Christopher sees truth as an anchoring principle of the world, and values it almost the way other people might value right over wrong. If someone tells the truth, he can trust them, and if they lie, he fears them. However, Christopher also finds out that the truth can hurt as much as a lie. While he is constantly aware of his physical safety, carrying his knife in case someone tries to attack him and taking comfort in the knowledge that he can hit people hard, Christopher doesn’t know how to protect himself emotionally. In fact, he sometimes responds to emotional harm with physical defense, such as when he physically fights his father when Ed confronts him about having learned of his mother’s affair. Christopher believes the truth will keep him safe from emotional harm, but he finds that this isn’t necessarily the case.
Christopher doesn’t understand why anyone would want to believe something that isn’t true, such as that fairies exist. He wants to know the truth about everything, which is partly the basis of the plot: Christopher sets out to discover the truth about who killed Wellington. He also insists on telling the truth in his account of events and in his everyday life, often reminding those around him that he never lies. Christopher dedicates himself so thoroughly to truth that he even thinks of it as a white lie to not give every small detail of his desired day when asked, “What do you want to do today?” He eventually finds himself having to stretch the truth and tell white lies in order to do his detective work, particularly when his father forbids him from seeking Wellington’s killer. This is one of the ways that Christopher changes over the course of the story, interacting on a more complex level with the world around him.
Because Christopher initially orders his life by truth and falsehood, however, he resists imagining situations other than those that actually exist. He doesn’t like for people to wonder how those who are dead might react to current situations, because deceased people can’t actually think anything about a world that goes on after their death. By living in the moment like this, Christopher manages to protect himself from distressing thoughts of his dead mother or of how things might have been if she were still around.
Furthermore, Christopher sees telling the truth as a sign of love, especially in his father. However, the truth about his mother ends up hurting him. Ed finds the truth of his wife’s desertion too painful to deal with, and thinks that a lie will protect Christopher. Lying about Judy’s death protects his father from dealing with his own emotions, but he also might think that a lie is the loving choice in this situation; that it is better for Christopher to think his mother dead than to think that she has abandoned him. Because of Christopher’s dedication to truth, though, he can’t see that his father might have had good intentions in lying to him, even if it was fundamentally wrong. Even so, he does feel the pain of the truth, which in this situation has betrayed him as much as his parents have, putting him into emotional danger rather than keeping him safe.
Although the truth hurts Christopher, he can’t become an adult without facing it. He must accept multiple conflicting truths at once. His father lied and hurt him, but still loves him. As much as Christopher hates lies, they can feel safer, and he himself sometimes must stretch the truth. He is forced to soften his concrete association not only between truth and safety, but also between truth and love.
Truth, Love, and Safety ThemeTracker
Truth, Love, and Safety Quotes in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
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.
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...
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.”
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.
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.
And I couldn’t walk properly for a month, do you remember, and your father had to look after you. And I remember looking at the two of you and seeing you together and thinking how you were really different with him. Much calmer. And you didn’t shout at one another. And it made me so sad because it was like you didn’t really need me at all.
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 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.
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.
And then she made a loud wailing noise like an animal on a nature program on television.
And I didn’t like her doing this because it was a loud noise, and I said, “Why are you doing that?”
And she didn’t say anything for a while, and then she said, “Oh, Christopher, I’m so sorry.”
And I said, “It’s not your fault.”
And then she said, “Bastard. The bastard.”
And then, after a while, she said, “Christopher, let me hold your hand. Just for once. Just for me. Will you? I won’t hold it hard,” and she held out her hand.
And I said, “I don’t like people holding my hand.”
And Mother shouted, “What in God’s name did you think you were playing at, saying those things to him?”
And Father shouted, “What was I playing at? You were the one that bloody left.”
And Mother shouted, “So you decided to just wipe me out of his life altogether?... I wrote to him every week. Every week.”
And Father shouted, “Wrote to him? What the fuck use is writing to him?... I cooked his meals. I cleaned his clothes. I looked after him every weekend. I looked after him when he was ill. I took him to the doctor. I worried myself sick every time he wandered off somewhere at night. I went to school every time he got in a fight. And you? What? You wrote him some fucking letters.”
And Mother shouted, “So you thought it was OK to tell him his mother was dead?”
...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.