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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time | Study Guide

Mark Haddon

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time | Chapters 167–179 | Summary



Chapter 167

After a bath, Mr. Boone makes Christopher dinner but he refuses to eat. Mr. Boone feels terrible and tries to explain himself. He admits to killing Wellington and tells Christopher he and Mrs. Shears had a romantic relationship after their spouses ran off together, but Mrs. Shears decided to end things. Mr. Boone didn't take that well, claiming she cared "more for that bloody dog than for me, for us." Mr. Boone and Mrs. Shears had a fight, and Wellington attacked him on his way out. He feels terrible for what he did and promises Christopher it would never happen again. Immediately, Christopher begins planning to run away, claiming: "Father had murdered Wellington. That meant he could murder me." He waits until his father has fallen asleep, then packs up his rat, Toby, some food for them both, and his pocketknife for protection. He squeezes between the wall of the shed and the fence, spending the night in that cramped position.

Chapter 173

Christopher looks at the stars and thinks about the various constellations. He argues the astronomers could draw lines connecting the stars in so many different ways, any shape would be possible.

Chapter 179

Christopher stays awake until 3:47 a.m. looking at the stars and appreciating how calm it makes him feel. He wakes in the morning to his father calling his name so he crouches deeper into his hiding spot. He can feel his father is close, but he isn't discovered. When he hears his father's van pull away, he decides it's safe to come out. He creates a list in his head of safe people or family members that may be able to take care of him, but he crosses each one off until he decides his only option is to find his mother in London. He knows the address from her letters and steals his father's debit card for money.

He fills his backpack with more food, unsure how long it will take him to get to London from his hometown of Swindon, and whether he'll be able to find food he can tolerate along the way. First, Christopher walks to school in hopes of asking Siobhan to help him get to the train station, but when he arrives, Father's van is parked in the lot. Panicking, Christopher rushes toward the first "safe" person he sees, a mother with two young children, to ask for directions to the train station. Although helpful, the woman is clearly confused by Christopher's strange behaviors. Using judgment and courage he didn't know he had, Christopher makes his way to the train station.


In Chapter 173 Christopher returns to the theme of truth. Enthralled by the inherent logic of space, he rails against constellations and how arbitrarily stars are connected to create pictures. In his mind the only truth about stars is "they are nuclear explosions billions of miles away." Yet by pointing out how many ways people can look at the stars and find different patterns, he inadvertently stumbles upon another paradoxical certainty—truth itself is rarely absolute. He thought his mother's death was an absolute "truth," but now knows that was false.

While watching the nature TV series Blue Planet in the previous section, Christopher wondered how many truths scientific investigation and discovery would prove wrong. With the unearthing of his mother's letters, there's no telling what else in his life may turn out to be a lie. His thinking about the arbitrariness of constellations could also be seen as analogous to his startling new opinion of his father's character. Christopher always believed Mr. Boone to be trustworthy and safe, yet his admission to killing Wellington proves he is not. Mr. Boone's admission was given in hopes of reassurance, yet the breakdown of honesty absolutely terrifies Christopher.

Structurally, later chapters tend to be longer than earlier chapters. As Christopher's ordered existence spins out of his control, he can no longer contain his novel in compact, easily digestible bites. His muddled state of mind and lack of control are further underscored by his use of metaphor (rather than his strict adherence to simile) when he says, "But the mind is just a complicated machine." This statement occurs in Chapter 163, offering insight into Christopher's mindset: he sees little difference between people and machines which explains his lack of empathy. Similarly, he makes no distinction between dogs and people so it is understandable he can conclude if his father was capable of killing Wellington, he is also capable of killing his own son.

Finally, this section shows Christopher beginning to assert his independence. He has depended on adults his entire life—his mother, father, Siobhan—to take care of him. They did everything from cooking his food to drawing his bath. With the decision to run away, Christopher must care not only for himself but also for Toby, his rat. Christopher collects food, finds directions, and travels farther than ever before; already there are hints of his growing maturity and development of character.

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