A 15 year old boy named Christopher finds his neighbor’s dog Wellington lying dead one evening, a pitch fork standing erect through its side. After Christopher’s neighbor, Mrs. Shears finds him in her garden holding the lifeless Wellington in his arms, blood flowing, she calls the police. When asked if he killed Wellington, Christopher explains that he did not, he likes dogs. For a youth with Asperger Syndrome like Christopher, a dog’s emotions are often easier to interpret than a human’s. Losing Wellington to a murderer becomes a mystery Christopher must find the answer to.
In his school for individuals with Special Needs, Christopher decides to write a book about the incident he experienced with Wellington. He must find out who killed the dog and why. His book will be a murder mystery novel. In this way, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time” becomes Christopher’s attempt to solve Wellington’s murder interwoven with his own day- to- day personal struggles which include his unique perspectives on societal practices, communication, science, religion, food, and the affect his inability to conform to “normal” social standards takes on his family.
As the novel progresses, the author creates a lovable and strange boy who makes his way through the world despite his awkwardness, causing the reader to smile and even reassess ways of thinking or acting which are considered “normal.” Christopher constantly interprets speech patterns and actions of others and himself in his attempts to decipher clues and analyze why things have occurred in the world around him. He questions figures of speech such as metaphors because they make no logical sense. If Christopher is told that something is a fact, like when a Priest explains that heaven is “somewhere outside the universe,” Christopher is quick to point out there is nothing outside the universe.
Despite his father’s warnings to stay out of other people’s affairs- a statement he questions the content and validity of- Christopher continues to ask questions to neighbors regarding Wellington. It begins to become obvious that Mrs. Shears is more closely linked to Christopher than he had previously known. In fact, the more he searches for answers to Wellington’s death, he finds answers too complex for him to deal with emotionally. Was his father right to tell him to stay out of it?
As Christopher describes his world view and manner of living, he is also revealing to his readers the difficulties his parents have encountered in attempting to raise him and keep their own relationship afloat. He knows that his refusal to allow his mother to vacuum, hatred of brown and yellow things, loud noises and touching had been a burden on his parents. This not because it is obvious, but because heard them fighting. As Christopher comments on the status of his own family’s unhappiness, it becomes the role of the reader not only to decipher how well Christopher can determine his own part in the novel he’s writing, but if he is able learn from life changing events he witnesses taking place.
Mark Haddon uses the innocent voice of Christopher to show how amazingly beautiful, innocent, destructive, and human any range of mental disabilities can be to individuals and family members. Through Christopher’s perspective, readers are able to learn not only about his life, but get a glimpse into the struggles and hearts of his parents. As all people do, the characters have faults, but they also have strengths and which make this novel creative, funny, depressing, wonderful!
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
For more information:
about Autism Spectrum Disorders: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/asd.cfm
Read: Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison (brother of Augusten Burroughs)