Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003)

Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) focuses on the life of a fictional teenage boy, Christopher Boone, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of high-functioning autism.  In doing so, the novel attempts to promote the toleration and acceptance of these people, despite their sometimes odd behaviour.  This is based on the belief that understanding builds tolerance while ignorance is a pre-requisite for intolerance.  It is a book intended to put a disadvantaged and marginalised group of people in a realistic yet positive light. 

The story comprehensively covers the list of behavioural symptoms associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, thereby leaving the audience aware of the many facets of this condition that one may observe in a sufferer. These can include a fascination with dry facts and technology, being puzzled by human emotions, being confused by ambiguity or abstract concepts or linguistic irony, and an extreme aversion to being overloaded with information or being physically touched. 

The story uses the character of the teacher Siobhan, who works at the special-needs school attended by Christopher Boone, and to a lesser extent also uses Christopher’s father, Ed, to instruct the audience on the appropriate and most effective ways to interact with people with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Readers can learn how to avoid triggering incidents of unusual or disturbing behaviour (like screaming fits), and how to bring out the better sides of the sufferer’s nature.  The text concludes on a positive note by suggesting that, if handled correctly, the adverse incidents can be minimised and the person with Asperger’s Syndrome can be guided towards a more productive life where their talents may be harnessed for the betterment of the community. 

Most importantly, the story is told in the first person from the perspective of the character with Asperger’s Syndrome − Christopher Boone.  This is arguably one of the most notable features of the novel since it attempts to enlighten the audience on how the minds of these people work so they can make better sense of their unusual behaviour.  By telling the story in this fashion, the novel also gives the readers the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, from that of an autistic person. 

Haddon exhibits a great deal of respect for those who suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome, especially those ‘autistic savants’ who may exhibit exceptional abilities in mathematical and scientific reasoning.  Haddon’s novel implies that this talent should be respected and utilised. 

In addition, by inviting his audience to see the world from the perspective of a person who relies on mathematics and logical reasoning (due to a virtual absence of other modes of thinking) he is encouraging readers to learn from the demonstrations of this reasoning presented in the novel.  This is particularly evident regarding the subtheme of scepticism regarding religion, superstition, and the supernatural.  The novel presents Christopher Boone as mentally equipped to see through claims regarding the psychic or miraculous, with Haddon inviting his readers to follow Christopher Boone’s example in this regard. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2021 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time meaning, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time themes, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time analysis, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time notes