Choose a literary character who experienced a great personal struggle or challenge. Briefly describe this challenge and how the character overcame it. Why did this have an impact on you? Are there ways in which you identify with this character?
In Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime”, an autistic boy named Christopher flees to London to live with his mother after discovering that his father has murdered a dog. Christopher, who has never travelled before, is forced to embrace the terrifying aspect of loud trains, new places, and unfriendly strangers – all things that he finds unbearable. He overcomes his fears through the comfort of quadratic equations and his pet rat and eventually succeeds in finding his mother. To most people, a journey like this would probably be intimidating but manageable. Then again, Christopher has many more struggles than the average person. Though a brilliant scholar, Christopher is panicked and overwhelmed by loud noises and social interaction. He recites prime numbers in his head for fun, yet fears and disdains the color yellow with an unbridled passion. He hates loud noises and crowds, but is so scared of his father that he leaves every familiar comfort he knows to search for his mother. His perseverance and determination to embrace the largest of his fears is both inspirational and humbling. I have always loved travelling. I find it almost comforting, as I thrive on new experiences and intimidating adventures. Though Christopher and I are very different, I relate to Christopher. His acts of bravery are comparatively more intense than my own, but I understand the fear of the unknown that he experiences. I understand his meltdowns upon feeling lost and vulnerable. I also learned from Christopher. I often take my mental health and intact family for granted, but am learning to recognize that I’m very lucky to be in such a position. I have learned that the things I consider to be mundane and typical are stressful and terrifying for others. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” has helped me to be less judgmental and more likely to seek understanding of others. It has helped to broaden my understanding of mental disabilities and those who live with them. This book is more than just an interesting story. It’s educational and humbling. It explores the mind of a boy who is so determined to find his mother that he faces his biggest fears to do so. When I compare his fears to my own, I feel humbled. From Christopher’s terrifying train ride to his forced interactions with strangers that he fears, he describes his entire journey in a way that many people would never even consider. Taking the subway can be intimidating, but Christopher waits for five hours before mustering the courage to ride it. Christopher’s journey left me with a new understanding of mental illness and an appreciation for my own health. It made me recognize that I take my health for granted far too often, and helped me to be less judgemental of others who may have problems similar to Christopher’s.