The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  
Author Mark Haddon
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Mystery novel
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date 2003
Media type print (hardback and paperback)
Pages 226
ISBN 0-09-945025-9

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a 2003 novel by British writer Mark Haddon. It won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year[1] and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book.[2] Its title is a quotation of a remark made by the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's 1894 short story "Silver Blaze".

The story is written in the first-person perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old autistic boy living in Swindon, Wiltshire. Although Christopher's condition within the autism spectrum is not stated explicitly within the novel, the summary on the book's inside cover or back cover (depending on the edition) describes it as Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism.


[edit] Characters

  • Christopher Boone: the story's protagonist, who undertakes the investigation of the mystery behind the dog Wellington's death.
  • Ed Boone: Christopher's father, who is a heating engineer. Up to the beginning of the story, he has been living with Christopher as a single parent for two years. He is usually very patient and understanding with Christopher.
  • Judy Boone: Christopher's mother. Christopher is told by his father that she died of a heart attack before the start of the book. Not much of an initial description is given, but Christopher describes more about her as the story proceeds.
  • Siobhan: Christopher's teacher, friend, and mentor. She teaches him how society works and how to behave within its complex guidelines.
  • Roger Shears (Mr Shears): he lived near the Boones but has left his wife before the story begins.
  • Eileen Shears (Mrs Shears): one of the neighbours, who attempts to console Ed for a time after Christopher learns of his mother's death. At the start of the novel, Mrs Shears' dog, Wellington, is found murdered with a garden fork.
  • Mrs Alexander: one of Christopher's neighbours, who tries to help him.
  • Wellington: Mrs Shears' large black poodle, which Christopher finds dead in her front yard.
  • Reverend Peters: the reverend of Christopher's school. He also invigilates Christopher's examination.
  • Toby: Christopher's pet rat.

[edit] Plot

Christopher discovers the dead body of Wellington, his neighbour's dog, speared by a garden fork. Mrs Shears, Wellington's owner, calls the police. The police try to grab Christopher; they caution him after he hits one of the officers. He decides to investigate to clear his name. However, he is severely limited by his fears and difficulties when interpreting the world around him. Throughout his adventures, Christopher records his experiences in a book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. During his investigation, Christopher meets people whom he has never before encountered, even though they live on the same street.

Ed, his father, discovers the book and confiscates it from Christopher, after a brief fight between them. In his search for the hidden book, Christopher uncovers a trove of letters to himself from his mother, dated after she allegedly died — which his father had also concealed. Christopher had been told by Ed that she died of a heart attack. Christopher assumes that it is an aneurysm, but judging from the letters, Christopher concludes that she is still alive and that his father has lied to him. He is so thoroughly shocked by this fact that he is unable to move, curls up on the bed, vomits, and groans for several hours until his father returns home.

Ed realises that Christopher has read the letters and cleans him up. He then confesses that he had indeed lied about Judy's death and also that it was he who killed Wellington, stating that it was a mistake resulting from his anger after a heated argument with Mrs Shears.

Christopher, having lost all trust in his father and fearing that he may also try to kill him since he had already killed Wellington, decides to escape from home and live with his mother. Guided by his mother's address from the letters, he embarks on an adventurous trip to London, where his mother lives with Mr Shears.

After a long and confusing journey, evading policemen who have been dispatched to find him (after Ed called the police about his disappearance), and feeling ill because of the overwhelming information from the crowds and the signs in the trains, he finally finds his way to his mother and Mr Shears' home, and waits outside until they arrive.

His mother, Judy, is happy at his arrival and tries to keep him with her; she cannot believe that Ed would tell Christopher that she was dead. His mother decides to let Christopher stay with her and Mr Shears in their small London apartment. Mr Shears doesn't want Christopher living with them and never did. Moreover, very soon after arriving, Christopher wants to return to Swindon in order to take his mathematics A-level. His mother eventually leaves Mr Shears, their relationship having apparently broken down because of the conflict over Christopher.

She then moves into a rented room in Swindon and, after an argument with Ed, agrees to let Ed meet with Christopher daily for a short while. However, at this stage, Christopher remains terrified of his father; he hopes Ed will be imprisoned for killing Wellington. The story ends with Ed getting Christopher a pet dog, because Toby, Christopher's pet rat, had died, and promising that he will rebuild trust with Christopher slowly, "no matter how long it takes", in his daily, brief sessions. Christopher asserts that he will take further A-level exams and attend university. He completes his first mathematics A-level with top grades and — despite previously wanting to be an astronaut — his ultimate goal is to become a scientist.

The book closes with Christopher optimistic about his future, having successfully solved the incident of the murdered dog, gone to London on his own, found his mother, written a book, and got an A in his A-level maths exam.

[edit] Literary techniques

Christopher, the book's autistic narrator, is gifted at and focused on mathematics: this is reflected by his inclusion of several famous puzzles of maths and logic. The book's appendix is a reproduction of a question from Christopher's A-level examination, with annotated answers. The book also includes the unlikely incident of seeing four yellow cars in a row which is bad, an event which holds significance to the narrator, who has an aversion to the colour yellow.

Christopher's mathematical interests are reflected in his numbering his chapters strictly with prime numbers, ignoring composite numbers such as 4 and 6. So the first is Chapter 2, followed by 3, then 5, 7, 11, and so on, up to the last chapter, 233. In addition, the contents in consecutive chapters alternate: Chapter 2 is about the unfolding story; Chapter 3 explores some aspects of the narrator's inner life not necessarily directly relevant to the immediate action; Chapter 5 returns to the narrative. This alternation continues throughout the book with the story often digressing into seemingly unconnected subjects such as Christopher's atheism and the Cottingley Fairies.

[edit] Reception

The book was joint winner of the 2004 Boeke Prize.

[edit] Film adaptation

A film adaptation has been written by Steven Kloves, who is also to direct. It is to be produced by Warner Bros. in association with Heyday Films and Plan B Entertainment. However, its current production status is unknown.[3]

[edit] Impact on popular culture

Portuguese songwriter Vitor Cunha announced in January 2009 that his forthcoming third album, Connected by Dots, will feature a song inspired by the book.[4]

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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