detect and thereby come to know truth is central to the novel's message. Furthermore, the novel's epistemological message is sensual. The novel strips readers of their own epistemological habits and assumptions, and asks readers to "detect" the world through Christopher's senses.

This exercise allows readers to investigate their own assumptions about truth and reality. If our bodies provide us information about the world—that is, our senses tell us what is real and what is not—then different kinds of bodies yield different kinds of knowledges. Disability studies, feminist, and critical race theorists emphasize that the relationship between one's body and one's knowledge helps shape one's "situated knowledge" or standpoint.

If the world is designed to accommodate the normate's body, then non-normates are all the more attuned to the material world, as they spend much more energy navigating it. Michael Dorn calls this heightened attention to the environment "geographical maturity. Similarly, "differently-abled" people are not "different" because of any absolute, essential, or static condition of their own which the medical model assumes , but because the world is designed with normates in mind, as Wendell noted.


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The novel's attention to Christopher's sensual way of knowing the world emphasizes his "environmental sensitivity. Christopher's epistemology is so firmly rooted in the material world that he cannot imagine such an abstraction as the hypothetical. Christopher's observations and senses often overwhelm him because he is taking in more information than normal people do.

In his words, "most people are lazy. They never look at everything. They do what is called glancing, which is the same word for bumping off something and carrying on in almost the same direction.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime Essay | Major Tests

He writes, "The information in their head is really simple" He goes on to discuss a road trip when he stopped in a field with cows. He remembers details that "normal" people would filter out: pieces of litter, the precise topography of the landscape, the exact pattern of black and white on the cows, etc.

It is not just his sense of vision that absorbs the world around him; his sense of smell provides a "smelltrack"—like an olfactory soundtrack—to these detailed memories. Christopher's heightened senses and observational skills challenge dominant notions of what it means to be disabled.

He is extraordinarily abled, here. His sensual relationship to the world also demonstrates his epistemology. His way of knowing the world is not typical, yet it allows him access to information that "normal" people cannot access. The centrality of corporeal epistemology—exemplified by Christopher's "geographical maturity"— to the novel's critique of normalcy suggests that the text might be read in ecocritical terms, that is, with themes of the environment in mind.

Environmental philosophy is concerned with investigating how definitions of the natural world lend themselves to the most ethical treatment of that world, and so questions of epistemology are as central to environmental ethics as they are to feminist theory and disability studies.

There are some ways of knowing the world that are better and more ethical for the preservation of that world than others. Ecofeminist Deborah Slicer, for example, calls for women in particular and even better if men would do this too to "attend to their bodies as materialized starting points for theorizing similarly materialized nature" qtd. Thus, many ecofeminists and eco-phenomenologists argue that we ought to have a more bodily -centered experience of the world because it would foster a better responsibility to the environment. This turn to the body in much current environmental thought rests on a rejection of Cartesian dualisms.

Cartesian dualisms divide the world into sets of opposing values that had once been inextricably linked. Primarily, the mind became separated from the body, and the spiritual world separated from the material world. Scholars like Carolyn Merchant, in The Death of Nature , for example, argue that the creation of these dualisms is at the root of our environmental crisis. Abrams articulates this logic: "Descartes' radical separation of the immaterial human mind from the wholly mechanical world of nature did much to fill this need, providing a splendid rationalization for the vivisection experiments that soon began to proliferate, as well as for the steady plundering and despoilment of nonhuman nature in the New World and the other European colonies" Here, both the human body and material nature become profane, the raw material from which knowledge can be extracted.

By subscribing to these binaries, we inherently value one over the other, as ecofeminist philosopher Karen Warren has powerfully argued, and so the material world becomes profane, and exists simply to be used by hu man ity. Moreover, dualistic thought made the natural world inferior to the spiritual world, and reinforced the Biblical view that animals are inferior to humans. This diminution of materiality—of the body, of animals, of non-human world—sets us up for unbridled exploitation of nature, according to many of these environmental thinkers, who attempt to redress this problem in part by inverting these dualisms.

Eco-phenomenologists in particular as well as many ecofeminists argue that it is only by getting back to our senses as a source of truth that we can reconnect with the material world.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog in the Night-time

These thinkers argue for an epistemology of experience and perception , which recovers the body—as opposed to the mind—as a source of knowledge about the world. The logic here is that a better awareness of our bodily presence in the world will lead to a better knowledge of that world, which will lead to a better ethical stance with regard to that world.

Eco-phenomenology thus recognizes an inextricable link between body, knowledge, and nature. The body's perceptions constitute one's knowledge of the world; they don't merely mediate the world. In The Curious Incident , Christopher's heightened interest in a direct connection to the material world and distaste for artifice provides an excellent example of an eco-phenomenological way of thinking. When Christopher dismisses Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of his favorite detective novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles , for believing in a photograph of fairies, he elaborates on his own standards for truth in terms of Occam's razor: "no more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary" In other words, the only evidence we can be sure of is that which we can perceive.

The fact that Christopher is so struck by the fake photograph of fairies is indicative of the importance he places on the material world as the bearer of truth. Some eco-phenomenologists go as far as to argue that language itself is an artifice that obscures our ethical perception of the material world. Nature does not have language, which is why we have people like Henry David Thoreau wanting to "speak a word for nature" and Peter Singer trying to include animals in a legal rights framework; these are attempts by humans to provide nature with a voice, "standing," in terms of liberal theory.

If the ability to produce and understand language is what separates humans from animals, then language is what makes humans humans. And if animals are closer to nature than humans are, then language is the thing that separates humans from nature. Thus, many environmental thinkers argue that our language alienates us from our animal selves, and therefore from nature. It is associated with the realm of the mind and reason, and we need to return to the body to connect to nature.

In this logic, language is to nature as mind is to body as fake is to real. We must reject language and the mind as artifices in favor of nature and the body as real. Language that does not precisely depict what it describes, language that has more than a one-step remove from the reality it describes, can be understood, then, as un-ecological. Metaphors are even worse. They make no pretense of trying to represent the world directly, as Abrams' passage about language as a code of representation above illustrated.

Indeed, Christopher calls metaphors "lies. Christopher defines metaphors as, "when you describe something by using a word for something that it isn't. Later, he expounds further on the alienation of language from reality in terms of his name. In response to the news that his name refers to Saint Christopher, who helped Jesus, he writes, "I do not want my name to mean a story about being kind and helpful.

I want my name to mean me" The name "Christopher" refers not to Christopher, the boy, but to Saint Christopher, an icon of saintly traits. In this sense, when language refers to something else instead of what it describes, it removes us one more step from that thing itself. This is why Christopher is suspicious of figurative language; in semiotic terms, he wants his name to signify its signified—himself—as closely as possible.

No two things can be the same; again, everything is idiosyncratic, and so language should reflect that. This is also why, when Siobhan is telling him how to write a book, Christopher wants to include photographs, and finds it odd to include only " descriptions of things":. Siobhan said that when you are writing a book you have to include some descriptions of things. I said that I could take photographs and put them in the book.

by Mark Haddon

But she said the idea of a book was to describe things using words so that people could read them and make a picture in their own head. To Christopher, photographs more accurately represent the world than words, and descriptions in words leave too much room for interpretation. The process of reading and making pictures in your own head is not as direct a way to know the world than images, which "cut out the middle man" of language, so to speak, and more directly represent reality.

By extension, being in the world provides a more direct access to the world than reading about the world does. Christopher's aversion to complex language is not, as normate society would have it, a sign of his lack of mental ability. Rather, we can see it as a rejection of language's function as representation of reality, as ornament or artifice, as a more authentic, less corrupt, and less anthropomorphized way of being in the world. Eco-phenomenologists might see Christopher's rejection of misleading language as a rejection of a normalizing society, but it is also a rejection of an anthropocentric society that values humans over nature.

For example, imagining his own sort of post-apocalyptic "ecotopia," Christopher fantasizes about being the only person on the planet.

This fantasy is a common trope in environmental writing, from Rachel Carson's Silent Spring to Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia , revealing Christopher's normative critique of the status quo. Indeed, such an analysis suggests that there is a relationship between these two forms of oppression.