Essay Questions For The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime

  • 1

    How significant is it to the novel that Christopher has learning difficulties?

    Think about how significant Christopher's perspective is to how the story is and to its structure. What is Haddon able to conceal/reveal by using Christopher? What light does it shed on the other characters in the novel, and on mankind in general? Discuss how Christopher's overcoming of his particular challenges adds another layer of drama to the actual plot of the story.

  • 2

    What is Siobhan's role in the novel?

    Think about her role in how Christopher's story unfolds - it is she who encourages him to write the novel and her perspective on novel writing comes up throughout. Does her voice give us any comment on novel writing in general? What is her purpose? Would this novel exist at all without her? In a way, she is Haddon's true authorial voice poking through the facade of Christopher's narration.

  • 3

    Discuss the meta fictional elements of this novel and why they are significant

    Christopher states directly that he intends to write a mystery novel, and the tropes of the classic mystery are explained to us even as he does his detecting. But aside from the mystery Christopher sets out to solve, he also ends up being part of a larger mystery not of his design. How much control does Christopher have over the events that unfold and how are h feelings documented in the novel we are reading?

  • 4

    Discuss the first person narrative employed by Haddon to portray the novel from Christopher's perspective.

    Discuss other novels written in the first person - how is it used differently here? Does it work well in this novel? Why? Perhaps talk about how the other characters may feel removed from Christopher because of his condition and relationship with the world and discuss how the structure and the technique of writing in this novel comments on that. Compare to other novels with developmentally disabled narrators, such as Flowers for Algernon and The Sound and The Fury.

  • 5

    Discuss Christopher's relationship with space

    You will need to have specific examples for the question: find all the examples where he talks about the sky and about space and discuss the relevance of this in relation to the novel as a whole. Does it reflect Christopher's ambition and intelligence? Does it reflect man's advancement in science? Why does the sky and the stars make him feel calm? Relate these points to his other habits and routines. How does this information inform the telling of the novel?

  • 6

    Is there any way in which The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time could be described as a classical tragedy? Discuss.

    Compare Christopher's lack of knowledge with the lack of knowledge often found in tragedies. Oedipus tries to end the plague of infertility that hits Thebes and when the oracle tells Creon that King Laius' murderer must be brought to justice in order for the pestilence to cease, Oedipus looks elsewhere for the murderer. Oedipus is 'detecting' and as he does, he realizes that the answer to the mystery is in his own house. The same is true for Christopher. How far does this constitute a tragedy, and what difference does it make that Christopher's perspective is an unusual one?

  • 7

    Do you think this novel is more naturally a children's novel?

    This answer asks for you to be creative. You must discuss literary terms, you must address the style of the writing and you must point out what effect this has on the reader. Is it a 'simple' novel? Does it deal with complex issues? If yes, how does it deal with these issues? What is the tone of the novel and how does the writer engage his reader. How do we empathise with Christopher?

  • 8

    How far do you think Christopher's condition limits or enlightens his perspective on life?

    This is a broad question and one which requires specific detail. Identify specific scenes in which Christopher behaves unusually according to generally accepted patterns of behavior, and discuss whether these incidents allow him to see more clearly or limit his understanding. The fact that he doesn't realize his mother is alive may be one example, but also address that many other characters are inveigled as well. Compare Christopher's philosophy of truth-telling to his father's.

  • 9

    How does Haddon build tension in this novel?

    Focus on technical details in terms of the structure of the novel and the writing style - what information does he hide from Christopher, so that it will be revealed to us at a more useful juncture. Also incorporate a personal response. Examples may include Christopher losing Toby on the tube tracks, or a more general level of tension throughout the novel in terms of his detective work.

  • 10

    Does this novel fulfill expectations that Christopher builds at the start by labeling it a 'detective novel'?

    First you may want to define a 'detective novel', perhaps using examples from other novels (a reference to Sherlock Holmes would obviously be very helpful). Analyze the structure of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and assess how it progresses, builds tension and keeps our interest. How significant is it that Christopher solves one mystery and finds another. How far does the fact that it is all documented in this novel in real time create a sense of immediacy?

  • Introduction

    This is a story written by a teenage boy called Christopher John Francis Boone. He doesn’t see the world in quite the same way as you do. He doesn’t tell a story in quite the way you might be used to a story being told.

    The things that happen to Christopher happen to many people; in that way his story is not extraordinary. What is extraordinary is the difficulties he faces dealing with these things, and the way he overcomes his difficulties.

    That’s what we need to understand about Christopher and the story he tells. He is our narrator, and we see the events of the story through his eyes. But to understand our story we need to understand our narrator; we need to understand why he sees the world as he does.

    Introduction Task

    Christopher is autistic. What does this mean?

    Spend a lesson researching the word: what it means, and what others perceive it to mean.

    In groups, research how autism might impact on the following topics:

    • Mathematics (specifically the orderliness of certain types of calculations and numerical sequences)
    • detective fiction (e.g. Sherlock Holmes)
    • personal relationships
    • emotional response to cheering or upsetting situations
    • logical and abstract thought

    Your group will be the ‘experts’ in each topic. You will share your knowledge with the class in the form of a group presentation with Keynotes that can later be uploaded here for everyone to reference.

    Reading Tasks

    As you are reading, follow the questions in the document below.

    These questions are a mixture of questions designed to help you piece together the main plot developments, but also questions asking you for details of characters, their motives and feelings. Some questions also ask you to think about the way the story itself is told.

    All these questions should be answered in your notebook. The answers will all be important in some way in the assessments to follow.

    Curious Reading Questions


    As you are reading you should also be aware of some of the issues that could turn into essay topics. The document below contains some ideas.

    Curious Essay Topics


    Finally, here is the author, Mark Haddon, talking about the book.

    Assessed Tasks

    Task 1: Socratic Seminar

    Below are the instructions for this seminar. The procedure will be the same as for ‘The Crucible’.

    Curious Incident Socratic Seminar

    This will be an assessed activity. The document below contains the assessment criteria (also the same as for ‘The Crucible’). Pay attention to these – especially those of you whose grade in the previous Socratic Seminar suffered through lack of participation. This is your chance to show what you can do!

    Grade 10 Socratic Seminar Rubric

    Watch Veracross for dates. You will have the previous lesson in which to prepare your notes.


    Task 2: Essay

    The final task for this unit will be an essay. The topic will be given to you prior to the day on which you will write the essay. You will then have one lesson in which to prepare. Watch Veracross for dates.


    Further Reading

    What are the similarities between this and ‘Lord of the Flies’ from Grade 9? Also, if you end up taking DP Language & Literature, you will eventually read the most famous teenage novel of them all: ‘Catcher in the Rye’.

    If you liked this, you might like the following books about children caught up in a harsh adult world:

    And this recent film:




    That is the end of this unit. Please leave any comments below.



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