why does christopher find people confusing?
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In chapter 3, Christopher explains that he has difficulty determining people’s emotions from their facial expressions. But he can name each country in the world, their capitals, and every prime number up to 7,057. He recalls the first time he met Siobhan, eight years earlier. She drew faces on a piece of paper and asked him what emotions the faces expressed. Christopher could only identify the sad face, which represents how he felt when he found Wellington dead, and the happy face, which shows how he feels when he wanders the neighborhood at three or four in the morning. He could not identify the other emotions.
Analysis: Chapters 2-41
The book begins unconventionally, starting with Chapter 2 instead of Chapter 1, and rapidly progresses through the prime numbers until we have finished Chapter 41 at the end of the section. Christopher has chosen to write the book this way simply because he prefers prime numbers, with their specificity of pattern, to standard numbers. Christopher also digresses repeatedly from the mystery of Wellington’s murder right from the start, veering into discussions of what he knows (countries and their capitals, for example) and the difficulties he has understanding people. The reader can see by this point that, although The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time may use some conventions of murder-mystery narratives, it will hardly be a conventional story for that genre. The ways it diverges from convention, digressing into discussions of numbers for instance, give the reader insight into how Christopher views the world. Specifically, Christopher’s observations on prime numbers tell us that Christopher values order and has a gifted mathematical mind.
Christopher has very poor social skills, stemming from his inability to imagine what other people are thinking or feeling, and in this section we already see this limitation playing out in the story. For instance, we see that Christopher is easily misled by lies when Christopher finds his father alone in the living room crying. Father says he feels sad because of Wellington, though the reader recognizes that this excuse is not true. Christopher, who cannot understand that his father is lying, believes him and returns to his room without questioning the matter any further. This difficulty identifying lies makes it all the more extraordinary that Christopher investigates the mystery of Wellington’s murder. We also see Christopher’s poor social skills at work when he has difficulty explaining himself after Mrs. Shears and the policeman confront him about Wellington. He quickly feels overwhelmed and withdraws into a ball. Repeatedly, Christopher’s social deficits lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. For instance, Christopher’s inability to explain why he was holding Wellington’s body leads Mrs. Shears to think that Christopher killed Wellington. In fact, Christopher’s poor social skills play such a prominent role right from the start of the story that the reader can assume they will have greater ramifications later on.
Christopher recognizes his social limitations, and he focuses instead on the extraordinary intelligence he displays in other regards. The main evidence of this intelligence comes from Christopher’s ability to deal with concepts that other people might find abstract and difficult to comprehend. He clearly and succinctly explains why the Milky Way appears in the sky as it does, for example. He also tells the reader that he can identify all the prime numbers up to 7,057, indicating that he has a particularly savantlike ability with numbers. Christopher compares prime numbers to life, saying that both are logical but you could never work out the rules no matter how hard you try. He believes that, like prime numbers, life abides by rules. In other words, he does not see life as random and chaotic, even though he recognizes that he cannot know all its rules. Instead, Christopher knows his strengths and weaknesses and lives contentedly with them.
Christopher’s obsession with the physical details of his surroundings, particularly aspects of color, number, and time, serves as a great asset to him in his investigation. Christopher describes scenes in very specific detail. After the police put him in jail, for instance, he comments on the ordered dimensions of his cell before considering why he is in prison in the first place. When the officer makes him turn in his belongings at the police station, he lists in great detail every item in his pockets. This attention to detail helps Christopher to counter the disadvantages he faces from his lacking social skills and allows him to gather clues related to Wellington’s murder. He notices that Wellington’s muzzle still feels warm when he finds Wellington dead, for instance.
Christopher explains that he has difficulty determining people’s emotions from their facial expressions.