Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a novel written by Mark Haddon. The main character of this novel is a fifteen-year-old boy, Christopher John Francis Boone. Christopher is accused of murdering a neighbor’s dog, which prompts the boy to launch an investigation and find the real killer. Throughout this investigation, he finds out that the mother he has considered dead before is, in fact, alive, and Christopher decides to run away to live with her. A theme of Haddon’s novel is social disability, which is reflected through the difficulties that Christopher encounters since due to socialization problems. Although the author of the novel does not state this explicitly, it appears that Christopher has some type of condition that impairs his social capabilities.
One potential diagnosis that Christopher might have is Asperger’s syndrome, which is a condition that impairs one cognitive capability. According to Seok, people with Asperger’s can function normally on a day-to-day basis; for example, they can take care of themselves, work, study, and do other activities (49). However, there are significant difficulties when people with Asperger’s encounter social situations and communication with others (Seok 49). This is a result of Asperger’s affecting one’s ability to read others’ emotions through their facial expressions and, therefore, their ability to empathize with others. Therefore, although people with Asperger’s syndrome can communicate with others, they cannot relate to the feelings and emotional issues that others might experience, which hinders communication. In the novel, this difficulty and lack of understanding from Christopher’s social circle creates many obstacles and struggles for the boy.
Haddon discloses in his book that he never names the condition that Christopher suffers from. Still, throughout the novel, his behavioral problems are evident. Hence, the author does not want to define his main character by his diagnosis and mental health struggles. Instead, he shows a variety of adventures that Christopher experiences. Christopher lives his life as any other person would, and as the novel’s plot develops, he goes on an exciting adventure. Moreover, Christopher’s father, Ed, is very fond of his son and tries to build his life in a way that accommodates the needs of the former. For example, Ed and Christopher have a special “hug”, which is a touch using fingertips that is acceptable for Christopher, considering his condition and inability to tolerate physical contact (Haddon 35). Hence, people who are closest to Cristopher and who love him have learned to find ways to communicate with him in a way that would be acceptable for both parties.
Since this novel is written from the first-person perspective, from Christopher’s viewpoint, the reader can experience the social struggles of a person with a disability firsthand. For example, Haddon writes, “this will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them” (10). This shows both the contents of this novel and supports the idea that the social and mental struggle is one of the major themes since Christopher warns the reader from the beginning that some normal things, such as jokes, are not something that he can understand.
This novel is an excellent narration of how a person with a disability lives their everyday life and how they are perceived by the community they live in, which shows society’s perception of mental health problems. For example, Mrs. Alexander, who is Christopher’s neighbor, communicates with the latter in a way that shows respect and patience toward his condition. She is being kind, polite, and willing to explain things simply and understandably. However, although Christopher’s father, his teacher, and Mrs. Alexander are accepting of his social struggles, his social circle is very small since the majority of the community members cannot tolerate his behavior. For example, when a police officer touches Christopher, the latter strikes him, which is unacceptable for people without cognitive or mental health disorders but expected in Christopher’s eyes Another aspect consistent with Asperger’s syndrome is an aversion to touch, which Christopher shows. This is a factor that might be difficult to understand others since touch is a normal aspect of human communication.
Another aspect of the novel’s theme is the representation of how a person with a disability handles serious problems, such as a family crisis and accusations of committing a crime. Once Christopher is released by the police after he is accused of killing a dog, he quickly decides to investigate this crime himself. For example, before his solo trip through London, Christopher would bark like a dog to ensure that strangers would not approach him. This is very unusual and anti-social behavior for people, which might prompt others to feel strange and want to avoid the person doing this. Christopher murmurs all the time, constantly rubbing his palms; his voice is nearly ethereal. He often says critical things while doing socially weird things, for example, hanging upside down. He communicates not with the world but with his inner thoughts. However, for Christopher, this is a way to protect himself from unwanted communication and interaction with others, which he cannot stand. Hence, Christopher showcases how people with mental or cognitive struggles and disabilities can handle social situations and how people should address this.
Considering that the author does not emphasize the specifics of Christopher’s condition, the boy’s social circle and interactions expand as he travels through London. This also supports the idea that a cognitive or mental health condition should not be viewed as something that disables people from functioning socially. At the beginning of the novel, Christopher struggled when communicating with his father and trying to understand what happened to his mother. For example, he says, “father said that he didn’t know what kind of heart attack she had and now wasn’t the moment to be asking questions like that” (15). The boy does not quite understand the meaning of the expression “heart attack” and takes everything too literally, getting lost in his father’s explanations. However, as he travels through London, his experiences and struggles become lesser, and he learns to communicate with the world and others in a better way. The idea of self-reliant questioning of the case pushes the boy to communicate with new people, see unknown places, and expand his horizons. Christopher has always lived within himself due to the peculiarities of mental health, but life circumstances helped him come out of his shell and develop a personality.
This paper analyses the main theme from Mark Haddon’s novel titled Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This novel is a representation of the social struggles and issues that people who struggle with mental health issues and cognitive disorders experience. Christopher has several close people who have learned to communicate with him in a way that is acceptable both for Christopher and others. For example, his father has developed a special way of hugging him to show affection. However, when communicating with others, Christopher struggles; for example, he barks at people to warn them against approaching him. Hence, the social circle of this boy is very limited until he begins his journey through London. Therefore, this novel shows the struggles that a person with a syndrome such as Asperger’s can face.
Haddon, Mark. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Vintage, 2018.
Seok, Chua Bee. (2022). Neurofeedback (NFB) Training in Aspergers. Borneo Journal of Medical Sciences (BJMS), 49 – 56. Web.