The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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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.
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon

Because he’s on the autism spectrum, Christopher struggles in interactions that depend on emotion or personality. Rather than sensing that someone is sad because of the tone of their voice, he often only perceives this emotion when the person starts crying and he can see physical evidence of their sadness.

Christopher best understands situations that he can explain logically rather than emotionally. He tries to be like the detective Sherlock Holmes, because Holmes approaches mysteries from a logical perspective and seeks an explainable truth. Furthermore, Holmes doesn’t believe in supernatural explanations for odd happenings. Like Holmes, Christopher thinks that all odd happenings can be illuminated through use of logic, and Christopher takes this approach in his investigation of Wellington’s death.

Christopher loves math in part because it’s logical. He particularly likes prime numbers, and even uses them to number his chapters—a decision that might seem illogical to other people, since chapter five, for example, is actually the third chapter. He thinks that prime numbers are similar to life in that their existence is based on logic, but it’s impossible to find rules to define them. While many people might relate to this perspective, it is especially applicable to Christopher’s situation, since he struggles to understand the unspoken social rules that most people don’t have to think about. Whenever Christopher feels overwhelmed by the world around him, he turns to logic for help to understand it and to reason out his next steps. For him, logic is the path to truth.

Christopher expresses his emotions in a limited way. He rarely narrates what he’s feeling in a given situation beyond being happy or being overwhelmed and confused. He expresses most negative emotions by groaning or hitting people. He also struggles to understand when people around him act based on their emotions, rather than based on logic. For example, Ed lies to Christopher about Judy’s death because he can’t handle his own emotions about the situation, and doesn’t want to hurt Christopher by telling him his mother left him. He also kills Wellington out of extreme emotions towards Mrs. Shears. Because these actions are based on emotion, Christopher simply can’t understand them, and all he takes from them is that his father can’t be trusted.

Despite Christopher’s love of and need for logic, he himself sometimes acts in ways that others see as illogical, just as others act in ways that he sees as illogical. For example, Christopher figures out whether he’s going to have a good day or a bad day—what emotions he’ll experience—by the colors of the cars that he sees on his way to school. This seems illogical, since car colors have nothing to do with the events of his life. However, he points out that people who work in offices often feel that they’ll have a bad day simply because it’s raining, even though the rain has no actual effect on their life in an office. Christopher’s logical explanations for his actions often make sense even when it seems like they shouldn’t, suggesting that personal logic itself may not always be logical, but instead based on each person’s subjective point of view and ability to think in new ways.

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Logic vs. Emotion 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 Logic vs. Emotion.
Chapter 7 Quotes

This is a murder mystery novel.

Siobhan said that I should write something I would want to read myself. Mostly I read books about science and maths. I do not like proper novels...

But I do like murder mystery novels. So I am writing a murder mystery novel.

In a murder mystery novel someone has to work out who the murderer is and then catch them. It is a puzzle. If it is a good puzzle you can sometimes work out the answer before the end of the book.

Siobhan said that the book should begin with something to grab people’s attention. That is why I started with the dog.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Siobhan, Wellington
Page Number: 4-5
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage occurs near the beginning of the book, just after Christopher discovers Wellington dead. Christopher is an unusual first person narrator, in that he narrates with frequent explicit references to actually writing the book. He is very open about his writing process and the input that his teacher Siobhan gives him. Thus, the narration is very conscious of itself as existing within the medium of a book. In this passage, he clearly states his intentions in writing—simply to write a book that he would like to read. As the world is generally not very accommodating to people with autism, Christopher’s mission to write a book with someone like himself as the audience is actually a rather radical idea.

Throughout the book, Christopher often mentions how much he likes puzzles, and he thinks of difficult social concepts as puzzles as a way to make it easier for him to figure them out. Thus, it makes sense that he is trying to create a puzzle himself. In fact, he more or less invites the reader to try to solve the puzzle even as he tries to solve the mystery himself. Because he struggles to understand people, it’s likely that the reader will be able to put the clues together before he does, even though he’s the one giving the reader access to the clues.

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Chapter 37 Quotes

A lie is when you say something happened which didn’t happen. But there is only ever one thing which happened at a particular time and a particular place. And there are an infinite number of things which didn’t happen at that time and that place. And if I think about something which didn’t happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn’t happen.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Christopher’s mother used to say he didn’t tell lies because he was a good person, but instead, he admits, it’s only because he can’t tell them, and gives this explanation as to why. Christopher is very attached to facts, always wants to know what to expect from a person or situation, and thinks very logically. He doesn’t like imagining anything that didn’t happen, and for him, lies go along with this category. Because of the way his mind works, he can’t just imagine one thing that didn’t happen—once he tells that one lie, he begins thinking about all the other possible lies that exist. He needs the truth to keep him attached to reality and to keep him feeling safe.

Over the course of the book, Christopher’s hard-and-fast rule about lies becomes a little shakier. He particularly begins to tell only partial truths in order to avoid his father’s wrath about his investigations of Wellington’s death. However, he is most affected by his father’s lie about his mother’s death, which completely unmoors him, because a main part of his life for the last two years was in fact imaginary rather than real.

Chapter 107 Quotes

I also like The Hound of the Baskervilles because I like Sherlock Holmes and I think that if I were a proper detective he is the kind of detective I would be. He is very intelligent and he solves the mystery and he says

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

But he notices them, like I do. Also it says in the book

Sherlock Holmes had, in a very remarkable degree, the power of detaching his mind at will.

And this is like me, too, because if I get really interested in something... I don’t notice anything else...

Also Sherlock Holmes doesn’t believe in the supernatural, which is God and fairy tales and Hounds of Hell and curses, which are stupid things.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sherlock Holmes
Page Number: 73-74
Explanation and Analysis:

Christopher provides a summary of The Hound of the Baskervilles and devotes this chapter to his love of Sherlock Holmes. Christopher doesn’t relate to most novels, and he doesn’t relate to most people, but he relates to both Sherlock Holmes stories and to the character himself. Christopher sees himself in Holmes, which is particularly exciting to him because his mind works so differently from those of everyone around him in real life. Holmes, however, thinks like Christopher does, observing everything with intense interest and using logic and facts to put the world in order. Holmes acts as a role model for Christopher, who tries to imitate his methods in order to solve the mystery of Wellington’s murder.

Chapter 109 Quotes

But I don’t feel sad about it. Because Mother is dead. And because Mr. Shears isn’t around any more. So I would be feeling sad about something that isn’t real and doesn’t exist. And that would be stupid.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Judy Boone (Christopher’s mother), Siobhan, Roger Shears
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Christopher tells Siobhan this after she reads his account of Mrs. Alexander’s revelation concerning his mother. Siobhan is worried that Christopher might be upset about it, even if he isn’t acknowledging his feelings to himself. However, Christopher insists that it would be stupid to feel sad about the situation. He manages to an admirable extent to live in the present moment, as he argues for the irrationality of being upset by saying that since the affair is over and his mother is dead, it’s now irrelevant to his life. This attitude also relates to his need for logic and facts. He says the affair “doesn’t exist,” which is, in theory, true, because he believes it’s now nothing more than an intangible memory. As something that’s now only thought of, the affair ends up in a similar category as lies, which Christopher avoids thinking about. However, the information about the affair will soon have tangible consequences, and Christopher will be forced to consider it more deeply.

Chapter 131 Quotes

Mrs. Forbes said that hating yellow and brown is just being silly. And Siobhan said that she shouldn’t say things like that and everyone has favorite colors. And Siobhan was right. But Mrs. Forbes was a bit right, too. Because it is sort of being silly. But in life you have to take lots of decisions and if you don’t take decisions you would never do anything because you would spend all your time choosing between things you could do. So it is good to have a reason why you hate some things and you like others. It is like being in a restaurant... and you look at the menu and you have to choose what you are going to have... so you have favorite foods and you choose these, and you have foods you don’t like and you don’t choose these, and then it is simple.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Siobhan, Mrs. Forbes
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

One of Christopher’s personal rules in life is to avoid anything yellow or brown, particularly food, because he doesn’t like these colors. He acknowledges that this is somewhat arbitrary, and perhaps foolish, but he also thinks it isn’t as absurd as Mrs. Forbes thinks. Although it seems strange to most people, he points out that most people have likes and dislikes, and this phenomenon actually helps them move through life in a more efficient way. If people didn’t have preferences, they would never be able to make all of the rather insignificant decisions that come their way on a daily basis. Christopher’s logic thus manages to make a preference that initially seems strange actually make sense. Although his autism makes him react to many situations in ways that at first seem illogical or unwarranted, he usually has a good reason for acting as he does.

Chapter 137 Quotes

And Father said, “Christopher, do you understand that I love you?”

And I said “Yes,” because loving someone is helping them when they get into trouble, and looking after them, and telling them the truth, and Father looks after me when I get into trouble, like coming to the police station, and he looks after me by cooking meals for me, and he always tells the truth, which means that he loves me.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Ed Boone (Christopher’s father) (speaker)
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

After Ed finds Christopher’s book and they get in a physical fight over Christopher’s investigations, Ed takes Christopher to the zoo as an apology. The above conversation takes place at the zoo. This book is largely about love, and so Christopher’s definition of love is necessary to an understanding of later events. He defines love in terms of actions rather than feelings, which makes sense, since he always struggles to understand emotions, be they his own or other people’s. Just because Christopher explains love in this seemingly stilted, action-based way doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t feel the emotion of love, but only that he can’t describe the feeling.

Crucially, one of Christopher’s main criteria for love is telling the truth. He believes Ed loves him because he tells him the truth. Thus, when Christopher finds out later that Ed has in fact lied to him for two years about his mother, this seriously brings into question his father’s love for him. Christopher can’t understand that Ed might lie to Christopher precisely because he loves him.

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 163 Quotes

And this is why people’s brains are like computers. And it’s not because they are special but because they have to keep turning off for fractions of a second while the screen changes. And because there is something they can’t see people think it has to be special, because people always think there is something special about what they can’t see...

Also people think they’re not computers because they have feelings and computers don’t have feelings. But feelings are just having a picture on the screen in your head of what is going to happen tomorrow or next year, or what might have happened instead of what did happen, and if it is a happy picture they smile and if it is a sad picture they cry.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Page Number: 118-19
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage comes at the end of a chapter in which Christopher discusses ways in which people’s minds are like computers—they are essentially watching a screen of the world around them, subject to the eccentricities of the brain. He argues that people are not as special as they think they are—in fact, they’re more or less machines just like computers are. They think they’re special because they can’t see their brains the way they can see computers, but in fact their sense of superiority comes only from their ignorance of how the brain actually works. Christopher, whose brain works differently than most people’s, gains confidence through his understanding that even when people look down on him or he can’t understand why they do what they do, they are in fact only machines who don’t comprehend their own workings.

Furthermore, Christopher experiences feelings in a different way than most people. Sometimes he doesn’t seem to feel what he’s expected to feel, and other times he feels far more strongly than one might expect. Imagining feelings in the logical, mechanical way he does helps him bring emotions under his control, so that they become less frighteningly vague and more concrete, able to be changed.

Chapter 167 Quotes

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 173 Quotes

People say that Orion is called Orion because Orion was a hunter and the constellation looks like a hunter with a club and a bow and arrow...

But this is really silly because it is just stars, and you could join up the dots in any way you wanted, and you could make it look like a lady with an umbrella who is waving, or the coffeemaker which Mrs. Shears has, which is from Italy, with a handle and steam coming out, or like a dinosaur...

And anyway, Orion is not a hunter or a coffeemaker or a dinosaur. It is just Betelgeuse and Bellatrix and Alnilam and Rigel and 17 other stars I don’t know the names of. And they are nuclear explosions billions of miles away.

And that is the truth.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Related Symbols: Stars
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

Christopher makes these remarks about the stars while hiding behind the garden shed after his father confesses that he killed Wellington. Christopher often looks up at the night sky, and it makes him feel both small and situated within the universe. Constellations, as he points out, are stories that humans create with the stars, and do not have any scientific basis. They help humans feel that they have some control over or relationship to these distant celestial bodies. However, as he often does, Christopher dismantles this human construction, pointing out that the constellations are entirely arbitrary and rather absurd. He prefers to regard the stars as what they truly are: chemical reactions that are entirely removed from the workings of humanity.

Coming directly after Christopher finds out that his mother is alive and his father killed Wellington, this passage gestures to the sense of isolation and powerlessness that Christopher is feeling. Furthermore, it acts as a grounding mechanism for him; as he suddenly feels he has to reconstruct the narratives of his own life and past, he strips away the myths that people raise around the stars, reducing them to the hard, simple truth that makes him feel stable.

Chapter 223 Quotes

And Siobhan says people go on holidays to see new things and relax, but it wouldn’t make me relaxed and you can see new things by looking at earth under a microscope or drawing the shape of the solid made when 3 circular rods of equal thickness intersect at right angles. And I think that there are so many things just in one house that it would take years to think about all of them properly. And, also, a thing is interesting because of thinking about it and not because of being new.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Siobhan
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

Sitting in the London tube station, terrified of the trains moving through the tunnel, Christopher describes an advertisement on the wall for a vacation in Malaysia. Due to the stress of new and strange places, Christopher does not enjoy vacations. Instead, Christopher appreciates the everyday world around him to a depth that few people do. He finds wonder in all the little details of nature and life, and he appreciates the simple fact of having a brain that can pick apart all of these details and find them interesting. Christopher derives much more pleasure from logic and intellectual discovery than from novelty or exoticism.

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.