The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Discussion)

Since a lot of people have read the book (and others will eventually, I’m guessing) I thought starting a separate discussion thread might be worth it. I just finished the book over the weekend, and I thought it was OK.

This thread will be primarily for those who have read the book, so I will not post any spoiler warnings.

(Spoilers)

I liked getting in the mind of an autistic person, and I thought that was the essence and main value of the book. Kevin mentioned not getting the bigness of it, but I don’t think there was much else besides capturing the thinking of an autistic person as well as the difficulty that parents and their autistic children have with each other. (I found the mother’s letters and the discovery of those letters very touching, especially since I thought the book was going to be more of a detective/mystery than a family drama.)

The book was very much a slice-of-life novel, and maybe that made it a bit disappointing to me. We quickly realize the book is not about the of the neighbor’s dog. And whatever conflicts there are, there doesn’t seem to be any resolution at the end. I think this happens because the book is more about the way this autistic boy thinks, and the struggles he and his parents have to go through. That’s it. Anybody else have a different interpretation of the novel?

Some of the comments written on the book jacket described the book as humorous. Did you guys find yourselves laughing a lot? I recall some amusing scenes and situations, but nothing that ed me up or anything.

6 Responses to “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Discussion)”


  1. kevin

    Part of it was that I understood it to be the theme of the innocent child/idiot-savant that reclaims an innocence or renewed perspective of the lives of adults. But I don’t know, maybe for me it felt there was a “ceiling” to it because I had a hard time seeing the transformation to the lives in the story. There’s also, by nature of Christopher being autistic, this emotional detachment that justifies some subtext for his objectivity. It’s hard for me to relate to that, by being in a world where actions, emotions, & rationality aren’t so compartmentalized, and things are by nature broken but not so easily fixed. Is it just me feeling this? I did find the book poignant, tho.

  2. Reid

    Part of it was that I understood it to be the theme of the child/idiot-savant that reclaims an innocence or renewed perspective of the lives of s.

    Hmm, that’s not the way I understood the book. Like you, I didn’t sense any transformation. The book felt like a slice in the life of an autistic child–not really a story that showed growth in the characters.

    In what way did Christopher grow? If you’re saying that his autism makes this difficult to identify and/or relate to, then I agree. My impression is that he didn’t really grow in any significant way.

    Perhaps, his journeying out on his own signified growth. But then I’m not sure how he is different after this.

  3. kevin

    Oops, my bad. I probably meant to say “… that reclaims an innocence or renewed perspective for the lives of adults” [reading, that is. I realize that proposition changes the whole reading of the sentence.] Haddon’s intent, I gather, is mainly to renew the way for us readers as we see life thru Christopher’s lens, even if the adult characters around him aren’t changed per se. I agree, I don’t see a change in Christopher, though I find his character very endearing. I’m also not sure why this theme/plot vehicle is relatively prevalent in movie scripts – …Gilbert Grape, Forest Gump, Rainman.

    B/c I didn’t see that transformation in his character, it makes me think Chris. is more a touchstone for the lives around him. So I sympathize for him, but can’t empathize with him, b/c I’ve seen firsthand that the lives of parents for special needs kids don’t always resolve so neatly as either in Christopher’s mind, or as the other characters in the book.

  4. Reid

    I’m also not sure why this theme/plot vehicle is relatively prevalent in movie scripts – …Gilbert Grape, Forest Gump, Rainman.

    Add I Am Sam to the list. I think some actors, filmmakers, etc. view the autistic character as a good vehicle for an actor to show off his or her chops. It’s like they get points for playing this role.

    I’m not an actor, but my own sense is that these roles are somewhat easier to play in that you’re acting can be more inconspicuous. I think audiences are impressed when actors can convincingly create an autistic character.

    Thanks for the explanation, btw.

  5. Marc

    Finally got around to reading this and I find myself agreeing with Reid and Kevin. Cool style, good job of empathizing with the character, but not all that much for me in terms of wow.

  6. pen

    I began reading this book during the Primary Election (our sojourn at Sunset Beach); and recently picked it up again to finish it (I borrowed it from the library and it was due). Despite my somewhat cavalier treatment of the book, I really enjoyed it a lot.

    As mentioned in previous posts, it is easy to sympathize with Christopher as well as his parents. I found myself thinking about Siobhan and would be interested in learning more about her and her story; although I understand why she wasn’t explored more. This was definitely all about Christopher and his perspective.

    I also found myself sympathizing deeply for Christopher’s father. I don’t agree with how he handles his anger and stress, but I couldn’t help agonizing for him. I still think about him silently sitting outside Christopher’s door, or putting his hand out for a “hug” and Christopher’s rejection.

    I agree with Reid that this is more of a “slice of life” piece, but that was okay with me. I felt the style and the insight into the characters’ lives were strong enough to carry the book. It was a great first time venture into novel-writing for young Christopher. 😉

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