The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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Growing Up Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Growing Up Theme Icon
Trust Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Growing Up Theme Icon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time can be read as a bildungsroman, a German term that means a coming-of-age story. In bildungsromans, the main character, who is often an adolescent, grows and learns about life over the course of the story, so that they’re more adult at the end than they were at the beginning. At the beginning of the book, Christopher is very much still a child, largely due to a lack of knowledge about life and the world. Although he’s constantly thinking about math and the universe, his view of his own life is somewhat limited. He believes that his mother has died, and never questions his father’s relationship with Mrs. Shears or his mother’s relationship with Mr. Shears.

Over the course of the story, Christopher’s illusions are shattered. He finds out that his father has lied to him on many occasions, his mother is in fact alive, and both of his parents have had relationships with the Shearses. These revelations force Christopher into a more complicated understanding of his own life and the people around him, as he must question the value of truth and the meaning of love. By the end, he sees that both of his parents are deeply flawed, but is well on his way to having workable relationships with both of them.

Furthermore, Christopher faces numerous fears throughout the story, building his confidence in his own abilities. Because Christopher probably has Asperger’s, an autism spectrum condition, he struggles to move through the world in the way that most other people do. He doesn’t like loud noises or being in large crowds, and he sometimes hits people when they try to touch him. However, when he finds out that his mother is alive and his father has killed Wellington the dog, he decides to travel to London despite having little idea how to get there and knowing that he’ll surely encounter situations that will frighten him. In order to successfully reach his mother’s apartment, Christopher has to become very resourceful, talking to strangers, figuring out how to travel on the London Underground, and buying a map to find the apartment in London. The trip seems to be almost entirely terrifying for Christopher, and he often remains stuck in one place for a while because he simply can’t face his surroundings.

Yet Christopher manages to meet all of the challenges that come his way on this trip, and also writes his whole story down. Additionally, he gets an A on his Maths A level exam, which puts him on the path to attending university. Thus, by the end of the book he feels that if he has succeeded in all of these difficult tasks, he can also succeed in life, and go to university and become a scientist as he has always dreamed. Having gained knowledge about the people around him and about how the world works, he feels much more prepared to meet the challenges of adult life than he did at the beginning.

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Growing Up Quotes in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Below you will find the important quotes in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time related to the theme of Growing Up.
Chapter 67 Quotes

It takes me a long time to get used to people I do not know. For example, when there is a new member of staff at school I do not talk to them for weeks and weeks. I just watch them until I know that they are safe. Then I ask them questions about themselves, like whether they have pets and what is their favorite color and what do they know about the Apollo space missions and I get them to draw a plan of their house and I ask them what kind of car they drive, so I get to know them...

So talking to the other people in our street was brave. But if you are going to do detective work you have to be brave, so I had no choice.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Christopher has decided to go talk to his neighbors to see whether they know anything about Wellington’s death, but this is a frightening prospect for him due to his distrust of strangers. He initially distrusts everyone, and doesn’t begin to trust anyone until he has good reason to think them trustworthy. Though they seem insignificant, all of the questions that Christopher mentions asking new staff members relate directly to his personal rules and interests. He feels strong connections to animals, including dogs and his pet rat; he harbors an intense hatred of anything yellow or brown; he wants to become an astronaut; he likes maps and always wants to know where he is in relation to his physical surroundings; and he believes that the colors of cars that he sees on the way to school make it a good day or a bad one. Essentially, then, Christopher needs to position any new person within his own world before he can feel that he knows them.

In light of these reservations about strangers, going to talk to his neighbors is, as he says, brave of him. It is the first of many times in this book that he will force himself outside his comfort zone—first to solve the mystery of Wellington’s death, and then to travel to his mother’s house. Talking to strangers begins a long process of growing up throughout the novel.

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Chapter 97 Quotes

And Mrs. Alexander said, “Your mother, before she died, was very good friends with Mr. Shears.”

And I said, “I know.”

And she said, “No, Christopher, I’m not sure that you do. I mean that they were very good friends. Very, very good friends.”

I thought about this for a while and said, “Do you mean that they were doing sex?”

And Mrs. Alexander said, “Yes, Christopher. That is what I mean.”

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Mrs. Alexander (speaker), Judy Boone (Christopher’s mother), Roger Shears
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

When Mrs. Alexander realizes that Christopher believes his mother is dead and doesn’t know about her affair, she decides that she has already said too much and has to reveal the truth. This is the moment in which Christopher finds out that his mother was having an affair with Mr. Shears, an essential piece of information that leads to the unraveling of Christopher’s life as he knows it. Mrs. Alexander, a kind old lady, doesn’t feel she can say what she means outright, instead calling Judy and Mr. Shears “very good friends.” Christopher, who usually doesn’t understand implied meanings, catches on surprisingly quickly, responding in his usual blunt style. This forces the reader to wonder whether Christopher might have, on some unconscious level, already known this information about his mother.

This is an important moment in Christopher’s process of growing up, as he learns an awful truth about his mother, and its repercussions will force him to face an unraveling strand of lies.

Chapter 157 Quotes

Mother had not had a heart attack. Mother had not died. Mother had been alive all the time. And Father had lied about this.

I tried really hard to think if there was any other explanation but I couldn’t think of one. And then I couldn’t think of anything at all because my brain wasn’t working properly.

I felt giddy. It was like the room was swinging from side to side, as if it was at the top of a really tall building and the building was swinging backward and forward in a strong wind (this is a simile, too). But I knew that the room couldn’t be swinging backward and forward, so it must have been something which was happening inside my head.

I rolled onto the bed and curled up in a ball.

My stomach hurt.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Ed Boone (Christopher’s father), Judy Boone (Christopher’s mother)
Page Number: 112-13
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the essential moment in the book at which Christopher, having read a number of the letters that his mother sent to him and his father hid from him, realizes that Ed has lied about Judy’s death. This would obviously be an extremely traumatic experience for anyone, but Christopher in particular needs the truth in order to feel safe and secure in his life. Furthermore, he needs to be able to trust people completely in order to feel comfortable around them. His mother being alive is enough of a shock, but on top of that, he has to deal with the fact that Ed, whom he thought he could trust more than anyone because Ed loves him, has deceived him to an enormous degree.

With these basic facts of Christopher’s life suddenly uprooted, the shock prevents him from thinking properly, and since logic is another pillar of his existence, he begins to feel completely disoriented. He experiences a physical reaction to the psychological trauma, and begins to feel sick.

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?

Chapter 181 Quotes

I see everything.

That is why I don’t like new places. If I am in a place I know, like home, or school, or the bus, or the shop, or the street, I have seen almost everything in it beforehand and all I have to do is to look at the things that have changed or moved...

But most people are lazy. They never look at everything. They do what is called glancing, which is the same word for bumping off something and carrying on in almost the same direction... And the information in their head is really simple...

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs just after Christopher finds the train station in Swindon as he’s beginning his journey to his mother’s flat in London. Looking for the station, he becomes overwhelmed by the sights and the sounds and the people, and this passage explains why unfamiliar places are so difficult for him to deal with. Instead of filtering out what’s really necessary to notice from what’s less significant, his mind takes everything as equally worthy of remembering. This allows him to notice many details that other people don’t, but also causes him to be overwhelmed by all of the information coming into his brain, so that he can’t focus on what he’s doing. This passage not only explains his difficulty navigating the new places he encounters on his journey, but also makes it clear what an ambitious undertaking it is for him to try to travel all the way to London on his own, and makes his success that much more impressive.

Chapter 227 Quotes

And then I saw Toby, and he was also in the lower-down bit where the rails were.... So I climbed down off the concrete...

...And then I heard the roaring and I lifted Toby up and grabbed him with both hands and he bit me on my thumb and there was blood coming out and I shouted and Toby tried to jump out of my hands.

And then the roaring got louder and I turned round and I saw the train coming out of the tunnel and I was going to be run over and killed so I tried to climb up onto the concrete but it was high and I was holding Toby in both my hands.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Toby
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Christopher sits in the London tube station for hours, terrified by the trains, and when his fright begins to dissipate, he realizes that Toby is missing. In this passage, he risks his life to retrieve Toby from the train tracks. Christopher is usually a very logical person, and he usually thinks and plans before he acts. Furthermore, he’s been immobilized by his fear of the trains, so it would make sense that he would be extremely careful to avoid them. In this situation, however, Christopher seems for once to be driven by the emotion of his love for Toby, which disrupts his logical mind in his need to get his companion back.

Christopher can be seen as a sort of parent to Toby, and in this situation, he experiences the thanklessness of parenting that has sometimes driven his own parents to act unwisely. Christopher risks his life for Toby, but the rat bites him and tries to escape. Similarly, Ed and Judy have devoted their lives to taking care of Christopher (at least, Judy did before she left), but he’s never made it easy for them. Even now, he’s escaping from Ed just like Toby tries to escape from him.

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.