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 | Plot Summary

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Fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, who has a disability on the autism spectrum, is taking a late night walk when he notices his neighbor's dog, Wellington, stabbed through with a garden fork. Christopher picks up Wellington's bloody body before being discovered by his neighbor Mrs. Shears, who calls the police. The police question Christopher about the murder, but he lashes out violently when they touch him. This results in his arrest. His father, Ed Boone, picks him up at the police station, and the police warn him to stay out of trouble. Christopher decides to discover who killed Wellington and write a book about the mystery. His father tells him to stay out of other people's business, but Christopher vows to himself to find the murderer.

Despite his discomfort speaking to strangers, Christopher harnesses all his bravery to question his neighbors about the murder. He starts with Mrs. Shears who closes the door in his face, but another neighbor, Mrs. Alexander, treats him kindly. Christopher assumes the murderer probably knows Mrs. Shears, making her ex-husband, Mr. Shears, his main suspect. Mrs. Shears calls Christopher's father, who gets angry Christopher disobeyed him. He makes Christopher promise to stop investigating and to never mention Mr. Shears again.

Christopher has been writing a murder mystery novel based on his detective work with the help of his teacher Siobhan. He thinks he will have to stop writing but when he sees Mrs. Alexander at the corner shop, he breaks his promise to his father and questions her further about the Shears. She accidentally reveals that Mr. Shears had an affair with Christopher's mother, Judy Boone, though Christopher finds the news unmoving. Christopher forgetfully leaves his novel in the kitchen and his father reads it, now enraged Christopher broke his promise. He hits Christopher, who hits him back, and the violent outburst ends with Mr. Boone throwing Christopher's book in the trash.

Unwilling to waste his hard work Christopher tries to retrieve the book from the trash can but finds his father has removed it. He searches the house, finding it hidden in a box in his father's wardrobe. He also finds a letter addressed to him. His father arrives home before he can read it, but later he opens it and discovers a letter written to him by his mother, dated 18 months after her death. Mystified, Christopher feels determined to find out more. The next time his father goes out, Christopher returns to the box where he finds over 40 letters addressed to him by his mother. He finally realizes his father lied to him; his mother did not die but moved to London with Mr. Shears.

After reading the letters Christopher becomes anxious and ill. His father comes home to find him covered in his own vomit surrounded by the letters, so Mr. Boone cleans him up and apologizes for lying to Christopher, acknowledging his mistake. As a sign of his promise for complete honesty in the future, Mr. Boone further admits that he killed Wellington after Mrs. Shears rebuffed a relationship with him. Horrified, Christopher now feels threatened by his father whom he no longer trusts and decides to run away. After spending a night hiding in the backyard, he gathers some belongings, including his pet rat Toby, and decides to go to live with his mother in London. Mustering every ounce of bravery he has, Christopher manages to find his way to the train station, buy a ticket, and get on a train to London. A police officer in the train station is suspicious of Christopher's odd behavior and gleans Christopher has run away, but Christopher manages to elude him by hiding on the train.

The people, noise, and signage in London overwhelm Christopher, but he slowly finds his way to his mother's apartment in Willesden. Mrs. Boone and Mr. Shears are shocked to see him. Christopher explains the situation, and Mrs. Boone promises to protect him from his father, who shows up hours later. Mrs. Boone keeps Christopher in her care, but things quickly turn sour. Christopher obsesses about returning to his father's home in Swindon to take an important exam in math that will help him get into university. Mrs. Boone loses her job because she takes time off to care for Christopher, and Mr. Shears loathes Christopher.

Mrs. Boone leaves Mr. Shears and returns to Swindon. Although not thrilled to see his ex-wife, Mr. Boone tries to reconcile with Christopher. Christopher returns to school just in time to take the A-level exam despite his muddled state of mind. His mother gets a job and finds a place for them to live, but he still has to spend time at his father's house while she works. Mr. Boone buys his son a dog as a sign to Christopher he can trust him and they have to work on making their relationship good again. Things slowly improve between them, and Christopher gets the highest marks on his exam. He begins to plan the next steps in his future. Having proven to himself that he can get around on his own, he is confident there is no task he can't accomplish.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675


1 Christopher discovers Wellington's body.

Rising Action

2 Christopher interviews his neighbors.

3 Mrs. Alexander reveals Mrs. Boone's affair with Mr. Shears.

4 Christopher finds his mother's letters; she lives in London.


5 Christopher learns his father killed Wellington.

Falling Action

6 Christopher runs away and is reunited with his mother.


7 Christopher passes his A-level college entrance exam.

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