The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

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How does the play present identity through characters assuming multiple roles, and its significance?

Quick answer:

Identity is presented in the play through the contrast between Christopher's unique perspective and the similarity of everyone else's thoughts and actions. This similarity is emphasized by assigning multiple roles to more than half the actors, underscoring the interchangeable nature of their personalities.

Expert Answers

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In Simon Stephens's dramatic adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, six of the ten actors play multiple roles. The first of them, for instance, plays Mrs. Shears, the principal of Christopher's school, a woman on the train to London, and a shopkeeper. The second is Mr. Shears, one of the Boones' neighbors, a police officer, a man behind a ticket counter, and a drunk.

There is nothing new about actors playing multiple roles, a practice which first arose for reasons of efficiency and economy. There are, however, also dramatic reasons for presenting minor characters in this way. Christopher has a unique viewpoint and is often alienated from others because his mind works in a different way from theirs. From his perspective, other people often seem interchangeable because they all think and act in similar ways, which he perceives as illogical.

Christopher's mother, Judy, has chosen to live with Mr. Shears, and his father has a brief relationship with Mrs. Shears, but, so far as Christopher is concerned, they might as well have chosen a police officer or a random woman on the train. The similarity with which other people act, speak, and think is irrational as well as intimidating to Christopher, and the multiple roles emphasize this point.

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