Study Guide for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
About Christopher Boone:
Christopher is an unusual person, and his neurological disorder has a name. However, it’s important to understand him as a person, not as a label or disability. With that in mind, consider these questions.
- What are Christopher’s most unusual traits? What are his strengths? His weaknesses? How does he try to compensate for his deficits? Are his attempts to compensate successful?
- Would you like to have him as a brother or son? Why or why not?
- Is Christopher disabled? Are others in the story disabled? Pay particular attention to page 43,where he claims that everyone has “special needs,” and to pages 46-47, where he lists his “Behavior Problems.”
- The novel is often very funny, and sometimes the jokes seem to be on Christopher. Often, however, the humor comes from the contrast between his perceptions and others’. Does Christopher have a sense of humor? If not, why do you say so? If so, how would you characterize it?
- How well does Christopher understand himself? For example, his reasons for running away to London seem logical to him, but may not seem reasonable to us. Does he understand his emotions?
- Why does Christopher like math? What is the purpose of explaining the “Monty Hall Problem?”
- Why does he like Sherlock Holmes and Hound of the Baskervilles? Does he resemble Sherlock Holmes? Is Christopher a good detective?
- Christopher asserts that he cannot tell lies. But does he tell any? Is honesty always the best policy? Why or why not?
- What is the effect of the many drawings and other visual displays? What do they show us about Christopher’s way of thinking?
- The Smarties experiment described in Chapter 163 (pages 115-18) is a well-known test of Theory of Mind. The term refers to humans’ ability to extrapolate from their own thoughts to predict how others will behave; it also designates a person’s ability comprehend that other people have thoughts that he or she does not. People on the autism spectrum are said to have a weak Theory of Mind. Find examples in which Christopher is or is not able to predict others’ behavior, or understands that others don’t share his thoughts. Does Christopher have a good Theory of Mind?
- Does Christopher change because of his ordeal? If so, how? If not, why do you say that he doesn’t?
About Christopher’s parents:
Themes and motifs:
- Is Ed a good father to Christopher? Why or why not? Does Ed have "special needs"?
- Why does Ed lie to Christopher? Is his lie justified?
- How competent a mother is Judy? Find passages that show either her effectiveness or her ineffectiveness as a mother.
- Pay attention to the argument between Christopher’s mother and father on p. 196 and after. Which of them is more in the right? Why? Which one is the better parent?
For Further Reading:
- What does Wellington symbolize? Consider the role of animals in the novel: what symbolic role do they play?
- What statement about disability and ability can we take away from the book?
Osteen, Mark. Autism and Representation.
New York and London: Routledge, 2008. See especially the following chapters:
- Osteen, Mark. “Introduction” (esp. 29-41).
- Berger, James. “Alterity and Autism: Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident in the Neurological
- Spectrum. 271-88 (Chapter 15).
- Burks-Abbott, Gyasi. “Mark Haddon’s Popularity and Other Curious Incidents in My Life as an Autistic.” 289-96 (Chapter 16).
Freissman, Stephen. “A Tale of Autistic Experience: Knowing, Living, Telling in Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas
6.2 (2008): 395-417.
Murray, Stuart. Autism.
New York and London: Routledge, 2012. A very good introduction to
autism spectrum disorders.
—. Representing Autism: Culture: Narrative, Fascination.
Liverpool, UK: Liverpool UP, 2008.
See esp. 47-50, 161-63.
Autism Society of America. http://www.autism-society.org/.
Autistic Self Advocacy Network. http://autisticadvocacy.org/.