Chapter 2 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Chapter 2 is only one page long, but within that short space Mark Haddon establishes himself as an innovative writer. Why, for example, would a writer begin his book with Chapter 2, instead of Chapter 1? The answer to that question is not revealed for several more chapters, but it is a powerful and integral component of the development of the narrator's character. Although the narrator's name is not revealed until the following chapter, it immediately becomes clear that this is no common teller of tales. Who, for example, recalls the precise time that an unexpected event occurs? The narrator does not saya bout midnight or just past midnight, but at precisely seven minutes past midnight. Within the first few words of the novel, Haddon has already deeply engraved this character's persona in the reader's mind. He uses very few adjectives, and those he does use are simply descriptive--never gratuitous or emotionally charged. Yet, even without words describing feelings, the reader senses deep feelings of pathos and grief as the narrator picks up the dead dog with "blood leaking out" and strokes the corpse.
Chapter 3 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
As with Chapter 2, Chapter 3 is only one page long, and it is nothing short of masterful. The astute reader will already have a deep empathetic understanding of Christopher Boone. He states that he knows every prime number up to 7,057, and since two and three are the first prime numbers, it seems reasonable to assume that Christopher is using prime numbers to identify his chapters. A glance forward in the book confirms that, since the next chapter numbers are 5, 7, 11, 13 and 17. This chapter also hints that Christopher attends a special school or some sort of workshop and that Siobhan is one of his instructors or counselors. Christopher seems to experience a disconnect between the emotions he feels and the socially appropriate behaviors associated with those emotions. When Siobhan laughs at him about his chart of human expressions, he responds by tearing up the paper. Clearly, Christopher's feelings are hurt, and Siobhan senses this deeply enough to apologize. It seems that Christopher can view the world only in black and white, logical terms. This suggests a knowledgeable insight into the autistic mind--an area of Haddon's expertise--and that his character is indeed autistic. This sets up the delightful prospect of a detective who is capable only of logical, non-emotional thought. At least, those are the only thoughts he can actually express as the narrator of the tale of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time--interpreting the actions of normal people, who are often driven by emotion and bereft of logic.
Chapter 5 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Chapter 5 ends before the bottom of page 4 of this 226-page novel, and the central character is almost fully developed, a remarkable feat. Haddon continues to flesh out Christopher's autism (more specifically Asperger Syndrome) through Christopher's own voice, describing the events of the night Wellington is murdered. While many writers have displayed great sympathy and compassion for children with disabilities from the omniscient perspective, Haddon brings a sense of nobility--indeed superiority--to his character by letting him define his condition and behaviors in his own terms. This is an immensely complex creative process that can flow smoothly and credibly only from the pen of a truly gifted writer.
This spate of four chapters adds even more layers to the increasing intricacy of the complex--yet somehow refreshingly simple--personality of Christopher, a fifteen-year-old autistic genius. Looking at the Milky Way and figuring out the Big Bang Theory without anyone having to tell you about it is just the sort of thing every teenaged boy does in the back of a police car delivering him into bondage for assaulting a police officer, isn't it? What else would someone be thinking about in those circumstances? To the clinician, this inability to connect the proper emotions to the events and behave accordingly--that is to say, emotionally--might be viewed as a symptom of Christopher's disorder. When viewed through Christopher's eyes, however, this lunacy is endearing and, well, logical.
Christopher also reveals his penchant of quickly identifying people and things with the first, or most startling, stimuli to enter his sensory processing system. Siobhan has blond hair and green plastic glasses, while Mr. Jeavons wears brown shoes, each with sixty holes. The cop car smells of plastic, aftershave and French fries. How might this eye for detail serve a budding detective? Also consider Christopher's angle of focus. When he sizes up Siobhan, Christopher is looking at her hair and her eyes, and yet he stares at Mr. Jeavons' shoes. Does this imply that he trusts Siobhan more than Jeavons?
Chapter 19 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Is Chapter 19 simply a diversion intended to expand our awareness of Christopher's genius and eccentric way of thinking, or is it a key clue that relates to the murder of Wellington that only he can see? It is doubtful that Haddon felt a need to educate his readers on the rudiments of prime number, but can this be a red herring that his character waves under our noses?
Chapters 23, 29, 31 and 37 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
There is nothing particularly revealing in these chapters, with the exception of the foreshadowing involving Christopher's mother. The two simple statements, "She was a small person who smelled sweet," and, "She said I didn't lie because I was a nice person," say much about Christopher's relationship with his mom. The use of the past tense hints of tragedy, and although Christopher is incapable of feeling and expressing emotions as so-called normal people do, these statements speak volumes about tenderness and love. While there's not much new information in the rest of the chapter, Haddon continues to weave the masterful tapestry that is Christopher.
Christopher's father emerges as a caring, loving parent, dealing valiantly with the stress of raising a child with many special needs. He owns a blue-collar business, installing and repairing boilers and heating systems. There is something obviously amiss with the death of Christopher's mother, however. What sort of sudden illness would take her away from home for an extended stay in an environment where she could not visit with her son? Why does Christopher suspect that it might be a mental institution? This appears to foreshadow something more complex, perhaps a mental collapse or some sort of domestic separation.
Chapter 47 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Readers gain deeper insights here both to Christopher's disability and his genius. More importantly, we are exposed to the cruelty with which disabled children must contend on a daily basis. We saw some evidence of this in the previous behavior of Mrs. Shears and the police officer, but it is brought to the surface here as a full-fledged theme. What begins to emerge here is the notion that, although Christopher may not know the appropriate way to express his emotions, he doesfeelthem. Obviously, being called a spazzer and being told he will never be able to do anything other than menial jobs hurts him. Since his world exists largely in his own mind, he really slams Terry with his sophisticated response. The question arises, then, whether he feels the same sweet revenge with this internal, cranial comeback as a normal person might feel in crafting such a devastating retort in verbal human interaction.
Chapter 53 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Christopher's matter-of-fact way of dealing with his mother's death underscores his disassociation of his emotions from the actual event. Christopher clearly loves his mother, and surely, he must feel something akin to remorse at her death. Still, he is unable to express it in any deeper way than a mere observation of the fact. Mrs. Shears introduces another interesting dynamic here as well. She is immediately on the spot as comforter and nurturer when they get the news of Mother's death. It is as if she is trying to move into the nest to replace Mother. This is inconsistent with her behavior on the night Wellington is killed, when she treats Christopher as some sort of frightful freak. It is possible that Christopher's mother hasn't really died, obviating the need for Mrs. Shears to observe a respectable mourning period before moving in.
Chapters 59 and 61 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Chapter 59 provides further insight into the curious dynamics of Christopher's mind. It also highlights questions about his family's relationship with Mrs. Shears. This is the same woman who came over to love and nurture Christopher when Mother died, and now she treats him as if he were an alien from a hostile planet.
Chapter 61 delves further into Christopher's psyche, this time skirting on the spiritual, which is a realm that his logical mind rejects out of hand. This is to be expected in light of what readers have seen of his character so far. What is more revealing, however, are his thoughts about the cremation of Mother. Why would a son be denied a final opportunity to pay his respects at his mother's funeral, unless there was no funeral?
If one were to use a visual metaphor to describe the character of Christopher that Haddon has drawn so far, it might be seen as a stark outline in India ink, filled with fading shades of pastel watercolor. The obvious parts of Christopher's persona are precise and rigid--logic, fear and insight. His emotional side, except when he becomes violent, is muted and subdued. Such feelings as love, humiliation and kindness are there in abundance, but they are only hinted at in his ruminations as he recalls events. Having thus conjured a masterful portrait of Christopher as he is, in Chapter 67 Haddon begins to actually develop his character, which is to say that Haddon will now cause Christopher to grow before our eyes. It is a huge step for Christopher--presumably a positive one--when he balls up the courage to begin interviewing his neighbors. To the normal reader this might seem trivial, but to Christopher it is huge. Christopher's father is fleshed out here a bit as well. Readers learn, for example, that he generally spends his Saturdays on outings with his son, although on this particular Saturday he chooses to watch a soccer match. This, of course, provides a perfect opportunity for Christopher to scour the neighborhood for clues to Wellington's death.
A theme that has been evident since Chapter 2 comes into full blossom in Chapter 67 as Christopher interviews his neighbors. That theme is the way that normal people treat those with afflictions such as Christopher's. With the exceptions of Mrs. Shears and Mrs. Alexander, the neighbors are at first sarcastic about this strange young man, becoming condescending as they realize he is different. The encounter with Mrs. Alexander illustrates the tragic side of this relationship Christopher has with the world outside his own thoughts. Mrs. Alexander seems somewhat lonely in her dotage, and she is genuinely grateful for Christopher's company. Rather than benefit from her proffered friendship, however, Christopher becomes paranoid when she takes too long and abandons the potential warmth, security and camaraderie of a budding relationship.
A whole bunch of plot questions pop up in this chapter. What, for instance, is the reason for Mrs. Shears' overnight visits with Christopher and Father, and what does this have to do with Mother's supposed death and Mr. Shears' absence? Why is Mr. Shears so angry? Why has Mrs. Shears gone from trying to ingratiate herself with Christopher to being downright rude and aggressive? Finally, what does any of this have to do with a dead dog and a pitchfork?
Chapter 71 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Some good British humor is found in this chapter--the children being taunted with special needs instead of the old epithets and the irony of the notion that Christopher's genuine special needs are subordinate to bureaucratic order. Still, it is dark humor. It underscores the tragedy that Christopher is smarter than the world that controls, limits and manages his entire existence. Christopher shares this common dilemma with another classic character from modern British literature, the Savage in Huxley'sBrave New World. Christopher's summary of his options, either hiring someone to care for him or getting some girl to marry him, tugs sharply at the reader's heartstrings.
Chapter 73 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
It is clear by now that the mystery of Wellington and the garden fork is purely tangential to the real story of what life is like in the family, the neighborhood and the cranium of a genius adolescent with autism.
Chapter 79 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
The plot thickens vis a vis Mr. Shears. Why does Father see him as evil? Why is Father so angry? What's going on with Mrs. Shears that now makes her unwelcome in Christopher's household? The plot is beginning to take on the aroma of a love triangle or, more accurately perhaps, a quadrangle.
Chapter 83 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
The timing of this diversionary chapter may be more revealing than its content. It comes in the midst of confusing revelations about Christopher's family life and mysterious new emotions voiced by his father concerning the Shears. Confused by the goings-on of adult humans, Christopher seeks refuge in something more easily understood, such as rocket science. Although he would prefer the comfortable and predictable camaraderie of his pet rat, he would even forego that simple relationship in favor of adventure.
Chapter 89 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Curiously, when Christopher wants to do something he has been told not to do, he can create some very colorful and complex rationalizations to justify breaking the rules. Yet, when Siobhan offers a simple rationalization for not continuing with his book, he rejects it out of hand. His elaborate system for deciding good days and bad days based on the colors of the cars he sees on his way to school--and the permission he gives himself to close his eyes when things are consistently bad--seems irrational when viewed from afar. Still, his behavior makes an odd sort of sense when seen through Christopher's eyes and mind.
What the astute reader may have already surmised is revealed as fact in this pivotal chapter. Christopher's mother ran off with Mr. Shears, a banker, and Father sees Mr. Shears as an evil man because he is having an affair with Father's wife. It is not yet clear why Mrs. Shears, who was apparently ministering to Father, has also fallen from grace. It may be that Mrs. Shears wanted Father to make other arrangements for his son so that she could move into the nest without competition, but given Father's love of Christopher, he balked at the idea. More will be revealed.
Chapter 101 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
The author's point in this chapter is not entirely clear. Perhaps the lesson is that, as with numbers, life is not always clear. This chapter also highlights the fact that, while Christopher has no problem solving difficult math problems, he has trouble discerning simple human emotional issues.
Chapter 103 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Is the conversation about Parky and the ancient circuits relevant to the story of Christopher and Wellington, or is it just a clever device to slip in the double entendre about the sleeping dog? The cloud dreaming that Christopher does in this chapter tends to underscore the notion that he is, in many ways, just like other boys his age. What teenaged boy has not, at one bored time or another, lain on his back, creating fantasies from the clouds forming in a sunny sky?
Chapter 107 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
This chapter may be full of clues as to who killed Wellington, or it may be one huge red herring. More will be revealed.
Chapter 109 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Christopher has now alerted the bureaucracy that he knows about his mother's dalliance, even though he has not told his father. The school becomes a co-conspirator--in the persona of Siobhan, along with Mrs. Alexander--in the deception of Christopher's father. Clearly, Father is the one person who has the most genuine love for Christopher, and one might wonder at these other adults urging Christopher to deceive him. This is understandable in the case of Mrs. Alexander, perhaps, because she unintentionally reveals the secret, but it seems somewhat sinister in Siobhan's case, since she works under an official mandate. There is also further insight in this chapter into the workings of Christopher's mind, since he does not feel sad because it would be illogical. This begs the question of how Christopher might react if he discovers that his mother is not dead.
Chapter 113 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Christopher's DVD-like memory is consistent with what we have learned about the inner-workings of his mind. The revelation of his mother's daydream, however, is out of the blue--sort of a foreshadowing in retrospect. It is a precursor, perhaps, to her affair with Mr. Shears.
Chapter 127 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Christopher and his father have apparently reached a new level of negative emotion. More significantly, perhaps, Christopher's narrative has become an object of conflict in the bigger, less defined, story of the demise of Christopher's family. Self-reflexively, Christopher's writings, which in actuality are fictional, become a real and literal part of the story, the subject of the dispute between Christopher and his father. This sort of labyrinthine path between the real and the imagined has a long and ancient tradition in English literature. Shakespeare, perhaps, perfected the technique when he included plays within his plays. Readers also gain a deeper insight into the workings of Christopher's usually precise mind when he says that he had no memory for a short while during the pique of emotion during his fight with Father. "It was like someone had switched me off, then switched me back on again. And when they switched me back on again I was sitting on the carpet with my back against the wall and there was blood on my hand."
At an emotional low point for Christopher, he ruminates on the things he dislikes. He rationalizes his hatred of yellow and brown, revealing again his need to impose logic on all things that are emotional.
Chapter 137 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Readers gain two insights here, one into Father and the other into Christopher. This chapter brings out the frustration, anger, grief and remorse that are a part of the cycle caregivers go through when dealing with special-needs children who just don't react the way they are supposed to in the "normal" world. Readers also learn that, while the abstract values and properties of "caring for" are a bit too imprecise for Christopher, he does grasp the rudiments of love.
Chapter 139 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
There is a seeming incongruity here. How is it that Christopher can look at the clouds and envision alien spacecraft and other imaginary forms but is so totally closed off to the notion of anything that is not observable in the real universe? Much as Christopher sees metaphors as lies, he sees the supernatural also as lies.
Chapter 149 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
In this blockbuster chapter the reader learns for certain that Christopher's mother is not dead, although he does still not accept that he has been lied to these past two years. Unable to lie himself, the thought doesn't even cross his mind. His reaction to the purloined letters, rather, is excitement at the additional mystery they create. Clearly, Father is conspiring to keep the truth from his son. Is his motivation to save Christopher's feelings or to punish his unfaithful wife? We are likely to find out--albeit circuitously--now that Christopher is on the case.
Chapter 151 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
This is a short segue chapter, which moves the character along in time without actually advancing the plot. The novel is a mystery, however, so some of the many digressions Christopher takes into seemingly irrelevant topics may in fact be clues that will come to light later as he deduces the solution. On the other hand, they may just be red herrings.
Chapter 157 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
At precisely the mid-point in this novel, everything changes. Up until now, almost all of the author's work has been devoted to a masterful development of the character Christopher. Now the pace of events--the forward motion of the plot--increases at an almost alarming rate. The mystery of Christopher's mother, which has been niggling at the back of readers' minds for a hundred pages, but which has not even crossed Christopher's unique mind because of a pure, albeit naïve, faith in the truth of Father's words, is suddenly solved. The impact on Christopher of this truth, however, is devastating, propelling him, at least temporarily, into a new reality. Even his most prominent phobia, that of being touched by others, has been erased by this new awareness. It will be intriguing to see what happens as Christopher adjusts to this new truth.
In the timeline of the plot, Christopher has just suffered a huge trauma. His whole world, his entire belief system, has been stood on its head. He has woken up from a complete emotional retreat from the ugliness of the reality of his father's lies about his mother. Clearly, Christopher writes this chapter well after the trauma, apparently laying the groundwork for something that will occur in succeeding chapters--or not.
Chapter 167 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
The mystery is solved. Readers know who killed Wellington, so why isn't the novel over? The mystery was never about who killed the dog. The whole scenario of Wellington's death, and Christopher's efforts to unmask the culprit, is nothing more than a giant red herring. It was a big fish, though, with an astute literary motive. The scenario provides Haddon with a broad canvas upon which to artfully evoke intense images of the curious and dynamic mind and personality of his character, through Christopher's own special perceptions. There are many cases in good literature in which an author's character is so vivid that the writer disappears. The character takes over and begins directing the author in how to proceed. To some, when this happens, it is thought to be the pinnacle of the novel form--an almost spiritual realm where only the best authors dwell. Christopher appears to be one of those creations, and Haddon seems to be one of those writers. Readers will now no doubt learn how Christopher, the curious boy genius, will fare in the world that other, less gifted creatures, tend to think of as the real world.
Chapter 173 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
This chapter is pure symbolism, representing what is happening in Christopher's world. Things are not always what you are told they are. They are what you perceive.
Chapter 179 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
The hero, who has led a life so sheltered that the farthest he's ever been on his own is down to the corner store, is now on his own, armed with the knowledge gained by playing with his electric train and on his way to London. Suddenly, of necessity, he is being forced out of his individual world into the one inhabited by so many others. He is adapting and succeeding, too. The boy who just a few chapters ago could barely screw up the courage to quiz his neighbors about Wellington can now accost total strangers to ask directions to the train station. When he gets lost, he can use his special ability to visualize spatial problems to develop a successful search grid. The smart money, it would seem, is on Christopher reaching London and his mother without much outside help, except perhaps his father's bankcard. The question remains, however, what sort of reception awaits him there?
Chapter 181 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
This chapter does not move the plot along but sets the stage for Christopher's adventures in the train station. It is also, perhaps, one of the most instructive chapters into the workings of an autistic mind, as perceived by author Haddon.
Chapter 191 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Christopher's explanation in the previous chapter of how he sees everything is played out on a real-life stage in the train station. The thing that is most remarkable here about Christopher's behavior is that he is growing bolder and bolder with each encounter, and he begins to take more and more control over his own life. He is also leaving a colorful trail of tales that will no doubt amaze his father and others who are by now probably in hot pursuit.
Chapter 193 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Christopher is on a train by himself, a huge accomplishment. Trains are things that travel through space in time. What could be more logical and practical, from Christopher's perspective, than a scientific discourse on time? His discourse is especially appropriate, concluding that there is no real answer. Again, the nature of mystery is broached. To some questions, there is no solution.
Chapter 197 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
The adventure on the train is proving to be a great growth experience for Christopher. Although he has been sheltered and protected all of his life, he is readily demonstrating his ability to encounter new situations and adapt to change. In this chapter, out of public necessity, he overcomes his phobia about yucky toilets, albeit to a small degree, that previously Siobhan to get permission for him to use the staff bathroom at school. He's also doing a bang-up job of evading those who would interfere with his plans to go live with his mother.
Chapter 199 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
This chapter is fairly didactic and seems to be purporting an agenda. Whether this is an expression of Haddon's voice or more character development of Christopher is not clear. The discussion of adaptation fits with the story line, as Christopher adapts to a world outside of his mind, and to some extent mutation does as well, considering Christopher's condition. It is curious, however, that this brainy young man spouts a rather archaic notion of evolution, omitting recent developments in evolutionary theory regarding the inherent organizational dynamic demonstrated in chaos theory and illustrated by fractal geometry.
Chapter 223 serves to underscore the extent of Christopher's stress. The most poignant comment is, "I thought I was going to die."
Chapter 227 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Christopher slowly brings internal order to the external chaos in which he finds himself. He breaks the frightening train sounds down into manageable components with rhythmic mantras and then orders the arrival, boarding and leaving sequence into an understandable pattern. This process isn't exactly new to his character, but certainly this is the most intense and severe example readers have seen so far. With this exercise, Christopher gains a great deal of self-confidence and bolsters his courage for further adventures. While down by the train tracks, for example, he is aware that the train is bearing down on him and threatening his life, but he chooses to continue his efforts to rescue Toby. Perhaps this is not the wisest thing he's done, but it is certainly courageous.
The interchanges and conflicts that occur at Mother's new flat are pretty much what might be expected. Clearly, the novel is beginning to wind down to a close, as all of the characters begin to come together in time and space. It is clear by the chapter's end that all is not going to be a bowl of cherries in Christopher's new situation. When Christopher first hears his mother coming home, she is already in an argument with Mr. Shears. That already strained relationship is about to be sorely tested by the addition of Christopher to the domestic mix.
Chapter 229 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
Rage has reared its ugly head throughout this novel. Christopher expresses it when he is touched. His father kills Wellington in a fit of pique. Mother becomes livid when she learns of her husband's deception. Mr. Shears becomes outraged when Father intrudes into his home. Christopher's dream, however, may be the ultimate expression of everyone's rage: everybody who is not like me dies.
Chapter 233 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Analysis
After a somewhat plodding but entertaining trip, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time winds up quickly and perhaps a little too neatly in this concluding chapter. Within the span of a single chapter, Mother loses her job in England but gets another one in Swindon. Christopher fears his father one moment and begins reconciliation with him the next. He can't take his A-level exams, but then he does and aces them. His rat dies, but he gets a new dog. Everybody lives happily--sort of--ever after, at least in Christopher's head.
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