The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Cars Symbol Icon

Cars symbolize the private order that Christopher puts on the world to make it intelligible to him. Under Christopher’s rules of his own creation, the colors of the cars that he sees on his bus ride to school indicate whether he’ll have a good day or a bad one, just the way the weather does for many people. Christopher in fact uses the cars as a sort of talisman of good or bad luck—if he sees the wrong color, he won’t speak to anyone all day, and if he sees the right color, he’ll take more risks because he believes they’ll turn out well. He even draws a number of red cars on his mother’s get-well card when he thinks she’s in the hospital, hoping that the cars will help her get better. In this way, they become almost like a religion to Christopher, who doesn’t believe in God.

Once Christopher reaches his mother’s house, he tries to determine what sort of day it will be by watching the cars out the window, but he realizes that this doesn’t work because he can watch for as long as he wants and see a number of colors with conflicting meanings. At this point, he has to give up on this set of rules. As his world expands and he grows up, Christopher is forced to lose certain illusions, like his prophesying cars. In doing so, he becomes more fully a part of the world around him.

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

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cars 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 47
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
On the bus the day after Wellington’s death, Christopher sees four red cars in a row. He determines how good or bad his days will be by the... (full context)
Growing Up Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
Because the cars indicated it’s a good day, Christopher plans to investigate Wellington’s death. He mentions this intention... (full context)
Chapter 53
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
...her. He had, however, sent a get-well card he had made with pictures of red cars, which indicate a very good day for Christopher. (full context)
Chapter 89
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
Christopher sees four yellow cars both of the next two days, so they’re “Black Days” and he keeps to himself... (full context)
Chapter 97
Trust Theme Icon
Truth, Love, and Safety Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
A few days later, Christopher sees five red cars in a row, so he knows something special is going to happen. When he gets... (full context)
Chapter 233
Growing Up Theme Icon
Logic vs. Emotion Theme Icon
Perspective and the Absurdity of the World Theme Icon
...day, Christopher tries to tell what kind of day it will be by watching the cars outside the window, but it doesn’t work because he’s not on the bus, so he... (full context)