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