The curious incident of the dog in the
Full Title · The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Author · Mark Haddon
Type Of Work · Novel
Genre · Mystery novel; Family drama; Children’s book
Language · English
Time And Place Written · Early 2000s, Oxford, England
Date Of First Publication · 2003
Publisher · Vintage Contemporaries, a division of Random House
Narrator · The novel’s mildly autistic protagonist, Christopher John Francis
Boone, narrates in the first-person.
Point Of View · Christopher John Francis Boone speaks in the first person.
We are to understand the book as his written account of the murder of his
neighbor’s dog, Wellington. Structurally, the novel alternates between a
chapter advancing the narrative, and a chapter in which Christopher
discusses ideas or concepts worth noting.
Tone · Conversational and matter-of-fact.
Tense · Past tense
Setting (Time) · 1998
Setting (Place) · In and around Swindon, England, with a trip to London,
Protagonist · Christopher John Francis Boone
Major Conflict · Christopher’s investigation of Wellington’s murder leads
him to uncover a number of secrets about his parents, causing him to lose
his trust in Father and to set out to London in search of Mother.
Rising Action · As Christopher investigates Wellington’s murder, he learns
that Mother and Mr. Shears had an affair, that Father and Mrs. Shears also
had an affair, that Mother is alive and Father has been lying about her
death, and that Father killed Wellington because he was angry with Mrs.
Climax · After a harrowing journey on his own to London in which he must
overcome the limits of his condition, Christopher reunites with his mother.
Falling Action · Christopher moves in with Mother, successfully completes
his A-level test in math, and begins to reestablish trust with Father. He
recalls all that he has accomplished over the course of the novel and sets
out a series of goals for the future.
Themes · The Struggle to Become Independent; Subjectivity; the Disorder
of Life; Coping with Loss
Motifs · Frustration with Christopher; Science and Technology; Animals
Symbols · The Murder Investigation; Logic Puzzles, Math Problems, and
Maps; The A-Level Test in Math
Foreshadowing · Father’s excessive anger over Christopher’s desire to
investigate Wellington’s murder; Christopher’s repeated observation that
murderers typically know their victims; Christopher’s discovery of a letter
from Mother in Father’s closet.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time takes place in the year 1998
in and around the town of Swindon, England. The fifteen-year-old narrator
of the story, Christopher John Francis Boone, discovers the slain body of
his neighbor’s poodle, Wellington, on the neighbor’s front lawn one evening
and sets out to uncover the murderer. His investigation is at times aided,
and at other times hampered, by the mild form of autism he lives with. After
Christopher hits a policeman in a misunderstanding at the scene of the
crime, the police take Christopher into custody. They release Christopher
with only a stern warning, under the condition that he promises to them and
to his father not to look into the murder any further.
Christopher chronicles his investigation in a book—the book we are
reading—as part of a school assignment. Ignoring repeated warnings from
his father, Christopher investigates the crime scene and conducts
interviews with the residents of his block. He uncovers a more tangled plot
than was first apparent when he discovers that his father and the owner of
the slain dog, Mrs. Shears, had a romantic affair. He subsequently learns
that their affair began in reaction to another relationship, one carried on
between Mr. Shears and Christopher’s mother, before she disappeared
from Christopher’s life.
At school, Christopher prepares for an A-level math exam that will enable
him to attend a university, a feat no other child at his school has managed.
He also continues to work on his book. Upon returning home one afternoon,
Christopher accidentally leaves his book in plain view on the kitchen table.
His father reads it, becomes angry, and confiscates it. Later, Christopher
searches for the book and uncovers a series of letters, hidden in a shirt box
in his father’s closet, addressed to him from his supposedly dead mother.
The letters chronicle a life that his mother has continued to lead with Mr.
Shears in London and contain repeated requests for Christopher to
respond. In shock, Christopher passes out in his bedroom surrounded by
the evidence of his father’s deception. When Father comes home and
realizes what has happened, he breaks down in tears. He apologizes for his
lies, explaining that he acted out of a desire to protect Christopher from the
knowledge of his mother’s abandonment of the family. Christopher’s father
also admits to killing Wellington after an argument with Mrs. Shears, his
Christopher, now terrified of his father and feeling he can no longer trust
him, sneaks out of the house and travels to London to live with his mother.
During a harrowing journey, he copes with and overcomes the social fears
and limitations of his condition, dodges police, and almost gets hit by a
train. His arrival at his mother’s flat comes as a total surprise to her, as she
had no idea that Christopher’s father had been withholding her letters.
Christopher settles in for a time at his mother and Mr. Shears’s flat, but
friction caused by his presence shortly results in his mother’s decision to
leave Mr. Shears to return to Swindon. Christopher moves into a new
apartment with his mother and begins to receive regular visits from his
father. When Christopher’s pet rat Toby dies, Christopher’s father gives
Christopher a puppy. At school, Christopher sits for his A-level math exam
and receives an A grade, the best possible score. The novel ends with
Christopher planning to take more A-level exams in physics and further
math, and then attend a university in another town. He knows that he can
do all of this because he solved the mystery of Wellington’s murder, was
brave enough to find his mother, and wrote the book that we have read.
Christopher John Francis Boone
Christopher’s defining characteristic is his inability to imagine the thoughts
and feelings of other people. In other words, he cannot empathize. Because
he cannot imagine what another person is thinking, he cannot tell when a
person speaks sarcastically, or determine a person’s mood by his facial
expression. This inability to empathize is one of the most prominent
features of autism-related disorders, and this characteristic as well as a few
others—Christopher’s difficulty understanding metaphors, his fixation on
certain topics, and his computer-like ability with numbers—strongly suggest
that Christopher has a mild form of autism. This condition has made him
extraordinarily gifted in math and science but severely underequipped
Christopher John Francis Boone
Christopher’s father (Ed Boone)
Christopher’s mother (Judy Boone)
The Struggle to Become Independent
The Disorder of Life
Coping with Loss
Frustration with Christopher
Science and Technology
The Murder Investigation
Logic Puzzles, Math Problems, and Maps
The A-level Test in Math