The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon
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How does the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time use and break crime-genre conventions?

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has a highly cerebral detective who bases his investigative method on that of Sherlock Holmes and is emotionally detached. However, he fails to notice matters that are obvious to the reader, stumbles on the solution by accident, and turns out to be personally embroiled in the mystery.

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Although Simon Stephens's play based on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time changes the structure of Mark Haddon's story, the use of crime-genre conventions is essentially the same. Christopher continually compares himself to Sherlock Holmes. However, unlike most British detective fiction (and almost all the Sherlock Holmes stories), the novel is narrated by Christopher himself. The play, though narrated by someone else, is largely told from Christopher's perspective. The convention of the genre is to have a figure such as Dr. Watson, who is intelligent but lacks the acute powers of the detective, as a proxy for the reader.

Christopher's high intelligence does not make him a good detective. In fact, he stumbles on the answer to the puzzle by accident and fails to notice various matters (particularly when they concern personal relationships) that are obvious to the reader. The detective therefore lags behind the reader in uncovering crucial aspects of the mystery.

Perhaps the most subtle balance between following and breaking the conventions of detective fiction lies in Christopher's own involvement in the mystery. The detective is supposed to be a detached observer, clinically dissecting the case. Christopher is himself embroiled in every aspect of this mystery, but his different way of experiencing emotions supplies a sort of detachment.

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