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"Curious Incident" and Reliable Narrators
by i can make it on my own! (lydaclunas)
at April 22nd, 2007 (07:44 pm)

Is Christopher a reliable or an unreliable narrator?

Is Christopher's perception of the world limited by the fact that it is different? He clearly isn't stupid, but he does have a very different approach to thinking about things. However, how much does this make his narration unreliable?

I think one of the problems with Christopher's "autism" -- or the portrayal of autism through the character of Christopher -- is that Haddon tries to make him as reliable a narrator as possible. What might the book have been like if Haddon had left his narrator as unreliable as possible, further illustrating a vastly different mental state than the one most of us go through life with?

The level of self-awareness, motivation, awareness of his surroundings, and ability to describe them in ways that we as readers can understand (and also note as the supposed "differences" between autistic perception and our own) is, I think, central to what makes Christopher's autism fail as a realistic illustration of that mental state. hedda62 asked if it would even be possible to write this book without this central self-awareness of the narrator. I think it could be -- though it would certainly take more skill. Do we need, for example, Christopher's analysis of why he doesn't like novels or lies to figure out that thinking about things that are not true makes his head spin? Would lack of awareness of his reasoning inhibit our ability to understand it, if we were shown this in a different way?

Speaking of lies, I think Haddon adds Christopher's "inability" to lie to give him further credibility. However, just because Christopher doesn't lie, as in, telling deliberate untruths, he clearly understands the concept of deception, and he seems pretty devious about getting around outright lying and promises. I wonder how accurate this particular understanding is (in some ways it is contradictory. Mightn't telling "white lies" be just as irritating to Christopher as when his father doesn't give him very specific, detailed instructions about what he is or is not to do? Both are about leaving things out.) and if it actually adds to or takes away from his credibility.