The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This is a story about the weirdness of the world as understood by the mind of Christopher John Francis Boone, a boy with autism who lives with his father in a small town in the UK. Christopher hates crowds of people, vague questions, figurative language, being touched, and the color yellow (seeing four yellow cars in a row on his way to school makes it a Black Day, on which he doesn’t eat anything). But he loves all things scientific, mathematical, and factual. When he gets lost, he physically performs the Pledge maze-solving algorithm. When he gets stressed, he solves quadratic equations in his head. And his best approximation for life is the prime numbers:
Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.
— The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, page 12.
The book itself is one of Christopher’s school exercises. When he finds a neighbor’s dog stabbed through with a pitchfork, he takes it upon himself to solve the murder mystery. Siobahn — his teacher and likely the only person in his life that fully understands autism — encourages him to document it all like his favorite Sherlock Holmes novels. But just as often as it includes details about the case, it also includes Christopher’s meandering thoughts: his interactions with his father, his hopes for the future, and his bewilderment with the world.
This is where the clever beauty of this novel shines through: in some ways, we all are bewildered with our world. People don’t say what they mean. Solid, committed relationships break. We fill the world with noise instead of thoughtful presence. Through the eyes of Christopher, we can learn empathy for those who simply can’t cope with these strange nuances as well as we do (or don’t). Through the thoughts of a boy who thinks of everyone as different from himself, we’re reminded just how many common threads bind us all together. And through his quips — which he would never call jokes because he claims to not know any or understand them — we can find humor in truth.
Mr. Jeavons asked me whether this made me feel safe, having things always in a nice order, and I said it did.
Then he asked if I didn’t like things changing. And I said I wouldn’t mind things changing if I became an astronaut, for example, which is one of the biggest changes you can imagine, apart from becoming a girl or dying.
— The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, page 25.