Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Vintage Contemporaries, New York, first vintage contemporaries open-market edition (221 pages), April 2004 (first published 2003, London).
The story is about Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher has Asperger Syndrome, which means that he is autistic. He is fifteen years old when he finds a dead dog. The dog turns out to be Wellington, the dog of a neighbour. The dog has been killed with a fork. Christopher feels that he has to find out who killed the dog. He wants to write a book about his detective work.
Christopher has a lot of strange habits. Christopher wants to solve the crime, but his father says that this case is not his business. Father says these things, because he killed the dog himself. He killed the dog, because Christopher’s mother is having an affair with the dog’s master.
After Christopher has found out that his mother is not dead, he goes to his mother, because his father lied to him. In the end, Christopher decides he wants to live with his mother.
Christopher is the main character. We follow his life in the book. Christopher is fifteen years old and lives with his father, because Christopher’s parents are divorced. Christopher has a photographic memory and knows every prime number up to 7,057. Christopher knows all the countries of the world and their capitals. He likes maths puzzles a lot. Christopher cannot lie. That is because he has to tell the truth, otherwise his conscience drives him mad.
Christopher is told that his mother has died of a heart-attack. Mother has an affair with Wellington’s mistress, Mrs. Shears. Mother does not know that father told Christopher that she died. Mother writes a lot of letters to Christopher, but father keeps them away from him.
Father is responsible for raising Christopher.
The relationship between Christopher and his father grows more and more complicated, because father lies to Christopher. But the relation between Christopher and mother is getting better at the end.
The story takes place in the autumn of 1998. Christopher lives in the same time as we do. Therefore, most things are the same in the book, if you compare the story with our time, even though the story to takes place a few years earlier.
The story is set in Swindon, in the UK. Christopher’s father lives in Swindon, his school is located there too. Swindon is a quiet town. The house has got a garden, Christopher likes to be in the garden, and sometimes he also likes to hide in there. Mother lives in London. At the end of the story, Christopher goes to his mother by train and by bus. But he can hardly find the way and he thinks London is noisy.
The story is written in chronological order. There are no flashbacks or flash forwards. Christopher does think about the past very often. The start of the story is when Wellington is killed. The story itself is about the question: who killed Wellington?
The most important thing in the book is that Christopher has to work out who killed the dog. At the end of the book he has found out who killed the dog. So there is a closed ending. But the book could continue with the rest of Christopher’s life.
This book was not hard to read. The writer does not use simple words, but the story is very logical. So if you do not know a word, you can guess it.
Point of view
The story is told in I-perspective. In the beginning of the book, Christopher tells us that he would like to write a book about his detective work. I think that this book is the same that he has written. In the book, you can read about Christopher’s emotions a lot. I think that most things he feels, you can read about in the book. I think that if the book had been written in a personal perspective, the story would have been very different because Christopher writes everything that he does or thinks.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The title refers to Wellington who is killed in the night-time by a fork. If you are killed by a fork it is an incident. Because Swindon is a very ordinary village, nothing special happens. So in the eyes of Christopher the event is curious.
There is no motto, but there is a dedication. The dedication is: “with thanks to Kathryn Heyman, Clare Alexander, Kate Shaw and Dave Cohen.” I think that those people have helped Mark Haddon while he was writing this book.
Because Christopher has Asperger syndrome, he has a couple of benefits from it.
- “The presence of restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behaviors and interest ”: This means that it is easy to solve the investigation because Christopher always does the same thing. He asks everyone the same questions. And he gets different answers, so he knows something is wrong. He is also very interested in this investigation.
Christopher has also a big drive to move on. If there is something in the mind of Christopher, he has to solve it. Otherwise it drives hem mad.
But there are more things that are to his disadvantage. For example:
- “Qualitative impairment in social interaction”: Christopher doesn’t know how to react. He can only tell his father is angry, when he shouts.
- “Limited interests or preoccupation with a subject to the exclusion of other activities”: Christopher is not interested in every subject. At the moment he is very interested in maths puzzles.
- “Repetitive behaviors or rituals”: He constantly asks questions to himself. And has long conversations with himself. And, for example,during the investigation, he always asks the same questions.
- “Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and interpersonal interaction and problems with nonverbal communication”: Christopher does not know how to react to new things and he does not recognize emotions.
This means for Christopher that it is difficult for him to interact with people whom he does not know. He believes in someones innocence. He believes everything you say to him. So if you say something that is not true, he will not believe that it is not the truth.
Here is a conversation by Christopher himself:
“For example, people often say ”Be quiet,” but they don’t tell you how long to be quiet for. Or you see a sign which says KEEP OFF THE GRASS but it should say KEEP OFF THE GRASS AROUND THIS SIGN or KEEP OFF ALL THE GRASS IN THIS PARK because there is a lot of grass you are allowed to walk on.” (p29)
Christopher always explains why he does the thing he does.
I think that the writer wants to show what it is like to live as an autistic boy. Christopher's life is very complicated, because his father does not trust him and does not tell the truth to him.
At the beginning of the book, it is written that Mark Haddon has worked with autistic people. I think that those children have been the inspiration for writing this book. Maybe the writer wants to explain how it is to live as an autistic boy.
It is a very good book, because you can imagine the feelings of Christopher. And if Christopher wants to know something, you want to think along with him, you want to help him.
I'm thinking I might want to work with autistic people, so I was very interested how Christopher lived his life. I could take a look at his life. This book enhances my understanding about how autistic people live. I feel more connected with autistic people now.