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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is the story of Christopher John Francis Boone’s adventures as told by him. The protagonist, Christopher, wrote the book as a murder mystery, describing his investigation of the killing of Mrs. Shears’ dog, Wellington. However, as he tells his story, the reader gets a clearer picture of Christopher’s life, learning about his mother and all of the secrets present within his family. Boone has some mental and behavior problems. Throughout the text, he has to struggle with his own issues as he investigates the murder of the poodle and searches for his mother. Through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon presents the themes of coming of age and bravery.
Christopher John Francis Boone from Swindon is a unique, yet genuine, honest, and innocent individual. The protagonist clearly has a mental and behavioral disorder, which cause him to have many eccentricities. Some of his behavioral problems include “not talking to people for a long time, not eating or drinking anything for a long time, not liking being touched, screaming when [he is] angry or confused, and not liking yellow things or brown things” (46). When the police officer tried to remove his watch “[he] screamed” (13), a behavior uncharacteristic of a teenager. He “does not like hugging people” (16), even his own parents. It makes him feel uneasy and uncomfortable. These behaviors are not normal for a fifteen-year-old boy. In addition, he never responds to statements, only questions. He “find[s] people confusing” (14) because he has trouble reading people’s facial expressions to understand their emotions. When he does “not know what someone is saying, [he asks] them what they mean or [he walks] away” (3), and odd, but normal behavior to him. He has trouble picking up and understanding his father’s emotions from time to time, tending to only understand himself. When Christopher’s father was “sitting on the sofa watching snooker on the television and drinking scotch, there were tears coming out of his eyes” (21). The protagonist cannot comprehend his father’s distress after picking up his son from the police station. In the end, Christopher decides “to leave him alone because when [he] is sad [he] wants to be left alone” (21). In addition, Boone makes the odd comment that one might think privately to himself, but would never be said aloud. For example, he adds how “Jason at school smells because his family is poor” (38). He is unaware that it is socially wrong for him to make such a comment. Finally, he never tells lies because he claims that he “can’t tell lies” (19), a mindset that most kids unfortunately do not have. Christopher clearly has a disability, but he does not let his disability stand in his way.
Just because Christopher has some mental disabilities does not mean he is lacking in intelligence; it is the complete opposite. Christopher notices everything to the last detail, even the “little red hole in the policewoman’s tights on her left ankle and the red scratch in the middle of the hole” (6). He notices minute details that others would not “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” (73), but Christopher does take the time to make these observations. Christopher describes his memory like a film:
When people ask me to remember something I can simply press Rewind and Fast Forward and Pause like on a video recorder, but more like a DVD player because I don’t have to Rewind through everything in between to get to a memory of something a long time ago. And there are no buttons, either, because it is happening in my head. (76)
The protagonist describes what appears to be a photographic memory like no other. He sees the world slightly differently to others, but creates a creative comparison. However, he claims that he is not clever, and that “[he] just [notices] how things are, and that [is not] clever” (25). In addition, he even has some out of the ordinary talents. For example, he knows “all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,057” (2). Clearly, he is gifted at math and is even preparing to take the math A level exam, which he later receives an “A” grade on. When considering an issue or problem, he always uses logic and mathematics to answer his questions. Christopher comments how “sometimes things are so complicated that it is impossible to predict what they are going to do next, but they are only obeying really simple rules” (102), when discussing how to decipher the population of animals. He comments to his readers how when theta “is greater than 3.57 the population becomes chaotic…proving that people can die for no reason whatsoever, just because that is the way the numbers work” (102). Some things that would appear very complex to the average individual is simple for Christopher, as he uses his mathematics background and logical reasoning to come to conclusions, highlighting his intelligence.
Mark Haddon has a coming of age, maturation, theme running through his text. Christopher has to live with his disabilities, and at times, those problems can get in his way. Throughout the text, the protagonist shows a growth in maturity in the sense of becoming more independent and self-sufficient when dealing with his mental and behavioral disabilities. At the start of the text, Christopher has to deal with his idiosyncrasies, especially his fear of having people touch him. Towards the end of the text, when he is with the police officer, he has obviously not conquered his disability, but he recognizes that he has one. He tells the cop, “You mustn’t touch me…because I got a caution for hitting a policeman, but I didn’t mean to hurt him and if I do it again I’ll get into even bigger trouble” (150). He knows that if the policeman grabs him that he will become overwhelmed and would react negatively. Recognizing his weakness, he warns the police officer, a sign of maturity. At the start of the text, Christopher has to rely a great deal on other people, and has much insecurity about talking to others. He admits to himself his insecurities though saying, “It takes me a long time to get used to people I do not know” (35).
Recognizing his faults is a large part of handling them more effectively. When he wants to go to London to live with his mother, Christopher takes matters into his own hands, and does not rely on his father for help. Showing independence, he gets himself to London in one piece. In addition, Christopher has a hard time emotionally. He finds it challenging to feel sad. When he tells his readers that his mother is dead, and that Mr. Shears is no longer around, Boone comments how “feeling sad about something that isn’t real and doesn’t exist…would be stupid” (75). However, later, when he finds out that his mother has really been alive for years “[he] feels sick” (112). He was incredibly upset by what his father had done. Christopher is maturing because he is overcoming the disability that is standing in his way. At the end of the text, Christopher has more self-confidence and believes in himself. He comments, “I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington? and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything” (221). Over the course of the text, the protagonist became more independent, gained maturity with his disabilities, and became more self-confident overall. A coming of age theme is clearly prevalent in Haddon’s text.
Bravery is another theme in Mark Haddon’s novel. Because Christopher Boone has a disability, many people do not understand him or have patience for him. He is called as “mad as a fucking hatter” (184), and can sometimes be truly alone in the world. Having to rely on only himself requires bravery because it can be difficult. Once he discovered that his father had murdered Wellington, he became worried that his father could murder him. “[He] had to get out of the house” (122) and find a way to get to London by himself, something he had never done before. This would be a challenging task for a normal teenager, let alone someone with special needs. He “had never been anywhere apart from the shop at the end of the road on [his] own” (129), so traveling to London was quite the feat for him. “The thought of going somewhere on [his] own was frightening” to him (129). It required a lot of bravery for him to trek out into the unknown. Christopher described it “like stepping off the cliff on a tightrope” (145), but he just attempted to stay calm, taking “lots of deep breaths” (137), which made it less painful for him. His mother knows what a feat this was for her son, commenting to him, “You’re very brave” (193). He conquers his fears and makes it to London safely, displaying the upmost bravery, a theme prevalent in Haddon’s text.
Through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon presents the themes of coming of age and bravery. The story describes Christopher John Francis Boone’s adventures as told by him. The protagonist, Christopher, wrote the book as a murder mystery, describing his investigation of the killing of Mrs. Shears’ dog, Wellington. However, as he tells his story, the reader gets a clearer picture of Christopher’s life, learning about his mother and all of the secrets present within his family. Christopher Boone has some mental and behavior problems. Throughout the text, he has to struggle with his own issues as he investigates the murder of the poodle and searches for his mother. The protagonist overcomes the obstacles in front of him and by the end of the text, realizes that he can do anything if he puts his mind to it – a valuable lesson for any reader.
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