His Main Character Trait
How does the writer present Christopher’s character and development in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?
The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time, is a play based on the novel by Mark Haddon, adapted by Simon Stephens. Its narrator is Christopher who is a 15 year old boy who lives with his father and pet rat, Toby. He finds social interaction extremely uncomfortable and acceptance difficult so he avoids social situations where possible. His main character trait is that he finds it confusing to imagine the thoughts and feelings of other people and takes everything literally. He cannot empathise or interpret facial expressions in the normal way and has difficulty understanding metaphors that are spoken. He has a fixation with certain topics and an amazing memory. He is also brilliant at maths and feels more comfortable with logic and having things in order. These traits make him obsessed with solving the murder of Wellington the dog and lead him on a journey. Although Christopher never refers to it by name his characteristics mean he probably has Asperger’s Syndrome. The writer uses interesting and unusual devices in the book to show Christopher’s character and how it develops.
The author uses the format of the book to reflect Christopher’s character. The book is laid out in an unusual way from the beginning because the chapter numbers of the book are in prime number order rather than chronological order. We then learn that Christopher knows every prime number up to 7,507, which is also an unusual skill. This side of his personality is explored throughout the book with lots of references to his huge understanding of the universe and ability with maths and science indicating that he is very academically gifted. For example, he goes into great depth when talking about the universe to Reverend Peters explaining how he was not correct in saying heaven is not in our universe because ‘the gravity of a black hole is so big that even electromagnetic waves like light can’t get out of it.’ Most teenagers would not have such a clear understanding of complicated ideas of the universe so this stresses how Christopher’s character is different from others.
The novel is narrated by Christopher as the main character so the reader is able to get inside his head and see what it is thinking and learn why he acts in the odd way that he does sometimes. For instance, when Christopher meets the police officers when he is holding the dead dog, at first he is pleased to see them but gets upset when they start asking him a lot of questions. He curls up into a ball and ends up hitting the police officer when he touches him to try and get him to stand up. The whole scene shows the problems that Christopher gets into because of his way of dealing with and interpreting situations. The author uses the way he interacts with the other characters to show Christopher’s personality. When the officer explains what a caution means and states “that you hit a policeman and that was an accident” Christopher makes matters worse by saying “But, it wasn’t an accident”. These scenes shows the problems he has with social interaction. He doesn’t like to be touched and reacts in an extreme way and he has an inability to lie and interprets comments too literally. He is very aware of his differences and he says “I find people confusing”. He cannot understand metaphors such as “I laughed my socks off” or “The dog was stone dead” which means he finds communication with people difficult. The author uses very simple language in the book to show Christopher’s character. Sometimes he doesn’t even use words but uses pictures to explain different emotions of people or diagrams showing maths problems. He also uses footnotes to explain things better and lists lots of items. This method makes it easier for the reader to understand some of the scientific facts and also understand the complicated condition of Asperger’s and how it affects his character.
The plot allows the author to present and develop Christopher’s character. It starts as a mystery novel which allows him to investigate and search for clues to find out who killed the dog. It is his detective skills that help him to discover that his mother is not dead as father has told him but living with another man in London. This leads him on a journey in which we see his character and how he develops. On the journey to London, Christopher can be seen as very self-aware observant and he says 'I see everything. Most other people are lazy.' However, on the train ‘as he talks he raps out a nervous rhythm with his hand’ and is so engaged in what is going on outside the train that he wets himself. It is hard to understand how Christopher can be so intelligent in some ways but so immature in other ways. In the same scene, when Christopher is on the train looking out of the window and seeing ‘There is a village in the distance, which has thirty-one visible houses and a church with a square tower and not a spire.’ This is an indication of how
Christopher can absorb detailed information about the world around him, that most other people would miss so this helps the audience to understand that Christopher has a very unique perspective.
By the end of the play, it is clear to see how Christopher has developed in character and is more able to understand his emotions. For example, when Christopher’s teacher, Siobhan, reads his book explaining about his mother’s affair with Mr Shears he expresses no emotions or feelings of sadness about it “But I don’t feel sad about it. Because mother is dead”. He explains that he can’t feel sad about something that doesn’t exist. However, at the end of the book when Christopher receives his Maths A level he explains it “is the best result and it made me feel like this” and draws a smiley face diagram showing that he is able to feel and express an emotion. So this has been a development in his character that he has learnt about emotions which he would not have previously felt.
Christopher has also become more independent as a result of his adventure. Before he had never been outside of his street on his own with his school bus picking him up and dropping him home. However, he managed to travel to London. He also became more assertive arguing that he should be allowed to take his A’ Level maths. Father also gave him the responsibility of a dog to look after and proves he is trusted to look after his pet. His achievements including solving the mystery of ‘Who killed Wellington?’ and achieving an A grade in his exam all helped to increase his confidence so that he realised that “means I can do anything”. He is able to see that he can achieve his dream of going to college and says “I will get a First Class Honours Degree and I will become a scientist”. This did not seem possible at the beginning of the book but now seems a possibility for him.
The writer presents Christopher’s character as a boy with Asperger’s who is very intelligent but has difficulty relating to other people. He uses the format, language and plot of the book to show his traits and then how he develops. By the end of the play, in some ways Christopher has not changed in character as those social difficulties are still there but he has matured and managed to overcome some of them to become more responsible and independent.