The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon
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How is love presented in the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?

Love is presented in the play as an emotion that Christopher doesn't fully understand. Given his condition, he can list a number of behaviors that are normally associated with love, but he cannot truly feel what love is, at least not the way others usually do. However, an emotion like love can be observed in Christopher's reactions toward his neighbor's dead dog.

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It's never explicitly spelled out exactly what Christopher's condition is, but it shows all the hallmarks of autism. That being the case, Christopher, as with many people on the autistic scale, finds it difficult to recognize emotions or indeed develop typical emotional responses. Inevitably, this makes it difficult for those with autism to interact with others.

Christopher can identify a list of behaviors normally associated with love, but love itself, at least the way others see it and experience it, remains largely an alien concept for him.

Although Christopher is shown love by his parents, he is unable to reciprocate. As with many autistic people, he is deeply uncomfortable with being hugged. This means that father and son are restricted to showing affection for each other by holding up the palms of their hands and touching fingertips. Even then, it's far from clear that Christopher truly comprehends the full meaning of this affectionate gesture.

The nearest that Christopher comes to showing love is when he hugs the dead dog Wellington. As Wellington is a dog, and a dead dog at that, physical contact with him doesn't represent any kind of threat to Christopher.

His affectionate gesture toward the deceased animal could be interpreted as an expression of love, however modest. One could also say that Christopher's determination to find out who killed the dog, as well as expressing his penchant for problem-solving, is also motivated by some kind of love for Wellington.

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