Arts & Leisure

“Curious Incident,” and Why Representation Matter

This summer, I finally read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” My search for summer reading began an hour before I left for the airport to depart for my summer job. I worked at my summer camp in Colorado, and up until I was about to depart, it hadn’t crossed my mind to pack any reading material.

With hardly any time, my only options left were the libraries of my parents and sister. Among their selections of romantic novels, political biographies, parenting advice, poker strategy books, and many other books I had no interest in, I found a few gems: “Curious Incident,” “Into the Wild,” and “Half Broke Horses.”

I immediately dove into “Curious Incident.” My high school had just chosen to put on a production of the play adaptation of the novel this fall. Obviously, I felt an intense nostalgia and urge to stay connected to my glory days.
The story begins when Christopher, our protagonist, finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, stabbed with garden shears. Christopher, who is high-functioning on the autism spectrum, sets off to find out who murdered Wellington.

Christopher lives with his father in Swindon, Wiltshire, and Christopher’s mother died a few years before the beginning of the novel. “Curious Incident” is told from Christopher’s perspective as he goes from school to his therapist’s office, and back home to reminisce about when his mother was still alive.

As the story progresses, Christopher delves deeper into Wellington’s death, or the “curious incident,” against his father’s request. In doing so, Christopher uncovers more about his life that was hidden from him.

Reading from Christopher’s perspective is profound. Readers are able to perceive the world through his eyes. For example, readers learn that when Christopher sees a yellow car on his way to school, he believes that he will have a bad day. Christopher’s particular worldview resonated with me because my first-year seminar at Bates focused on a range of (dis)abilities, including autism, from the perspectives of families who care for children with special needs and strengths.

Consequently, I loved following Christopher’s story as he grew more and more independent. What starts as a character-driven novel quickly evolves into a total page-turner: the novel’s enticing narrative makes it hard to put the book down. I can confidently say that this is one of my all-time favorites, so much so that when I finished the book, I was upset to pick up another and immediately recommended it to my book-loving friends.

When I returned home from camp, my copy of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” now with a bent cover page and dirt stains, went on my bookshelf. Now out of the
wilderness, I re-watched some of my old favorites on Netflix, including season one of “Atypical.”

Similar to “Curious Incident,” “Atypical”’s main character, Sam, is a high schooler with autism. The show centers around the Gardner family and is narrated by Sam via his therapy sessions. I immediately drew parallels between Christopher and Sam, and even myself. Their aversion to change in addition to their strong relationships with their
therapists and (over)protective adults in their lives, really struck a chord with me. I appreciated getting to experience untold stories from both literary and broadcast platforms.

Representation is everything, and I feel lucky to have access to accurate stories of (dis)abilities right at my fingertips. Season two of “Atypical” is now streaming on Netflix, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is only $8.79 (paperback) on Amazon. Both stories will reel you in and you’ll be able to better understand and appreciate the narratives they share.

Hannah Golub
Contributing Writer

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