The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Novel by Mark Haddon (New York: Vintage, 2003. 226 pp)
Mark Haddon is an English novelist educated at Merton College, Oxford. He has written numerous children’s books and his debut novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, won the Whitbread Award, Guardian Prize, and a Commonwealth Writers Prize.
The Dreams of Our Fathers
The joys of fatherhood:
snuggles on Saturday morning
the awe at a young mind forming as he explores a new phenomenon
the odd waddle as he picks up walking speed
hearing “Dad” at any point in time
mimicry whether a hand motion or a facial expression
the need to hold hands when he’s trying to calm down
The fears of fatherhood:
predators of any kind
estrangement with his parents
becoming a country music fan
When a little person is in your charge, life feels all the more real. The pain you encountered as a teenager you wish to avoid for your child. The joys you experienced you want to share in some small way.
On the whole, though, it’s just plain scary. I truly get “Afraid of Everyone” by The National these days.
Christopher John Francis Boone
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time explores familial relationship through the lens of an autistic protagonist, Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher is a meticulous boy, prone to dark moods if the circumstances play a certain way:
“Mr. Jeavons, the psychologist at the school, once asked me why 4 red cards in a row made it a Good Day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a Quite Good Day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a Super Good Day, and why 4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks. He said I was clearly a very logical person, so he was surprised that I should think like this because it wasn’t very logical” (24).
A grade-school aged boy, the book not only frames Christopher as the novel’s protagonist; it also exhibits Christopher as its author:
“Siobhan said that the book should begin with something to grab people’s attention. That is why I started with the dog. I also started with the dog because it happened to me and I find it hard to imagine things which did not happen to me” (5).
About this Incident
Considering the use of a dog as a framing device, we should probably preface this incident. The book begins with our hero, Christopher, discovering a neighbor’s dog, belly up under mysterious circumstances.
Coining himself a detective, Christopher begins exploring the case as a wannabe Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of The Baskervilles. As he dives into the case, his father becomes more uncomfortable with his activity. You see, Christopher is prone to bouts of screaming and physical violence when things don’t go his way.
“But I started screaming in the car because there were too many people in it and Jack and Polly weren’t in my class and Jack bangs his head on things and makes a noise like an animal, and I tried to get out of the car, but it was still going along and I fell out onto the road and I had to have stitches in my head and they had to shave the hair off and it took 3 months for it to grow back to the way it was before” (158).
Through inspecting the case, Christopher begins to learn about some nefarious circumstances around his mother’s death 2 years ago.
As a father, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time reminded me of the scary and stressful activities of parenting. Thankfully, our boy does not struggle with autism, but the infliction frames the scary and necessary aspects of parenting, especially once the child possess volition.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time explores similar themes to other novels I have read, like The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. But it’s also worth noting that this novel predates both of those stories. So my been-there-before feelings have nothing to do with unoriginality on the author’s part.
A quick and thought provoking read, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is worth your consideration.
Verdict: 3 out of 5