I Am Sam and the Curious Incident of the Dog

Narratives whatever the medium can reflect the cultural context that produced them. They can underline our dominant representations and perpetuate contemporary values which validate society’s collective view of the world. Text’s both non print and print are commercially driven, designed for public consumption. To attain mass appeal, texts act to confirm habitual ways of thinking and acting in the world. As a product of its contextual community, narratives amplify ideologies within society at the time the text was produced. With similar producer/audience social framework reader/viewers may actively engage ith the narrative to cross examine society’s collective view of the world.
The two contemporary texts I am Sam [2001] directed by Jessie Nelson and The Curious Incident of the Dog the Night Time [2003] written by Mark Haddon illustrate cultural narratives which reflect and assess the social frame work of their writer/producer. The two texts connect with contemporary culture to highlight the notion of happiness which underpins western society’s dominant ideologies and cultural assumptions of success, mental/social intelligence, materialism and wealth. I am Sam directed by Jessie Nelson is an unforgettable story of life, ove and laughter.
The touching tale glorifies two of the most ambiguous and controversial contemporary ideas on child rearing. The feature film maps a mentally challenged adult Sam Dawon [Sean Penn] who singularly raises his daughter Lucy up to her seventh birthday. As it soon becomes apparent that Lucy is intellectually surpassing her father, she begins to intentionally stunt her own growth. Which forces Lucy to walk the line between daughter and parent as her innocence and happiness are jeopardised when a series of misunderstandings leaves Sam fighting to retain custody of his seven year old daughter.

This legal battle see’s Sam seek the aid of self absorbed, successful lawyer Rita Harrison [Michelle Pfeiffer] who’s ambition and sense of social failure pushes her into taking on Sam’s case free of charge. Together they must find a way to communicate to each other, to their children and the legal system that a parent is a parent and no matter what the nature of a parent’s intelligence or financial status, love is what every child needs. Mark Haddon’s The curious incident of the dog in the night time is an original, clever and genuinely moving novel.
The text amplifies many rofound issues of human relationships and accepting differences. This murder mystery novel maps fifteen year old Christopher John Francis Boone who knows all the countries of the world, their capitals and every prime number up to 7 057. He takes everything that he sees or is told at face value, and is unable to sort out the strange behaviour of his elders and peers. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Routine, order and predictability protect him from the messy, wider world that is until he comes across his neighbour’s poodle Wellington impaled on a garden pitch fork.
Christopher seizes upon this mystery as a puzzle like a maths problem in hopes of understanding something that makes no sense to him; he sets out to solve the mystery of who killed Wellington. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths, as Christopher’s write up of his discoveries for the creation of his murder mystery novel evolves into the story of his life. As Christopher is positioned face to face with the dissolution of his parent’s marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn to the workings of Christopher’s mind. This highlights to readers an incredibly vivid xperience of what it is like to be some one who thinks and reacts so differently to what we consider the norm.
The archetypical cultural assumptions which frame the notion of success and happiness in the western world classify those that do not conform as “others”; misunderstood individuals. Non print text I am Sam conveys those marginalised by the dominant western representations, of what constitutes success and happiness through the prototagonist construction of Sam Dawson [Sean Penn]. The technical codes of camera angles, framing, distance and movement are utilised by the text to present the truggle taking place in Sam’s head. Viewers are positioned to see the world through Sam’s eyes with whirling handheld cameras, whop pans and staccato jump cuts mimicking Sam’s bewildered point of view.
This si evident in the feature films opening scene. The introductory montage frames Sam’s hands colour coordinating sugar packets; the distance and position of the shots positions viewers in Sam’s point of view. This intimate frame connected to John Powell’s music of an polyphonic upbeat, fugue foregrounds the abstract ambience of Sam Dawson’s consciousness.
Encouraging viewer’s curiosity to wonder why the world is different for him. Though audience perception of Sam is incomplete without the audio and symbolic codes which help fabricate Sean’s Penn’s character. Penn’s mannerisms and vocal distortions evidently present Sam as ‘different’. as Sam Sean Penn speaks in tight toneless clumps, punctuated by bursts of childlike glee. As evident in the opening scene. Sam: “decafe double tall non fat for Bruce” Customer [Bruce] :”you’ve got it buddy” hands connect in high five slap Sam: “that’s a wonderful choice Bruce” Customer [Bruce] :”thankyou Sam”
Sam: “yeah it certainly is…… ” Customer [Bruce] :”thankyou… ” Sam’s manner of walking and holding his hands contributes to convey the struggle taking place in his head. As presented in this initial scene. Sam claps his hands and pounds every surface drumming out a beat to a song only he can hear. This quick paced opening constructs Sam to exist as the western society ‘mist understood’ individual. With the social status, emotional and intellectual state of the character being perpetuated endorsing the values and cultural assumptions that frame the notion of success and happiness.
The grown man earning $8 dollars an hour exists in a parallel universe to the world of dominant western members. The conventions and techniques of construction employed by the text to formulate the underlying expectations which constitute success and happiness with Sam an explicit representation of those individuals who subvert the naturalised ideology. Contemporary western society ideologies of success and happiness have mapped archetypal cultural assumptions which individuals must conform to represent one who upholds the respecting values. Feature film I am Sam erpetuates the notion of success and happiness via Rita Harrison [Michelle Pfeiffer] who acts to affirm dominant representations.
Beverly Hills Lawyer, Rita Harrison conveys a lifestyle which much of western society uphold or aspire to; too busy for anything, caught up in games and rat races, that we believe will bring money, status, power and thus entitle individuals to success and happiness. Symbolic codes are employed by the text to construct Rita to represent society’s archetypal assumptions of success and happiness. Binary opposition of the archetypal cultural assumptions which oreground the notion of success and happiness in the modern western world reflect yet shape the social frame work of the texts writing/reading/viewing. Feature films allow us to enter worlds outside our own lives and challenge us to see things in different ways. Contemporary text I am Sam amplifies the naturalised ideologies within society at the time the narrative was produced, highlighting the notion of success and happiness in the modern western world. The text offers a confirmation of society’s existing archetypal cultural assumptions which frame the notion of success and happiness.
Though I am Sam offers another perspective of those most often marginalised by the dominant western representation. Binary opposition of how we interact and perceive the world reflects yet challenges the archetypal cultural assumptions which frame the notion of happiness and success. Operating to shape the social frame work of the texts writing/reading. The Curious Incident of the Dog the Night Time, offers readers to see the world though fresh eyes, in a different way. Not only does the novel position readers to see how a child with Asperger’s syndrome might approach the world around him, it opens ndividual readers eye’s purely by his different approach. Haddon’s strength is his ability to present to the reader common situations as looked at from Christopher’s new and some what disconcerting perspective.
“Most people are lazy. They never look at everything. They do what is glancing which is the same word for bumping off something and carrying on in almost the same direction, eg when a snooker ball glances off another snooker ball. And the information in their head is really simple. For example, if they are in the country side, it might be 1. I am standing in a field that is full of grass. . There are some cows in the fields 3. It is sunny with a few clouds 4. There are some flowers in the grass. 5. There is a village ion the distance 6. There is a fence at the edge of the field and it has a gate in.
And then they would stop noticing because they would be thinking something else like, ‘Oh, it is very beautiful here,’ or, ‘I’m worried that I might have left the gas cooker on,’ or, ‘I wonder if Julie has given birth yet. ‘ But if I’m standing in a field in the countryside I notice everything. ‘ This disorienting and reorienting of the reader manages to bring readers eep inside Christopher’s mind and situate them comfortably within his limited, severely logical point of view. To the extent that readers begin to question the common sense and erratic emotionalism of the normal western citizens who surround, the protagonist, as well as contemporary western institutions and habits of perception. Positioning readers to consider how their individual mind works and how that may differ from others.
Guiding readers to critique aspects of western life by means of the naturalised ideologies and cultural assumptions majority of western citizens uphold as their understandings and view of the world re transformed. The misunderstood individual is one which subverts the confimity of domiant cultural frame works. Archetypal cultural assumptions which formulate the notion of happiness in the contempory western world are perpetuated and reinforced through print text The Curious Incident of the Dog the Night Time. As Haddon’s explict misanthropy represenation of protagonist Christopher vaildates the underlying expectations which constitues the notion of happiness and success. As readers examinate a condition that is barely comprehended by society, demonstrating how society responds to those it views as abberrant.
Haddon presentsthe story in Chrisopher’s words as the style of writing contributes to reflect the protagonist perpective. With fragmented chapters of breathless paragraphs and short staccato burts which are framed by unconventional prime numbers to subhead chapters in plcae of cardinal numbers accounts the novel like a stream of logic rather than a stream of cosciousness. The narration allernates with mathematical material, riddles, maps and drawings which demonstrates how Christopher’s life is intensely visual; with words and language as secondary forms of communication.
Utimately the novel regards the predicatable laws of science far easier to grasp than the passions of people, and hence less frightening. But at the same time, this book affrims for us the importance of such emotions and even if our narrator does not in the end appricate this, the reader does. As the misanthrope perpective where logic is that of paramount importance, perpetuates archetypal cultural assumptions as readers learn to appreicate their social skills which enable them to cope with the myriads of daily hurdles.
A fansinating moment in the narrative which maps the cultural aleination of Christopher comes when the young boy realtes his faviour dream. ” ” A world in which all normal people die of a virus that the autistic are immuine to. The autistic are then free to lead their lives in silence and without the need to look others in the eye or to interpret idiomatic speech. This misanthrope thought constructs protagonist Christopher as an individual whom does not conform to the underlying expectations which constitute teh notion of happiness in the western world.
The techniques of construction that present Christopher’s perpective postion readers to percieve his austic view point as aberrant. Reinforcing the cultural assumptions as means of conforms of the notion as Christopher explictly subverts them. Print texts provide an ideal avenue to reflect society’s values and alter reader’s personal perspectives by improving their understandings of the world and social frame work which surround them. Contemporary text The Curious Incident of the Dog the Night Time amplifies the naturalised ideologies within society at the time the narrative was roduced, highlighting the notion of happiness and the cultural assumptions which it advocates. Haddon’s novel presents a confirmation of western society’s existing ways of thinking and behaving.
In doing so The Curious Incident of the Dog the Night Time is an potential site to reassess naturalised idealogies. As readers are guided by the narrative to cross examine their own individual social frame work. As Haddon takes a life that seems horribly constrained and invites readers to view this life with succient imagination demonstrating it to be infinite. But the text does more than that.
It sights how little seperates us from those we turn away from in the street. It’s about how badly we communicate with one another. It’s about accepting that every life is narrow and that our only escape from this is not to run away [to another country, another relationship, a slimmer, more confident self] but to learn to love the people we are and the world in which we find ourselfs. Haddons use of cognitive astrayment through Christophers severly logical point of view popstions readers to question the common sense and cultural assumptions of their own western instiutions, and habits of perception.
For example; I found myself questioning whether it is any less logical for 3 red cars to mean that a happy day is ahead, than it is for the frequently western practised symbol of ‘sunshine’ meanign a good rewarding day is in advance. As Christopher says “People go on hoildays to see new things…. but i think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly” This vivid portrait of an unique often marginlised perception of life coping rituals highlights the small things in life that most of us forget to look at.
The ‘life lessons’ situate readers to acknowledge the commonly framed ‘invaild’ can excel the minds of those individuals who conform to cultural assumptions. As readers learn although Christopher’s path is different from most, he is still in search for the happiness we all seek… As readers appreciate teh strange unique beauty of Chrisophers grasp of life. Which demonstrates the profound functions of the human mind and encourages individuality as the text proves idealogies are apparent without cultural frameworks.

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