Christopher explains that he sees all the little details around him, which is why he doesn’t like being in new places, because he has to take in everything there is to see. Most people only glance at their surroundings and think about other things while they’re glancing. Christopher recalls standing in a field on the way to France for a vacation, and he can still remember all the tiny details of the field, such as a squashed can with a snail on it.
This hypersensitivity to detail helps explain Christopher’s extreme reactions to crowds and new places. Furthermore, this chapter forces the reader to appreciate what Christopher is going through as he takes on this journey with so many elements in it that are new to him. It also makes Christopher’s narration that much more credible, since he really does remember any detail he writes down.
Christopher draws the exact patterns of a cow he saw in the field, which reminds him he knows a joke about a cow. The joke involves an economist, a logician, and a mathematician who draw different conclusions from seeing a brown cow in Scotland, and it proves that mathematicians think most clearly and don’t assume anything they don’t know for sure.
Christopher already lives like the exemplary mathematician of the joke. Even if he makes hypotheses about what could have happened to Wellington or to his mother, he never takes anything as truth before he has proof to support it.
When Christopher goes somewhere new, his brain gets overloaded by everything he has to see. It’s even worse when there are many people around and they try to interact with him, because he has to anticipate what they might do. In these situations, Christopher covers his ears and groans so that he can remember what he’s supposed to be doing. However, his power of observation also makes him good at chess, math, and logic.
Once again, Christopher’s description of how he experiences the world makes it that much more impressive for him to take on a journey to London. He doesn’t see his hypersensitivity only as a difficulty, however. He also is aware that it gives him an advantage in certain areas that he values.