Literature: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

aka: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) is a novel by Mark Haddon. It is about young Christopher John Francis Boone, who knows all the countries of the world and all the prime numbers up to 7,057, but has almost no comprehension of human emotion.

One late night (exactly 7 minutes after midnight), he finds his neighbor's dog killed by a garden fork, leading him into an investigation that becomes about more than just a dead dog, but about the real world told through the eyes of a 15-year-old with severe autism, right down to the unnecessary details.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: It's mentioned that Christopher's mother hit him a few times as a kid simply because she didn't know how to deal with him. She did feel remorse though, and it's part of the reason she felt she wasn't a good enough mother for him.
    • Christopher's father also.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: In-universe. To most people, killing Wellington would be a pretty disgusting Kick the Dog (no pun intended) moment but not quite the Moral Event Horizon. To Christopher, it is as serious as killing a human being and his father is a murderer and Christopher must escape from the house because his father could kill anyone.
    • As discussed below, it's commonly believed that Christopher has Asperger Syndrome but he actually shows lots of signs of being much lower down on the spectrum such as wetting himself and acting years younger than his actual age a lot.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: While Christopher is clearly meant to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum, it never says in the novel what exactly he is diagnosed with, if anything, though it could be...
    • In the final chapter, Christopher mentions his mother being prescribed with pills to "stop her from feeling sad".
  • Asperger Syndrome: The blurb of more recent editions of the book states he has Asperger's, although looking at the other students in his school as well as other indicators (such as attacking people who touch him), he may in fact have a more severe form of autism and Executive Meddling later changed it to Asperger's to make it easier for readers to empathise with him.
    • Haddon himself actually states that he never made the book specifically about someone on the autistic spectrum, but rather about someone who was an "outsider".
    • People who are actually autistic-spectrum tend to react poorly to the idea that Christopher is supposed to be anything like them.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Christopher says his favorite subjects are mathematics, physics and mathematical physics.
  • Brown Note: Christopher hates the colours yellow and brown, especially yellow. He also despises loud noises, which cause him to scream and cover his ears.
  • Bumbling Dad: Christopher's dad isn't always the best father, but he at least tries to own up to his mistakes and it's clear he loves his son very much.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Christopher doesn't understand humour very well because he is so Literal-Minded.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Christopher refuses to outright lie, ever (though over the course of the story he becomes more comfortable telling white lies).
  • Captain Obvious: Christopher, for obvious reasons.
  • Cluster F-Bomb / Precision F-Strike: Lots of them.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Chris. Justified because of his autism.
  • Conversational Troping: Christopher often muses about what we would recognize as tropes to himself, and why they're unrealistic. In one chapter he notes how silly the idea of Humanoid Aliens is, and instead thinks they would be more likely to be totally different. In another, he notices some people dressed as Horny Vikings and comments on how anachronistic their clothing is.
  • Cursed with Awesome / Blessed with Suck: Christopher is a mathematical genius but his social skills are in the negatives.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Christopher claims to have no sense of humour but is given to moments of dry, sardonic wit, an example being: "I think dogs are more interesting than some people. Francis who goes to be school for instance needs help to eat his food and could not even fetch a stick. Siobhan tells me not to say this to Francis's mother."
  • Deconstruction: Of the Kid Detective genre of books. It shows what kind of person would be stupid enough to go out of their way to search for clues about a 'murder' in a world dictated by reality, all for the sake of wanting to being a detective. In fact, The 'investigation' comes to a screeching halt less than halfway through the story because clues don't just fall into your lap
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When adults don't understand what he's saying, Christopher tends to just repeat himself word for word.
  • Direct Line to the Author: In-universe, Christopher is the author of the book.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Christoper is very strong and doesn't realise he has to be careful at times.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Christopher ponders this trope at one point and dismisses it, saying that humans aren't the pinnacle of evolution but just one successful species out of many that have existed, and will probably go extinct in the future and be replaced by something else.
  • Felony Misdemeanor:
  • Freak Out: Christopher gets overwhelmed easily by loud noises, physical contact and bright lights.
  • Genre Savvy: Christopher often refers to Detective Fiction tropes as a model for how he should investigate the crime.
  • Half Truth: Chris's father on Chris's mother:
    Father: She has a problem... a problem with her heart.
  • Hard on Soft Science: Despite Christopher having almost No Sense Of Humour, he does enjoy one joke about inductive reasoning, because it shows a mathematician showing up an economist, and as he puts it, "economists aren't real scientists".
  • Hates Being Touched: Christopher hates it so much that he reacts violently whenever anyone touches him, even his own parents. Instead of hugging him, they touch their fingertips to his when they want to show affection.
  • Heroic BSOD: Christopher goes nearly catatonic when he finds out his father was the one who killed Wellington, and hid from him that his mother is not dead but merely abandoned them.
  • Hyper Awareness: The reason Christopher says he doesn't like new places or people: he has no filters and can't help but notice every little detail about the environment around him, down to the smell of a policeman's aftershave and the vents in his teacher's shoes. It doesn't help that he has a self-described Photographic Memory.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Ed does this a couple of times.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Ed is hiding letters from Christopher.
  • Idiot Savant: Christopher.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Christopher.
  • It's All About Me: Christopher, his mother and Mr and Mrs. Shears.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chris, although you can't really blame him. Also, Chris's parents.
  • Kid Detective / Amateur Sleuth: What Chris wishes to become.
  • Lies to Children: So, Ed, how's that whole pretending-your-wife-is-dead thing working out for your kid, eh?
  • Literary Allusion Title: Silver Blaze, a Sherlock Holmes mystery (full quote at Fair Play Whodunnit).
  • Missing Mom: Christopher is raised by his father because his mother has died. Or so he's been told. She is actually living elsewhere.
  • Mystery Writer Detective: Christopher is writing his book as he works on the mystery of who killed Wellington.
  • Nerd Glasses: Christopher mentions wearing glasses a few times.
  • No Social Skills: Christopher.
  • Not Using the Z Word: Christopher is never identified as being anywhere on the autistic spectrum in the book. Haddon himself maintains that he wrote the character as an "outsider" more than anything else.
  • Parents as People: To the point were it might as well be called "parents as people, the book".
  • Picky Eater: Chris, a trait of his ASD. He refuses to eat any food that has touched a different kind of food on his plate, and keeps a bottle of food colouring in the kitchen for yellow foods (his least favorite colour).
  • Punch a Wall: Ed punches a hole in a fence when Christopher won't talk to him.
  • The Rainman: Christopher is a classic example of the "autistic savant" trope: brilliant at math, poor at communicating, a Creature of Habit.
  • Reading Your Rights: Christopher gets this from the cop at the beginning, which he recognizes as standard procedure.
  • Schedule Fanatic: Chris. He plans his daily routine down to the minute and gets upset when he isn't sure what time it is.
  • Shout-Out: Christopher is a big fan of Science Fiction and mentions several franchises he likes, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and Blade Runner. He also talks about Sherlock Holmes at length, who is his chief inspiration as a Kid Detective, in fact the title is a line from "Silver Blaze" (''The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes").
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Christopher's father, to the point where some of his lines resemble a Cluster F-Bomb.
  • Super OCD: Christopher gets very upset when anything in his house is changed and goes as far as measuring where the furniture is so he can put it back in the right places after his mother vacuums. He likes Mrs. Shears because she's very neat and organizes everything in the kitchen.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Christopher loves strawberry milkshakes and mentions them several times in the book. He's also fond of Indian food.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Christopher does this when he is upset or overwhelmed.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: The chapter numbers are all prime numbers, which Christopher has a love for.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Despite his Photographic Memory. May be related to Innocent Inaccurate.
  • Wham Line: "I killed Wellington, Christopher."
  • Would Hit a Girl: Christopher once punched a girl who was bullying him so hard that he knocked her out and she had to be taken to hospital with concussion.
  • Write Who You Know: Mark Haddon worked with autistics when he was younger and mentions that he based Christopher on two specific people he knew.

Alternative Title(s):

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime