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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. On pages 45-48, Christopher describes his “Behavioral Problems” and the effect they had on his parents and their marriage. What is the effect of the dispassionate style in which he relates this information?

2. Given Christophers aversion to being touched, can he experience his parents love for him, or can he only understand it as a fact, because they tell him they love him? Is there any evidence in the novel that he experiences a sense of attachment to other people?

3. One of the unusual aspects of the novel is its inclusion of many maps and diagrams. How effective are these in helping the reader see the world through Christophers eyes?

4. What challenges does The Curious Incident present to the ways we usually think and talk about characters in novels? How does it force us to reexamine our normal ideas about love and desire, which are often the driving forces in fiction? Since Mark Haddon has chosen to make us see the world through Christophers eyes, what does he help us discover about ourselves?

5. Christopher likes the idea of a world with no people in it [p. 2]; he contemplates the end of the world when the universe collapses [pp. 10-11]; he dreams of being an astronaut, alone in space [pp. 50-51], and that a virus has carried off everyone and the only people left are “special people like me” [pp. 198-200]. What do these passages say about his relationship to other human beings? What is striking about the way he describes these scenarios?

6. On pages 67-69, Christopher goes into the garden and contemplates the importance of description in the book he is writing. His teacher Siobhan told him “the idea of a book was to describe things using words so that people could read them and make a picture in their own head” [p. 67]. What is the effect of reading Christophers extended description, which begins, “I decided to do a description of the garden” and ends “Then I went inside and fed Toby”? How does this passage relate to a quote Christopher likes from The Hound of the Baskervilles: “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by chance ever observes” [p. 73]?

7. According to neurologist Oliver Sacks, Hans Asperger, the doctor whose name is associated with the kind of autism that Christopher seems to have, notes that some autistic people have “a sort of intelligence scarcely touched by tradition and culture—unconventional, unorthodox, strangely pure and original, akin to the intelligence of true creativity” [An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks, NY: Vintage Books, 1995, pp. 252-53]. Does the novels intensive look at Christophers fascinating and often profound mental life suggest that in certain ways, the pity that well-meaning, “normal” people might feel for him is misdirected? Given his gifts, does his future look promising?

8. Christopher experiences the world quantitatively and logically. His teacher Mr. Jeavons tells him that he likes math because its safe. But Christophers explanation of the Monty Hall problem gives the reader more insight into why he likes math. Does Mr. Jeavons underestimate the complexity of Christophers mind and his responses to intellectual stimulation? Does Siobhan understand Christopher better than Mr. Jeavons?

9. Think about what Christopher says about metaphors and lies and their relationship to novels [pp. 14-20]. Why is lying such an alien concept to him? In his antipathy to lies, Christopher decides not to write a novel, but a book in which “everything I have written . . . is true” [p. 20]. Why do “normal” human beings in the novel, like Christophers parents, find lies so indispensable? Why is the idea of truth so central to Christophers narration?

10. Which scenes are comical in this novel, and why are they funny? Are these same situations also sad, or exasperating?

11. Christophers conversations with Siobhan, his teacher at school, are possibly his most meaningful communications with another person. What are these conversations like, and how do they compare with his conversations with his father and his mother?

12. One of the primary disadvantages of the autistic is that they cant project or intuit what other people might be feeling or thinking—as illustrated in the scene where Christopher has to guess what his mother might think would be in the Smarties tube [pp. 115-16]. When does this deficit become most clear in the novel? Does Christopher seem to suffer from his mental and emotional isolation, or does he seem to enjoy it?

13. Christophers parents, with their affairs, their arguments, and their passionate rages, are clearly in the grip of emotions they themselves cant fully understand or control. How, in juxtaposition to Christophers incomprehension of the passions that drive other people, is his family situation particularly ironic?

14. On pages 83-84, Christopher explains why he doesnt like yellow and brown, and admits that such decisions are, in part, a way to simplify the world and make choices easier. Why does he need to make the world simpler? Which aspects of life does he find unbearably complicated or stressful?

15. What is the effect of reading the letters Christophers mother wrote to him? Was his mother justified in leaving? Does Christopher comprehend her apology and her attempt to explain herself [pp. 106-10]? Does he have strong feelings about the loss of his mother? Which of his parents is better suited to taking care of him?

16. Christophers father confesses to killing Wellington in a moment of rage at Mrs. Shears [pp. 121-22], and swears to Christopher that he wont lie to him ever again. Christopher thinks, “I had to get out of the house. Father had murdered Wellington. That meant he could murder me, because I couldnt trust him, even though he had said ‘Trust me, because he had told a lie about a big thing” [p. 122]. Why is Christophers world shattered by this realization? Is it likely that he will ever learn to trust his father again?

17. How much empathy does the reader come to feel for Christopher? How much understanding does he have of his own emotions? What is the effect, for instance, of the scenes in which Christophers mother doesnt act to make sure he can take his A-levels? Do these scenes show how little his mother understands Christophers deepest needs?

18. Mark Haddon has said of The Curious Incident, “Its not just a book about disability. Obviously, on some level it is, but on another level . . . its a book about books, about what you can do with words and what it means to communicate with someone in a book. Heres a character whom if you met him in real life youd never, ever get inside his head. Yet something magical happens when you write a novel about him. You slip inside his head, and it seems like the most natural thing in the world” [http://www.powells.com/authors/haddon.html ]. Is a large part of the achievement of this novel precisely this—that Haddon has created a door into a kind of mind his readers would not have access to in real life?

19. Christophers journey to London underscores the difficulties he has being on his own, and the real disadvantages of his condition in terms of being in the world. What is most frightening, disturbing, or moving about this extended section of the novel [pp. 169-98]?

20. In his review of The Curious Incident, Jay McInerney suggests that at the novels end “the gulf between Christopher and his parents, between Christopher and the rest of us, remains immense and mysterious. And that gulf is ultimately the source of this novels haunting impact. Christopher Boone is an unsolved mystery” [The New York Times Book Review, 6/15/03, p. 5)]. Is this an accurate assessment? If so, why?

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Average customer rating based on 39 comments:

ladymacbech, December 23, 2011 (view all comments by ladymacbech)
After the incredible 40+ years I had as a teacher, and having enjoyed ages of preschool through early college -and in that order - catagorizing anyone as "special needs" is an insult. The parents and I would have been the ones with special needs, if I had had to limit my students and myself in working through an enormous volume of experiences leading to knowledge in some form. This book was easily read in a few hours, and a second visit made the main character shout "GO-O-OA-ll." I Loved this book, the main character, his mom and the cover too.
(Note; my early years teaching in public school, rarely included "labeled" students. Mainly because most of the recognized "tags" of the last years were not known. The earliest one I delt with was "cross dominance," and most of the "challenged" students were not included in the schools in any form.)
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Tim Lewis, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Tim Lewis)
One of the rare things in books is distinct author voice. This book is one of those that the reader gets the feeling that the protagonist really is the person doing the writing. The end of the book truly brought me back to reality and cried out empathy for the kid without wrapping things up in a neat little bow with everyone singing and holding hands. Not what I expected, but pleasantly surprised.
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Gracie, April 2, 2011 (view all comments by Gracie)
This is a pretty amazing book. I didn't really know what to expect going in, but it's a fascinating story about an autistic boy who sees the world differently from most other people. Christopher sees things both as being more complicated and less complicated than everyone else does. Extremely intelligent and logical, he has a great deal of difficulty with people and emotions. So when he begins investigating the murder of a neighborhood dog and comes upon an even greater mystery about what truly happened to his mother, he confronts confusion and fear unlike any he's ever known before and he must learn to rely on himself.

The story is very well crafted. Christopher journals his experience in painstaking detail, with order, organization, literal honesty, and refreshing perspective. Mark Haddon writes beautifully and poignantly of this boy and his struggles in such a simple, straightforward manner that you can't help but feel as you read.
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(4 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Haddon, Mark
Miller, Ashley Edward
Stentz, Zack
Children's 12-Up - Fiction - General
Savants (savant syndrome)
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Situations / Special Needs
fiction;autism;mystery;novel;england;british;family;young adult;aspergers;contemporary fiction;contemporary;psychology;literature;dogs;divorce;humor;mental illness;ya;coming of age;mathematics;murder;crime;21st century;detective;dog;children;childhood;lon
fiction;autism;mystery;novel;england;british;family;young adult;aspergers;contemporary fiction;contemporary;psychology;literature;dogs;divorce;humor;mental illness;ya;coming of age;mathematics;murder;crime;21st century;detective;dog;children;childhood;lon
fiction;autism;mystery;novel;england;british;family;young adult;aspergers;contemporary fiction;contemporary;psychology;literature;dogs;divorce;humor;mental illness;ya;coming of age;mathematics;murder;crime;21st century;detective;dog;children;childhood;lon
fiction;autism;mystery;novel;england;british;family;young adult;aspergers;contemporary;contemporary fiction;psychology;literature;divorce;dogs;humor;mental illness;ya;coming of age;mathematics;murder;crime;detective;21st century;dog;children;childhood;lon
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Vintage Contemporaries
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
May 2004
Grade Level:
from 7
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 12

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Young Adult » General

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Used Trade Paper
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Product details 240 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9781400032716 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

An autistic math genius sets out to solve the murder-by-pitchfork of a neighbor's dog. The narrator's autism gives a terrific, interesting depth to his voice. Incredibly well done, Mark Haddon's debut novel is sweet, original, and moving.

"Review" by , "Though Christopher insists, 'This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them,' the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice."
"Review" by , "This original and affecting novel is a triumph of empathy; whether describing Christopher's favorite dream...or his vision of the universe collapsing in a thunder or stars, the author makes his hero's severely limited world a thrilling place to be."
"Review" by , "[A] bittersweet tale....A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash."
"Review" by , "For Haddon to have created such a superbly realized autistic world-view is, in itself, remarkable. Brilliantly inventive, full of dazzling set-pieces, unbearbly sad, yet also skilfully dodging any encounters with sentimentality, this isn't simply the most original novel I've read in years...it's also one of the best."
"Review" by , "[S]tark, funny and original....[I]t eschews most of the furnishings of high-literary enterprise as well as the conventions of genre, disorienting and reorienting the reader to devastating effect."
"Review" by , "Moving....Think of The Sound and the Fury crossed with The Catcher in the Rye and one of Oliver Sacks's real-life stories."
"Review" by , "Superb....Bits of wisdom fairly leap off the page."
"Review" by , "Narrated by the unusual and endearing Christopher, who alternates between analyzing mathematical equations and astronomy and contemplating the deaths of Wellington and his mother, the novel is both fresh and inventive."
"Review" by , "A stroke of genius, as the advantages of having a naive, literal-minded boy in the driving seat are manifold... we do learn what it might feel like to have Asperger's Syndrome."
"Review" by , "A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash."
"Review" by , "Mark Haddon's portrayal of an emotionally dissociated mind is a superb achievement. He is a wise and bleakly funny writer with rare gifts of empathy."
"Review" by , "I have never read anything quite like Mark Haddon's funny and agonizingly honest book, or encountered a narrator more vivid and memorable. I advise you to buy two copies; you won't want to lend yours out."
"Review" by , "The Curious Incident brims with imagination, empathy, and vision — plus it's a lot of fun to read."
"Review" by , "Brilliant....Delightful....Very moving, very plausible — and very funny."
"Review" by , "In this striking first novel, Mark Haddon is both clever and observant, and the effect is vastly affecting."
"Review" by , "The book gave me that rare, greedy feeling of: this is so good I want to read it all at once but I mustn't or it will be over too soon"
"Review" by , "Haddon's book illuminates the way one mind works so precisely, so humanely, that it reads like both an acutely observed case study and an artful exploration of...the thoughts and feelings we share even with those very different from us. (Grade: A)"
"Review" by , "The novel is being marketed to a YA audience, but strong language and adult situations make this a good title for sophisticated readers of all ages. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "One of the strangest and most convincing characters in recent fiction."
"Synopsis" by , Narrated by a 15-year-old autistic savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, this dazzling novel weaves together an old-fashioned mystery, a contemporary coming-of-age story, and a fascinating excursion into a mind incapable of processing emotions.
"Synopsis" by , Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher's quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

"Synopsis" by ,

Colin Fischer cannot stand to be touched. He does not like the color blue. He needs index cards to recognize facial expressions.

But when a gun is found in the school cafeteria, interrupting a female classmate's birthday celebration, Colin is the only for the investigation. It's up to him to prove that Wayne Connelly, the school bully and Colin's frequent tormenter, didn't bring the gun to school. After all, Wayne didn't have frosting on his hands, and there was white chocolate frosting found on the grip of the smoking gun...

Colin Fischer is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, and his story--as told by the screenwriters of X-Men: First Class and Thor--is perfect for readers who have graduated from Encyclopedia Brown and who are ready to consider the greatest mystery of all: what other people are thinking and feeling.

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