The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Analysis

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Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
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The actions of people on the autism spectrum often seem difficult to comprehend for people who are not autistic. However, telling the story from Christopher’s perspective helps the reader understand his worldview and question the generally accepted rules of society.

Christopher sees society from a somewhat removed perspective. He doesn’t instinctively understand why people act in certain ways or why certain things are expected of him. As a result, he notices aspects of everyday life that are somewhat absurd, but that most people accept as perfectly normal without thinking about them. For example, Christopher hates the colors yellow and brown and tries to stay away from them, particularly not eating anything in these colors. He acknowledges that this is somewhat foolish, but he also points out that people decide what they’re going to order at a restaurant depending on which foods they generally like, even if they’ve never eaten any of the dishes on the menu, and avoiding yellow foods isn’t much different from avoiding bitter foods.

Christopher also has trouble understanding many figures of speech, such as “I laughed my socks off” or “He was the apple of my eye.” People often use phrases like this without thinking about what they’re literally saying, but only thinking about what they generally mean. Christopher’s confusion about them forces the reader to actually consider the absurdity of some of these phrases, and the distance between what they describe literally and what they’re meant to convey.

Finally, Christopher’s perspective emphasizes the amount of sensory stimulation that people are constantly receiving. Most people are so used to it that they hardly notice, but Christopher experiences the world differently and can’t ignore the excess information that his brain receives. His narration portrays the overstimulation of the modern world and the absurdity of urban life that includes gigantic trains traveling through tunnels and advertisements that sound ridiculous when described in Christopher’s logical detail.

Christopher’s narration forces the reader to reevaluate what most people consider “normal” and consider that the entire concept of normality is subjective, based on individual experience rather than indisputable fact.

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Perspective and the Absurdity of the World 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 Perspective and the Absurdity of the World.
Chapter 29 Quotes

The word metaphor means carrying something from one place to another... and it is when you describe something by using a word for something that it isn’t...

I think it should be called a lie because a pig is not like a day and people do not have skeletons in their cupboards. And when I try and make a picture of the phrase in my head it just confuses me because imagining an apple in someone’s eye doesn’t have anything to do with liking someone a lot and it makes you forget what the person was talking about.

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

After Christopher is taken to the police station, he discusses why he has trouble understanding people. One reason is that he doesn’t understand body language, and another is that he doesn’t understand metaphors. There are plenty of metaphors that people use daily without thinking about it, and most people interpret the metaphors they hear without any trouble. Christopher, however, thinks of everything very literally. Thus, he can’t automatically interpret a metaphor as what it’s meant to communicate, but instead thinks of it as an actual image, like an apple sitting in a person’s eye. He’s entirely correct that a phrase like “He was the apple of her eye” makes no literal sense, and is actually quite absurd when considered in this way. Christopher’s perspective on human conventions like this often makes them seem ridiculous, because his autism allows him to regard society from an outside perspective. Although this puts him at a disadvantage in everyday interactions, it also gives him insight into aspects of life that most people are so used to that they can’t think about them objectively.

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Chapter 67 Quotes

Mr. Shears used to be married to Mrs. Shears and they lived together until two years ago. Then Mr. Shears left and didn’t come back. This was why Mrs. Shears came over and did lots of cooking for us after Mother died, because she didn’t have to cook for Mr. Shears anymore and she didn’t have to stay at home and be his wife. And also Father said that she needed company and didn’t want to be on her own.

And sometimes Mrs. Shears stayed overnight at our house...

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker), Ed Boone (Christopher’s father), Judy Boone (Christopher’s mother), Eileen Shears, Roger Shears
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

When Christopher leaves Mrs. Alexander’s house, he’s thinking about the mystery and realizes that Mr. Shears should be his prime suspect, because Mr. Shears didn’t like Mrs. Shears and might have wanted to hurt her. This passage actually provides much of the background needed to solve the mystery, but Christopher approaches it from the wrong angle. Mr. Shears left around the same time Judy supposedly died, and Mrs. Shears became close to Ed in the aftermath. These are the fundamental clues needed to figure out that Mr. Shears actually left with Judy, Ed hoped to take up with Mrs. Shears, and he became angry when she refused him. Thus, Christopher unwittingly provides the reader with the clues needed to solve the mystery, even though he doesn’t realize they’re clues. The matter-of-fact way in which Christopher presents these circumstances shows how oblivious he can sometimes be to the nuances in the relationships of the adults around him.

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 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 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 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 193 Quotes

Because time is not like space. And when you put something down somewhere, like a protractor or a biscuit, you can have a map in your head to tell you where you have left it, but even if you don’t have a map it will still be there because a map is a representation of things that actually exist so you can find the protractor or the biscuit again. And a timetable is a map of time, except that if you don’t have a timetable time is not there like the landing and the garden and the route to school. Because time is only the relationship between the way different things change, like the earth going round the sun and atoms vibrating and clocks ticking and day and night and waking up and going to sleep...

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Page Number: 156-57
Explanation and Analysis:

After Christopher gets on the train to London, he mentions that he made a timetable for his train set, and he had a very detailed timetable for his life at his father’s house. This passage explains why Christopher feels such a need for precise schedules. In order to feel safe, he needs to feel grounded and know where he is in relation to everything around him—this is why he makes so many maps and only thinks about the truth, rather than about imagined possibilities. But as he points out here, time is more slippery, because it doesn’t exist in any tangible way unless humans measure it with clocks and schedules. Once again, Christopher exhibits his ability to perceive the structures that humans put on the natural world to give it some sort of understandable order.

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 229 Quotes

And in the dream nearly everyone on the earth is dead, because they have caught a virus.... And people catch it because of the meaning of something an infected person says and the meaning of what they do with their faces when they say it...

And eventually there is no one left in the world except people who don’t look at other people’s faces... and these people are all special people like me. And they like being on their own and I hardly ever see them...

And I can go anywhere in the world and I know that no one is going to talk to me or touch me or ask me a question. But if I don’t want to go anywhere I don’t have to, and I can stay at home and eat broccoli and oranges and licorice laces all the time...

Related Characters: Christopher John Francis Boone (speaker)
Page Number: 198-99
Explanation and Analysis:

After Ed argues with Judy in her flat and is escorted away by a policeman, Christopher has his favorite recurring dream. This dream imagines a world in which the characteristics that make Christopher struggle in the real world are actually the characteristics that give him an advantage and allow him to survive. This dream world is Christopher’s ideal world, where he can act as he naturally would if he didn’t have to try to conform to societal rules that were created by people who aren’t like him.

The dream is profoundly peaceful, especially in the wake of his parents’ explosive argument. The tragedy of it, however, is that when Christopher wakes up, he’ll have to continue living in a world not made for him, and this ideal world will never really exist.