ENGL 101W Study Guide - Final Guide: Mark Haddon, Barry Levinson, Unreliable Narrator
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Fiction 101: Week 2 – Lecture 1 – September 12, 2006
Curious Incident: A Great Humanist Novel?
- Poses fundamental questions about the human condition.
1) Rational/Irrational: Ex. Page 12. Last paragraph of chapter 19: They provide a meaning of a
pattern and realize that they are infinite. “I think prime numbers are like life.” – Our constant
negotiation of Rational/Irrational.
2) Boy against world/Narrative of Alienation: Christopher who is alienated from society. A story
of miscommunication/lack of communication. – Voice of isolation. Another example: Catcher in
the Rye, 1984, Lost in translations (Bill Murray) A world that he does know.
3) The Quest Motif: Quest to find the dog, but becomes the search for family and the search for
home. The language of home is used. He leaves Swindon for London. Search for cohesive
family unit. Ex. Page 172 “And I thought …” Middle of the page. Page 176 “ I realized….”
Bottom of the page. Where is home? Allegorical (symbolic) level. Christopher is in search of
4) Heroic Disability: A person with disability triumphs in society. ADVERSITY! It throws light on
society at large. Disability becomes metaphor for the dysfunctional middle class family and
how society does not know hot react to those of disability. Should a writer use disability as a
metaphor for the disability of a society as a whole – politics? Ex.1 Page 148- 150. “I look up..”
This shows how the policeman reacts to Christopher’s disability. – the failure of the media is
what makes it humorous. Lack of translation between voice and text.
5) Larger cultural narratives of disability: Ex 1. Rain man (1988- directed by Barry Levinson) –
A man with autism. A self discovery for both characters. Ex 2. The Piano Man (2005) A
man from Britain who came upon shore.
BIG QUESTION: Is this a great humanist novel???
A Curious Incident:
Publishing Details: Major best seller.
Setting in Britain in Swindon, he was originally an illustrator and children’s writers. A Curious
Incident was his breakthrough novel.
Inspiration came from autistic children, which was an influence in the development of the novel.
Interview with author: With the NPR: National public radio: Mark Hadden: Asperger Syndrome
He started three different novels at the same time. Wanted to write something gripping. Vivid. He
thought it was kind of funny. He doesn’t get sentimental. Doesn’t explain many things. Not aware of
being a reader.
Haddon’s Interview with David Welch for Powells Books
“It was definitely for adults, but maybe I should say more specifically: It
was for myself. [ . . .] Consequently, I was quite surprised when I gave it to my agent and she said,
‘Let's try it with both adult and children's publishers and see what happens.’ I was really quite
surprised and, truth to tell, perhaps a bit disappointed because I'd spent a lot of effort trying to move
away from writing for children. Here I thought, Maybe I'm about to slip back inside the ghetto again.”
The rest of the interview can be found on her website.
1) This voice is described as funny, sentimental all at the same time. “gold dust” accidental
discovery. Humorous – disjunction between tone and content. Neutral voice with a very
2) How a media whore. He had an image in his mind. He thinks it’s funny. To enable the comedic
quality he created a voice on the printed page.
Source of humor
What is his humor?
Is connected to point of view.
There is only one voice in this novel. There is only on perspective. Narrative perspective a way in to
understanding a novel.
Genre is a way to understanding fiction.
First Person point of view:
Stream of consciousness
Fixed (on Christopher)
Everything is coming from Christopher
Unreliable narrator - it’s only because Christopher because he’s not rational
Circumscribed lives = bounded lives/restricted lives
Why do we read novels about juvenile characters?
-we are attracted to novels about our childhood b/c we’ve all been there
-innocence away from our world of SEX and drugs
-He can get away with a little more with a child’s voice.
The appeal of this voice is its uncertainty.
This book reveals disability in our culture.
Post colonial novels – multi-culti novels
Literary Devices that Hadden uses
Literal/non metaphoric language
Not aware of a reader
How is the author trying to make the novel funny?
Literary Devices Used:
Parataxis (paratactic sentence): Short staccato like sentences Ex. Without subordinate clauses, no
conjunction (stylistically this novel is different) To show how Christopher can’t communicate with
reader. Hemmingway used this device.
Hyper-logical logic – Deduction: Observable facts.
Dramatic Irony: The reader knows more than the narrator. We know that Christopher has a
disconnect with society.
Awkward images: Skin is pale like chicken. It is something that doesn’t readily come to mind.
Catachrestical = awkward image. Ex: A girdled mountain.
Fiction 101: Week 2 – Lecture 2 – September 14, 2006
Curious Incident: Reinventing the Book
1. The alienation of Christopher. Society’s different and Christopher’s different.
- Destabilizes our reading experiences in order to reproduce the communication gap = so we can get
into Christopher’s chaos and confusion.
Page 19: “This is another reason…. “– He does not like to explore with fiction. He likes Math and
Page 67: “Siobhan said that when you are writing a book you have to include some …” -This tells us
that he is uncomfortable with words and has difficulty with the world of language.
In addition to blurring fact from fiction.
He mixes his sub genres
Road trip novel (Adventure)/ Picaresque
Family Drama –“Domestic”
Coming of Age
“Alternative” Post modern novel
Novel of Manners (Like Jane Austin)
The structure can both alienate and/or immerse the reader.
When Christopher corrects himself – can also derail the reader
Then he said, “Holy fucking Jesus, Christopher. How stupid are you?”
[ . . .] Then Father said, “What the fuck did I tell you, Christopher?” This was much louder.
[ . . .]
But Father interrupted me and said, “ Don’t give me that bollocks, you little shit” (Haddon 81).
UNDRESSING THE WORD
Christopher is not comfortable with the figurative.
Page 15 – Christopher explanation of what a metaphor
Page 4 – His definition of a proper novel This passage is from the Waves – Virginia Woolf (Great
British Writer from the 1920’s)
Fiction 101: week 2 lecture 1 september 12, 2006. Poses fundamental questions about the human condition. Last paragraph of chapter 19: they provide a meaning of a pattern and realize that they are infinite. I think prime numbers are like life. our constant negotiation of rational/irrational: boy against world/narrative of alienation: christopher who is alienated from society. Another example: catcher in the rye, 1984, lost in translations (bill murray) a world that he does know: the quest motif: quest to find the dog, but becomes the search for family and the search for home. Page 172 and i thought middle of the page. Christopher is in search of home: heroic disability: a person with disability triumphs in society. Disability becomes metaphor for the dysfunctional middle class family and how society does not know hot react to those of disability. This shows how the policeman reacts to christopher"s disability. The failure of the media is what makes it humorous.