Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time established Mark Haddon as a writer of adult fiction. It won the Whitbread Book of the Year prize, The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, and the Booktrust award for teenage fiction. The novel’s main appeal is the character of its narrator, fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, whose counselor in his special-needs school has suggested that he write a book, and so he does. Although the words “autism” and “Asperger’s syndrome” are never mentioned in the novel, it soon becomes clear that Christopher has a high functioning form of autism. Because of the particular way his brain is wired, fiction is unappealing to him; he cannot tell lies or understand most made-up stories. As he tells his narrative, the list of his quirks grows ever larger. He cannot eat things colored yellow or brown. He cannot be touched. Seeing three red cars in a row on the way to school means that it will be a good day.
Christopher, however, is a very bright child. In mathematics, his abilities are far beyond his age. He is intensely observant of the world around him, even though its human inhabitants are mostly a mystery to him. He loves puzzles and is very good at them, so it is no surprise that he likes the Sherlock Holmes mysteries of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Holmes’s dispassionate analysis of clues is especially appealing to him. Thus he has decided to write a mystery to address his counselor’s assignment.
From the opening pages, Christopher’s special gifts, as well as his special limitations, are apparent. He numbers his chapters using only prime numbers (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and so forth). He always knows the precise time, and he notices that one of his teachers wears brown shoes with approximately sixty small circular holes in them. When Christopher finds a dead poodle, he is sad; he likes dogs, whose moods are much less puzzling than human moods, and he resolves to discover its killer.
Christopher’s discovery of the dog leads to a skirmish with the dog’s owner, who calls the police. When the policeman asks too many questions...
(The entire section is 870 words.)
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Written by British author Mark Haddon and published in 2003, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is told from the point of view of Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old autistic boy. Christopher takes the reader through typical days in his life and explains, clearly and coherently, sometimes in an almost detached way, what it is like to be autistic. (Christopher has Asperger's syndrome, but that disorder is never specifically mentioned in the book.) He discusses his routines; his counting of cars (five red cars in a row on the way to school make it a Super Good Day, but five yellow cars in a row make it a Black Day during which he will Take No Risks); why people, facial expressions, and idioms confuse him; his inability to lie; and his standards and requirements for eating. Christopher also takes the reader into his mind when he has one of his "episodes"—when his brain gets so overloaded with stimuli that he can only rock back and forth and moan. The patterns, the counting (even, for example, the novel's chapters are ordered as prime numbers because Christopher likes them), the moaning, and the selective behavior all seem perfectly logical when explained by Christopher.
The novel's inciting incident occurs when Christopher finds his neighbor's dog, Wellington, speared by a garden fork in his neighbor's front yard. Christopher cannot comprehend how someone could do this, so he removes the garden fork from the dog and cuddles the dog's body. Christopher is questioned by the police when they arrive, and it is here that the reader learns of Christopher's dislike of people touching him: he assaults the police officer and is then taken home by his father, Ed. Christopher takes it upon himself to find Wellington's killer and, as he explains at the beginning of the novel, to write a book about it with the help of his schoolteacher, Siobhan. To solve the mystery, Christopher uses different techniques he has discovered from various detective books (including his favorite, Sherlock...
(The entire section is 826 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
“A Family with Failings.” The Bookseller, May 12, 2006, 32.
Haddon, Mark. “B Is for Bestseller.” The Guardian, April 11, 2004.
“Mind the Gap: Mark Haddon Brings Sense to the Crossover Debate.” The Bookseller 124, no. 5 (April 16, 2004): 20.
Muller, Vivienne. “Constituting Christopher: Disability Theory and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Explorations into Children’s Literature 16, no. 12 (December, 2006): 118-126.
Weich, Dave. “The Curiously Irresistible Literary Debut of Mark Haddon.” http://www.powells.com/haddon.html.