The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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Dogs Symbol Analysis

Dogs Symbol Icon

Dogs show up frequently throughout the novel, usually representing Christopher’s safety. This symbolism is particularly appropriate because dogs are often meant to protect the people around them. This symbol goes deeper than the symbol of the knife, however, representing not only physical, but also emotional safety.

The story begins with Christopher’s discovery of the dead dog Wellington. At this point, Christopher has no immediate worries for his safety, and in fact thinks himself responsible for others’ safety as he tries to find Wellington’s murderer. However, as he continues to investigate Wellington’s death, Christopher encounters emotional danger in the form of his mother’s letters and his father’s confession. After Ed tells Christopher that he killed Wellington, Christopher almost takes on dog-like qualities, barking whenever anyone bumps into him or frightens him. As he flees from his father’s physical and emotional violence, Christopher’s defense mechanisms become like those of the dog his father killed.

At the end of the novel, Ed gives Christopher another dog, Sandy, as a pet. This gesture helps to repair the relationship between father and son and helps Christopher feel safer around Ed. Ed may have killed a dog at the beginning of the book, but at the end he brings a new one into the story, and this symbolic gift seems to heal many of the wounds that have been inflicted over the course of the novel.

Additionally, Christopher sees dogs as symbols of safety in the context of his relationship with Mrs. Alexander. While always wary of her as a stranger, Christopher is more inclined to trust her because she has a dog, and he believes that people with dogs are generally nice.

Dogs Quotes in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time quotes below all refer to the symbol of Dogs. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Growing Up Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time published in 2004.
Chapter 167 Quotes

I want you to know that you can trust me. And... OK, maybe I don’t tell the truth all the time. God knows, I try, Christopher, God knows I do, but... Life is difficult, you know. It’s bloody hard telling the truth all the time. Sometimes it’s impossible. And I want you to know that I’m trying, I really am. And perhaps this is not a very good time to say this, and I know you’re not going to like it, but... You have to know that I am going to tell you the truth from now on. About everything. Because... if you don’t tell the truth now, then later on... later on it hurts even more. So.... I killed Wellington, Christopher.

Related Characters: Ed Boone (Christopher’s father) (speaker), Christopher John Francis Boone, Wellington
Related Symbols: Dogs
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

After Christopher realizes that his father has lied about his mother’s death, he becomes ill and won’t speak to Ed. Ed tries to help him, but when Christopher doesn’t break his silence, Ed promises to tell him the truth in the future. He has realized the damage that his lies have done. Maybe he even knew before that they would eventually cause pain, and yet lying seemed the easiest course to take at that moment. In his remorse, he decides that ending all lies immediately will be the best way to regain Christopher’s trust. In this moment, the murderer turns himself in, but Ed was the last person Christopher expected he was hunting down. As the repercussions of Ed’s confession unroll, the question becomes whether his choice to tell the entire truth in this moment is a wise one. Christopher is not prepared to so completely lose his trust in his father and caregiver, and it takes a great emotional toll on him. Can lying ever be the kinder choice?

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I had to get out of the house. Father had murdered Wellington. That meant he could murder me, because I couldn’t trust him, even though he had said “Trust me,” because he had told a lie about a big thing.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Ed Boone (Christopher’s father), Wellington
Related Symbols: Dogs
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

After Christopher reads his mother’s letters, Ed finds him and realizes the impact that his lies have had on his son. As a result, he decides he has to be completely honest from now on, so he tells Christopher that he killed Wellington. Rather than taking this as an indication of his father’s honesty, however, Christopher’s logic tells him that if his father is a murderer, he might murder Christopher next. Ed’s confession has completely backfired—he wanted Christopher to be able to trust him, but instead Christopher trusts him less than ever. Ed essentially told Christopher lies and killed Wellington out of a desire to protect Christopher as best he could, even if his own anger and sense of betrayal did play a part. For Christopher, Ed’s motivation in these acts makes no difference, if he’s even aware of it, which it seems he might not be. Ed’s actions speak louder than any emotions, and Christopher no longer feels safe in the presence of someone whom he can’t trust to tell the truth.

Chapter 233 Quotes

...Father said, “Christopher, look... You have to learn to trust me... And I don’t care how long it takes... Because this is important. This is more important than anything else... Let’s call it a project....You have to spend more time with me. And I... I have to show you that you can trust me... And, um... I’ve got you a present. To show you that I really mean what I say. And to say sorry. And because... well, you’ll see what I mean.”

Then he got out of the armchair and he walked over to the kitchen door and opened it and there was a big cardboard box on the floor... and he took a little sandy-colored dog out.

Then he came back through and gave me the dog...

Then Father said, “Christopher, I would never, ever do anything to hurt you.”

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Ed Boone (Christopher’s father) (speaker), Sandy
Related Symbols: Dogs
Page Number: 218-19
Explanation and Analysis:

Christopher hasn’t been speaking to his father ever since Ed admitted to killing Wellington, and he has remained fearful of him. Finally, Ed insists that Christopher allow him five minutes to talk. Ed’s dialogue shows the pain of his son’s terror of him, and his sincere need to repair the relationship. Ed acknowledges that he and Christopher both have to work to rebuild Christopher’s trust in Ed. In giving Christopher a dog, Ed apologizes for killing Wellington and symbolically reincarnates him. Furthermore, dogs have acted as a marker of Christopher’s physical and emotional safety throughout the novel. Thus, Ed’s gift shows Christopher that he is safe and can trust Ed to protect that safety.

Additionally, the dog replaces Toby, who has recently died, as Christopher’s pet. Since a dog requires a lot more care and has more personality than a rat, the gift of the dog represents Christopher’s growth over the course of the story and welcomes him into the next, more mature stage of his life.

And then, when I’ve done that, I am going to go to university in another town... And I can live in a flat with a garden and a proper toilet. And I can take Sandy and my books and my computer.

And then I will get a First Class Honors degree and I will become a scientist.

And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington? and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Judy Boone (Christopher’s mother), Wellington, Sandy
Related Symbols: Dogs, Maths A Level
Page Number: 220-21
Explanation and Analysis:

Christopher has received an A on his A level exam, and he has begun to study for the next exam. In these closing paragraphs of the novel, he dreams of his future. These ambitions are the same ones he has spoken of since the beginning of the story—but at the beginning, they seemed much more far-fetched and difficult to achieve. When he was consumed by fear of his father and the need to find his mother, his dreams sank to the back of his mind, and he even thought for a while that he wouldn’t be able to take his A level, the one concrete gateway to university.

Over the course of the book, Christopher has overcome all of the challenges that came his way, and now he’s done well on his A level, too. Now that his life is back on track, his recent experiences add up to show his ability to face whatever comes. He has matured emotionally, and now he feels unstoppable.

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Dogs Symbol Timeline in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The timeline below shows where the symbol Dogs appears in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
The story opens in Swindon, England, just after midnight, when Christopher discovers Wellington, his neighbor’s dog, lying dead on her lawn with a pitchfork stabbed through him. Christopher pets Wellington, wondering... (full context)
Chapter 5
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
Christopher takes the pitchfork out of the dog and hugs him. He likes dogs because they’re easy to understand and they don’t tell... (full context)
Chapter 7
Growing Up Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Siobhan tells Christopher that this mystery is different than most because a dog, rather than a human, is the victim of the murder. Christopher compares his story to... (full context)
Chapter 11
Trust Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
...do. One of the policemen asks Christopher what he was doing holding his neighbor’s dead dog in her yard, and whether he killed Wellington. Christopher answers his questions honestly until there... (full context)
Chapter 41
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...that a murder has occurred, and someone must be punished, even if was only a dog that was killed. Ed gets angry at Christopher’s persistence. (full context)
Chapter 59
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
...wants to find out who did. When he asks if she knows who killed the dog, she doesn’t answer, and only closes the door in his face. (full context)
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...looks like the one that killed Wellington. He wonders if Mrs. Shears killed her own dog, but decides that the murderer was probably someone else using her pitchfork. However, the shed... (full context)
Chapter 67
Growing Up Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...killed Wellington. The man, Mr. Thompson’s brother, is impolite and doesn’t even know that the dog has been killed. He wasn’t in town the night of the murder, so Christopher leaves. (full context)
Chapter 79
Trust Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...mystery of Wellington’s death. Christopher tells his father his suspicion that Mr. Shears killed the dog, and Ed gets even angrier with Christopher for mentioning Mr. Shears. He also says that... (full context)
Chapter 97
Growing Up Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Christopher makes friends with Mrs. Alexander’s dog outside the shop, and Mrs. Alexander tries again to chat with him. Christopher is being... (full context)
Chapter 103
Trust Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
...his dad another white lie—that he went to get candy and talked to Mrs. Alexander’s dog. (full context)
Chapter 107
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
...is about an old British family, the Baskervilles, who are haunted by a giant, murderous dog. A friend of the family thinks that the heir might be in danger from the... (full context)
Chapter 167
Growing Up Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
...He was very angry, and he imagined Wellington might attack him, so he killed the dog. (full context)
Chapter 191
Growing Up Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
...leading him where he has to go, and he follows the line, barking like a dog when people bump into him. He makes it to the train, watches a man open... (full context)
Chapter 233
Growing Up Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
...reveals that he’s gotten Christopher a present, and brings in a golden retriever puppy. The dog will stay with Ed, and Christopher can come take him for walks. (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
...got an A on his Maths A level, and he’s very happy. He names the dog Sandy and takes him for walks. When Judy gets sick, Christopher spends three days at... (full context)