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 December 13, 2017, 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 43–61 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 43

Christopher's mother, Judy Boone, died two years before. He remembers coming home from school and his father asking if he knew his mother's whereabouts. Mr. Boone left for a few hours, then came home and announced that Christopher's mother was in the hospital. Mr. Boone told Christopher he could not visit his mother because she needed her rest, but he would deliver a "Get Well" card to her the next day.

Chapter 47

Christopher describes devising a system in which the color of cars in traffic tell him the type of day he will have. For example, four red cars in a row means a "Good Day," and four yellow cars in a row means a "Black Day" in which he speaks to no one. Christopher describes the way other people talk about him. Some think he's clever even though he's really just observant. Sometimes older kids bully him, calling him a "spaz" which doesn't make any sense to Christopher because he's never had a seizure like some of the other kids at his school.

Chapter 53

Two weeks after being admitted to the hospital, Christopher's mother died. Christopher's father said it was a heart attack but didn't go into details despite Christopher's many questions about the science behind the attack. Christopher describes the different types of heart attacks which could kill a person and which type was most likely to have killed his 58-year-old mother. Mrs. Shears came by that evening and many evenings thereafter to cook for Christopher and his father. At one point that evening, she held Mr. Boone's head against her bosom to comfort him.

Chapter 59

Christopher considers the arbitrary nature of rules. If someone asks you to "Be quiet," for example, how long should one be silent? Or how long should one stay off the grass if a sign asks? He wonders exactly what his father meant when he told Christopher to stay out of other people's business. He wishes everyone would simply say what they mean and leave nothing up for debate. He decides it's probably still OK for him to investigate Wellington's murder. He stops by Mrs. Shears's house to tell her again he didn't kill Wellington and will solve the mystery of his death. Mrs. Shears tells him to go home and she'll call the police again if he comes back. Despite the threat, Christopher goes home feeling accomplished.

Chapter 61

Although everyone tried to tell Christopher his mother went to heaven when she died, Christopher didn't believe them because heaven isn't real. Christopher didn't attend his mother's funeral, and she was cremated. He visited with the reverend and asked some questions about God, but the reverend sent him home when the questions became too difficult.

Analysis

Christopher takes the words he hears at face value. For this reason he can't understand jokes or metaphors and he trusts others are telling him the truth at all times. When his mother died he did not question the abruptness of her condition, the prohibition against visiting her, her even more sudden and unexpected death, and his lack of attendance at her funeral. Readers, however, might put all these clues together, as well as the information Christopher's parents frequently fought because of the stress of caring for him, and surmise there is something suspicious about her alleged death.

Lacking evidence of Mrs. Boone's body or burial, readers might well wonder if she died at all. Yet it must surely seem strange to most readers that Christopher, possessed with a detective's curiosity, would expend so much energy searching for Wellington's killer without even questioning his mother's death. But to do so would require insight into other people's character, something extremely difficult for him, and suspicions about the people he cares most about. This suggests Christopher might know and feel something deeper about his mother, perhaps subconsciously.

Honesty and the truth are central to Christopher's sense of self. He claims to care about Wellington because dogs are honest. However, Christopher recognizes the limitations of honesty, as when he points out, "People say that you always have to tell the truth. But they do not mean this because you are not allowed to tell old people that they are old and you are not allowed to tell people if they smell funny." Furthermore, he willingly manipulates the truth when it suits his needs. Because his father doesn't want him investigating Wellington's murder, he only tells his father he was "out" after he does some detective work—he calls this a "white lie."

Christopher's relationship to truth is not based on an ingrained sense of morality. He simply wants the truth because it is most conducive for keeping his mind calm, and he is willing to bend the truth when it is most convenient to achieve his goals. This complexity is another aspect of his struggle with what it means to be human.

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