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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 181–197 | Summary



Chapter 181

Christopher explains while most people glance over new surroundings looking for pertinent information, his brain focuses on every detail equally, making new situations extremely stressful for him, such as the packed train station. He gives an example of seeing a field full of cows. Most people simply note they're looking at a field full of cows, but Christopher could tell you exactly how many cows, of which color, and the unique features of each.

Chapter 191

Christopher draws a map of the train station for readers and to help himself remember where everything is in case he gets lost again. The smells, sounds, and signs of the train station overwhelm Christopher, so he puts his hands over his ears and groans as he walks. He crouches on the ground moaning, trying to solve math problems in his head until he feels better. A policeman arrives and rudely asks what Christopher is doing. Christopher feels better to be speaking with a police officer and answers his questions directly. Although the police officer is rude to Christopher, he does direct him to where he can get money from the cash machine and where to buy his ticket to London. The ticket agent directs Christopher to the correct platform, and Christopher warily boards the train.

Chapter 193

Christopher loves timetables because they help order his life. He obsessed over timetables as a child and always hated going on vacation because the timetables changed without warning. He explains time "is the only relationship between the way different things change" and because there isn't a fixed relationship between objects and time, it cannot be contained. Timetables help Christopher "make sure [he doesn't] get lost in time."

Chapter 197

Christopher dislikes being on the train because it's full with people he doesn't know. He recalls having a temper tantrum when his mom volunteered to drive two kids from his school home. He panicked and screamed, eventually throwing himself out of the moving car. A voice interrupts his thoughts. The policeman has returned and wants to bring Christopher back to the police station because his father is looking for him. Christopher argues saying he's going to stay with his mother and his father is dangerous, but the officer doesn't care. He tries to grab Christopher's arm, but Christopher screams. Then the train starts moving, and the officer has no choice but to wait until the next stop to pull Christopher off.

Shortly after, Christopher has to go to the bathroom. He accidentally wets his pants, and the officer is horrified. He sends Christopher to the bathroom to clean up, but Christopher hates public bathrooms and this toilet is particularly dirty. Feeling panicky, Christopher climbs into the luggage rack behind a large suitcase to sit in the dark quiet space and think. At the next stop the policeman angrily searches for Christopher but cannot find him. Frightened, Christopher remains silent in his hiding place.


Seeing Christopher navigate the busy train station and crowded train shows the reader how far he's come in managing his "behavioral problems." He's no longer the young child who threw himself out of a moving car because his routine was suddenly changed. Although the murder mystery has essentially been solved, Christopher still tries to model himself after Sherlock Holmes and "detach his mind at will to a remarkable degree." Christopher understands while he may have Holmes's intelligence and deductive-reasoning skills, without the crucial ability to remain calm and keep stimulation at bay, he cannot achieve his primary goal—to get away from his father and find his mother. Christopher takes control of his issues for the first time in his life, asking for directions, finding the train station, buying a ticket and boarding, even overcoming his aversion to the yellow train ticket. In this way Christopher becomes more like a typical teenager breaking free from the confines of home and parents, his coming-of-age.

Despite his strides in maturity, the full effect of Christopher's debilitating condition becomes clearer in this section. Christopher sits outside the café for nearly three hours simply staring and groaning. Later he sits on a train platform for five hours listening to the trains before mustering the courage to board. Christopher's relationship to time differs from "normal" people because he's never in a rush.

Logically, events occur when they're going to occur. That said, Christopher creates elaborate timetables for himself to give his day some structure. He does this to ensure he doesn't "get lost in time" as he does in this section when overwhelmed. One of the main reasons Christopher feels this way is his brain's need to observe each tiny detail in a new situation, identifying and categorizing for easy recall later. Christopher's photographic memory and systems of categorization help him excel in math and science but remain at the core of his behavioral struggles. His brain can't filter which details are important and which aren't. Places like the train station are overwhelming, and changes in lifestyle, such as his mother disappearing, are too difficult to understand.

This section also showcases Christopher's struggles to relate to people outside of his family, and likewise the difficulties for outsiders to relate to Christopher. The scenes with the police officer best exemplify the struggle. Although the policeman helps Christopher withdraw money and buy a train ticket, he treats Christopher as a bizarre, annoying individual rather than one with special needs. Christopher doesn't appear particularly bothered when the officer speaks sarcastically to him and makes snarky jokes about the way he talks, but it's quite apparent to readers. Interactions like these create sympathy for Christopher's character and those who have dealt with him in his day-to-day life, such as his father, mother, and teacher.

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