By Raeiah DeGraaf
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the story of an autistic child dealing with his parents divorce. Christopher is a brilliant boy who happens to be autistic. Even though his autism does not affect his level of intelligence, it does affect his social interactions. Because Christopher is autistic, his parents have to take special measures in order to insure that he feels safe and understands what is happening to him.
In the book, there is a story as well. The story is written by him, about himself and his life. Christopher does this in order to distance himself from the content and as a project which will help him to solve a mystery. In the beginning, the reader is unsure whether or not the story is true, but as the book progresses it is obvious that the story is in fact a part of his life. Thus the book is either written by Christopher or from Christopher’s perspective, shedding light on the difficulties and struggles face by an autistic student.
Christopher’s story begins when his neighbor’s dog is murdered with a garden fork. He begins asking around and learns things that he was not supposed to find out. The reader discovers that Christopher does not have a mother; she died of a heart attack at the age of thirty-nine. When Christopher re-tells the story of when he was told about his mother dying, he was very unemotional and tried to rationalize the event. The reason for his impartial attitude is due to his autism, he does not understand human emotions. Over time, he has come to understand how to use emotions and when particular emotions are expected, but he does not internalize the meaning behind the outward display of emotion. When Christopher is trying to find out who killed the dog, one of the neighbors innocently tells Christopher something that he was never supposed to discover, she tells him that his mother was having an affair with the his neighbor, Mrs. Shears, husband. Because of his autism, Christopher does not seem to mind that his mother was having an affair. When he hears about his mother and Mr. Shears, he says, “Was that why Mr. Shears left Mrs. Shears, because he was doing sex with someone else when he was married to Mr. Shears?” Christopher is more interested in finding out why Mr. Shears left than the fact that his mother was unfaithful to his father. Christopher recorded this discovery in his “mystery novel” when he had a chance.
One day, his father found the novel and became enraged. He did not like Christopher snooping around. It was at this time that he physically hurt Christopher, a thing that Christopher did not fully understand. In addition to physically hurting Christopher, his father took the book from him and threw it away. However, when Christopher snuck outside to retrieve it from the trash can, it was gone. Christopher was determined to find the book and began searching the house. He found it in his father’s bedroom, with a stack of letters. Christopher noticed that the letters had his name on it, but he could not decide if it was right to open them. After thinking about it, he decided that he should. They were from his mother, postmarked after her death. Christopher read through the letters and went into a state of despair. His father had lied to him (a concept he did not understand), hurt him, and his mother was alive. Christopher’s world was crashing down around him.
After Christopher discovers his father’s dishonest behavior, he cannot imagine living with him. Christopher, as a result of being lied to, does not trust his father and is afraid of him. So, Christopher ventures out on his own and goes to his mother’s house. The trip is very difficult because Christopher is breaking his daily routine and has to overcome many social fears that he has. His autism also makes it difficult to be near a large number of people and he feels pain when they accidentally touch him. Christopher makes it to his mother’s house and discovers that she is living with Mr. Shears. His mother welcomes him with open arms but Mr. Shears does not want Christopher in his flat. Within a week, Christopher’s mom leaves Mr. Shears and brings Christopher back to his father.
The parents do not get back together, but they manage to work out a way to keep Christopher happy and safe. Christopher lives with his mother, because he still fears his father’s volatile reactions, and seems to be content. The family dynamic has however changed and Christopher never seems to re-connect with his father.
The experiences, which Christopher has in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, provide a lot of insight into the life of a child with autism. The author writes it from the perspective of the boy and the reader is able to struggle through situations with Christopher. The reader is able to see how a social skills and ability to show emotion is not something that comes naturally, some students may deal with these struggles every day. Learning how others deal with trauma and emotions can help a student to become a better leader in his or her school and community.