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

Mark Haddon

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Course Hero. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Study Guide." August 23, 2017. Accessed July 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Curious-Incident-of-the-Dog-in-the-Night-Time/.

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Course Hero, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Study Guide," August 23, 2017, accessed July 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Curious-Incident-of-the-Dog-in-the-Night-Time/.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time | Chapters 2–19 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 2

At seven minutes past midnight, 15-year-old Christopher John Frances Boone sees a dead dog lying in the middle of his neighbor's lawn, stabbed to death with a garden fork. He recognizes the dog as Wellington, his neighbor, Mrs. Shears's poodle. Christopher kneels next to the dead dog and feels its still-warm body, wondering who killed it.

Chapter 3

Christopher introduces himself to the reader by explaining characteristics that make him unique. He cannot recognize facial expressions, for example. He keeps a diagram, given to him by his special education teacher, Siobhan, in his pocket to help him identify when someone is happy or sad. Often he cannot identify an emotion because "people's faces move very quickly."

Chapter 5

Christopher likes dogs because dogs are inherently honest. They only have a few emotions and would never lie about how they feel. He feels sad Wellington has died, and hugs the corpse, covering himself in blood. Just then Mrs. Shears bursts from her house screaming at Christopher: "What in fuck's name have you done to my dog?" Worried Mrs. Shears might try to touch him, Christopher rolls into a ball and begins groaning.

Chapter 7

At Siobhan's suggestion Christopher decides to write the events of his detective search to find Wellington's killer. Christopher enjoys murder mysteries because they are complicated puzzles to solve. His favorite story is the Sherlock Holmes mystery "The Hound of the Baskervilles."

Chapter 11

A policeman arrives to investigate what Christopher is doing near the dead dog. At first Christopher feels calmed by the officer's procedural predictability but is quickly overwhelmed by his questions. When the officer tries to pull Christopher to his feet, Christopher hits him.

Chapter 13

Christopher explains to the reader this book will not be funny because he cannot understand jokes.

Chapter 17

The officer arrests Christopher for assault. Christopher looks out the window of the backseat of the police car and notices the Milky Way in the distance. He explains the universe is currently expanding and when it stops, it will collapse back in on itself. Although this means certain death, Christopher finds the facts of science comforting.

Chapter 19
Christopher explains he will only use prime numbers for his chapters because he likes them better than cardinal numbers. He especially appreciates the calming effect of trying to divide large numbers by smaller numbers to figure out whether they're prime, meaning they can only be divided by 1 or 0. The government has compiled a long list of prime numbers, but since no formula exists to determine the pattern of prime numbers, and numbers are infinite, more prime numbers could always be discovered.

Analysis

The opening section establishes the novel's unique narrative voice and structure. Christopher is a 15-year-old, first-person narrator. Although Christopher never mentions autism in his narrative, he clearly has many markers of being on the autism spectrum: he cannot recognize emotions, doesn't understand figurative language, likes order, and dislikes being touched. He writes in short, declarative sentences, underscoring both his condition and his age. In some ways he sounds like a typical teenage boy with an unimaginative vocabulary and straight-to-the-point style. On the other hand, his writing is stunted and formal, he refers to his parents as "Mother" and "Father," he lacks emotion, and continually points out characteristics about himself that are different than his peers. The tone is generally humorless except when he is unintentionally funny. This sets Christopher apart from his peers and draws readers directly into the inner workings of his mind.

Christopher numbers his chapters using prime numbers rather than continuous cardinal numbers because "prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules." This idea foreshadows even though Christopher's story will contain his use of logic, it will not be predictable. Readers can infer from Christopher's need for rules, structure, and order, as well as his appreciation of precise details, and particularly the direct truth, this lack of predictability will cause Christopher some level of personal turmoil and affect his narrative journey.

The structure of the narrative further underscores this logical unpredictability: Christopher announces in Chapter 7 that he is writing a murder mystery novel because he likes solving puzzles, but many chapters, including 7, are tangents rather than clues. They do not move the plot forward, stepping entirely outside the narrative arc while Christopher explains something that interests him: the Milky Way (Chapter 17), prime numbers (Chapter 19), and his novel will not have any jokes (Chapter 13). While these chapters seem unrelated, they add to Christopher's narrative tone and style to create a more complex portrait of his mind and personality. They also demonstrate Christopher's struggle with humanity, which inevitably undermines his intention to be simple and straightforward.

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