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Themes in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Logic vs Emotion

Christopher’s outlook on life is ruled by logic rather than emotion. He loves solving maths problems but finds interpreting emotions based on facial expressions very confusing. Early on in the play, we see how Christopher doesn’t respond in the way that might be expected in emotional situations.

When he recalls finding out that his mother has died, he does not express sadness or grief. Instead, he simply wonders, “What kind of heart attack?” This shows how he is dissecting the situation in a logical, scientific way rather than applying emotion.

He also applies his own rules of logic to the world, as shown in the way he divides up the days into good or bad days, depending on seemingly random events. For example, the day he decides to take on the investigation is a “Good Day” because “on the way to school we passed 4 red cars in a row.”

This logical approach to everything is in contrast to the strong emotions of the adults in his life, particularly his parents. His father, Ed, is prone to moments of extreme rage, one of which leads to him killing Wellington. Ed tries to explain the emotions that led him to commit this act, but Christopher simply concludes that his father is a murderer and could therefore murder him as easily as he did the dog.

His mother also reacts impulsively by having an affair with Mr Shears and then leaving the family. These are examples of the destructive side of emotional actions, and they perhaps demonstrate that Christopher’s logical approach is not necessarily worse than the emotional approaches that many people adopt.


Christopher finds it difficult to trust people, as demonstrated in his encounter with Mrs Alexander. She is kind to him, and yet he becomes nervous when she goes to get him snacks, worrying that “she might be ringing the police”. As a result, he runs away. Christopher divides the world into people he does trust – such as Siobhan and Ed – and those whom he instantly distrusts. The flaw in this outlook is exposed when it is revealed that his father has acted in untrustworthy ways.

Trust is linked to honesty in the play. Even though his mother left the family without saying goodbye, Christopher doesn’t lose trust in her. This is partly because Judy is always very honest, as shown in her confessional letters. However, when Christopher finds out that his father has lied to him, the betrayal of his trust is overwhelming. This causes him to be physically sick.

It takes a long time for Ed to regain his son’s trust. The process of doing so comes from Ed being more open and honest, starting with his confession about killing Wellington.


Much of the play features Siobhan reading Christopher’s book, a narrative device that allows us to directly hear his perspective on events. We get to know his character very well, understanding his unconventional outlook on the world. Therefore, in the moments when his father and then Mr Shears grab him in anger, it is much more shocking. This is due to our knowledge of Christopher’s aversion to being touched.

Also, when he risks his life to save Toby on the tube tracks, many might find this behaviour bizarre. However, we understand from his reaction to Wellington’s murder that Christopher doesn’t perceive the lives of animals as any less valuable than those of humans.

Humour is created in Christopher’s narratives when the audience understands things that he doesn’t. An example of this is when he questions Reverend Peters on the exact location of heaven. Christopher believes that he will be able to give scientific answers to his questions. We can see that Reverend Peters is struggling to do so and pretends that he is too busy to continue the conversation by saying, “we should talk about this on another day when I have more time.”

The play presents Christopher’s perspective as different from the norm, but certainly not wrong or less valid than other people’s perspectives. In fact, Christopher often highlights the absurdities in what are considered more conventional perspectives.

He describes how many people, when looking out a train window, would make vague, almost childlike observations, before moving on to trivial thoughts such as, “I’m worried that I might have left the oven on” or “I really want a bag of cheesy Doritos.” In contrast, Christopher is deeply engaged with his surroundings, making detailed and precise observations such as, “There are 3 different visible nimbostratus clouds.”


Christopher’s growth as a character comes about because of the bravery that he shows. We know that Christopher finds social situations difficult and he finds comfort in being alone at home. Therefore, the fact that he pushes himself into situations that are uncomfortable is admirable and inspiring to the audience. This is particularly evident as we witness the rewards these experiences bring him.

Here are some of those moments in the play:

Moment of braveryReward
Christopher investigates Wellington’s deathFrom speaking with Mrs Alexander he gains the information about Judy’s affair. The investigation also leads to the truth about his mother being alive and his father killing Wellington.
He travels to London to find his motherHe finds his mother and is able to rebuild his relationship with her. The fact that he overcomes so many obstacles on this journey also gives him the confidence to feel that he can “do anything”, including going to university and having a career.
He takes his maths A-levelChristopher is tired from his adventures in London and panics as he starts the paper. However, he bravely carries on, and achieves an A*.
He stays with his father after his return to SwindonHe is scared of Ed after finding out he killed Wellington, but manages to spend time with him and eventually overcomes his fear. This leads to a renewed relationship with his father.

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