An important truth about literature is that its greatest pleasures are beyond most readers. Only people with an artistic bent of mind can enjoy great art. But, there is more to it. Great literature demands deep learning, and an over-learning of the fundamental principles of human nature that comes from hard-won experience.
Consider this passage in Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time”, on Christopher. He was then a thirteen-year-old high IQ boy who has the cognitive strengths and weaknesses of what they call “Asperger Syndrome”, though Mark Haddon never claimed that the boy has Asperger. The fact is that he sees things as they are:
“I colored all the cars in with red paint to make it a Super Super Good Day for Mother. Father said that she died of a heart attack and it wasn’t expected. I said, “What kind of heart attack?” because I was surprised. Mother was only 38 years old and heart attacks usually happen to older people, and Mother was very active and rode a bicycle and ate food which was healthy and high in fiber and low in saturated fat like chicken and vegetables and muesli. Father said that he didn’t know what kind of heart attack she had and now wasn’t the moment to be asking questions like that. I said that it was probably an aneurysm.”
Christopher thinks that there is something missing in this picture, but his father tells him that this is not the time to ask such questions. When he asks important questions, his father tells him that he does not know, but it clear that he does not want to know either. Christopher is said to be cold and unfeeling, but he asks questions because he is curious about the truth. His father evades those questions, or curtly dismisses them because it bothers him, for some reason that he does not wish to state. Most people are not very curious about the truth, but this boy is.
People often act as if they do not want to know important truths, but the real reason is that they are emotionally unstable.They might tell you that there is no point in probing the past, and forgetting the future, but that is a red-herring. This is an important key to understanding human nature, because this is how people respond to all the important questions. I say this, because many readers would remember this passage, though for a different reason.
Later, it turns out that his mother did not die, and that his father had lied about it.