The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

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What feelings do readers experience from Christopher's mother's letters in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?

Quick answer:

The feelings and judgments experienced after reading Christopher's mother's letters in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will vary from reader to reader, but some expected feelings include confusion, surprise, anger, and sympathy. It is unknown until now that Christopher's mother is alive, and the fact that Christopher's father lied about it complicates the emotional tone as well.

Expert Answers

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This is a question about your personal response, but it is worth considering what, and how much, the letters reveal, as well as their effect on Christopher. Apart from what the letters actually say, there is the initial shocking revelation that Christopher's mother is not dead. This affects him in several ways. In the short term, he has a violent physical reaction. In the medium term, he decides to undertake a terrifying journey to find his mother. In the long term (and Haddon does not reveal quite how long), he completely loses trust in his father and begins to be afraid of him.

Whether you believe Christopher's mother made the right choice will depend on your values. In what circumstances is a mother justified in leaving a child as well as a husband? What difference does the child's age make? It is important to bear in mind that Christopher's mother did not imagine she was abandoning him completely, since she had no idea that his father would pretend she had died. One common effect of the letters on the reader is to arouse compassion for Christopher's mother, since she believes that his failure to respond means that he is probably angry and has not forgiven her for leaving. She also thinks that she was a bad mother and was not helping Christopher. However, finding her letters puts him in an impossible situation since, however bad she thinks she was at being a mother, Christopher now regards her as preferable to his father.

The following questions may help to guide the way in which you answer this question by separating out the different decisions Christopher's mother makes. Was she right to leave? Was she right not to tell Christopher beforehand and try to explain the situation to him? Was she right to begin a relationship with Mr. Shears, especially given that Mr. Shears is hostile in his behavior to Christopher?

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