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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

This material was written by Amelia Lawson.

Personal Engagement
Distinctive Characteristics
Themes
Setting
Narrative elements and the Language of the Novel
Narrative Development/ Digressions
Language/ Close Study of Text Questions
Form/Structure
Key Events
Character
Genre
Imaginative Tasks
Developing a thesis
Sample Assessment
Journal/ Comprehension Questions

In this Module you only need to focus on one text; in this case, the novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

It is important you develop the following as you undertake this module:

As with all of the modules, you may be asked to express your ideas in a number of text types (for example, an essay, speech, online resource). You therefore need to know the form and language features of these text types.

Personal Engagement

Aim

Activity/Discussion

  1. What type of book do you like and why?
  2. If you don’t like reading and rarely read, think about the last book you enjoyed and what you enjoyed about it.
  3. What do you usually find in a novel?
  4. What type of central character do you like?
  5. What events and ideas interest you in a novel?
  6. Do you like a novel that is written in first person or in third person? Why?
  7. What is the value of novels?
  8. What techniques do writers use to make a story? What techniques do you like in a novel?

Activity: Journal Notes/comprehension Questions
Aim:

In this Module it is important that you develop a strong personal response to the novel.

As you read the novel you should:

  1. keep a journal where you note the following:
    • your response to the story’s events
    • your response to characters as they are introduced and develop
    • your response to the language of the text
    • your thoughts on the distinctive characteristics of the text

  2. make notes using the comprehension questions as a guide. The questions focus on key ideas, characters and techniques used, and are designed to help you clarify your personal response to the novel. The questions are extensive. It is not essential you address all of them.

Click here to go to comprehension questions.

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Distinctive Characteristics

Novel in Overview
Aim:

Draw a mind map into your work book (see below). As you read the novel and as you complete the activities, and through discussions with your class, add ideas and details to your mind map. Initial impressions are often the most valuable.

Mind map

Interview Activity
Aim:

  1. Answer the following questions quickly, with ‘instant’ responses preferable to considered ones:
    1. Do you like the novel? Why/ why not?
    2. How is the novel different from many novels you have read?
    3. How is it similar?
    4. What is your favourite scene? Why?
    5. Who is your favourite character? Why?
    6. List the three events in the novel that affected you the most. What was your response to these events?
    7. What writing techniques did you like/ dislike?
    8. What did you learn from the novel?
    9. What do you think are the two most important ideas of the novel?

  2. You are going to interview someone about the novel. In order to encourage a different perspective on the novel you may choose to select an interviewee who is ‘different’ to the ‘profile’ of your class (e.g. an adult, a person of a different culture).

    As a class, develop a list of questions you would like to ask. Your aim is to gain an understanding of how the novel might affect another person. You can use the questions you answered above as a guide.

  3. Post Interview discussion.
    What surprised you about your interviewee’s responses?
    What did you learn?
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Themes

There are many ideas/ themes explored in the novel. Consider the suggestions below.

Activity
Aim:

Select the themes above that you believe are the most important, or the most interesting to you, and complete the table below. As your progress through this module, you may wish to return to this table and develop/ alter your thematic ideas. The themes below are just a few of many possible suggestions. You might choose to phrase the wording of the theme differently, or to add your own.

Theme Events/ content from the text that develop this theme Relevant quote Techniques used to shape/ develop meaning Conclusions you can draw/ your response to the representation of this theme
         
         

Asperger’s Research/ Activity:
Aim:

Although the novel does not specify Christopher’s disability, the nature of his strengths and weaknesses suggest he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Based on your journal notes/ class discussion, develop a list of the features you believe may be characteristic of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Research
In partners, research the characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome. Is Christopher typical of an Asperger’s sufferer? How is he different?

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Setting

Aim:

The novel is set in two, very different locations. Swindon, Christopher’s home, where everything is comfortingly familiar, and ‘not Swindon’, the world Christopher experiences on his way to London and London itself, places where Christopher finds it very difficult to cope.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is your understanding of each setting developed (descriptions, illustrations, mood)?
  2. How important is the setting to the story’s development, to your understanding of character and to the novel’s ideas?
  3. What is Christopher’s response to each environment? How is this communicated?
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Narrative elements and the Language of the Novel

Aim:

  1. The narrator of the story is a fifteen year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. How does the choice of narrator affect the story/ narrative experience? In your response, consider:
    • His choice of words
    • His ability to understand events
    • His ability to prioritise information
    • His particular points of interest

  2. Below are some of the narrative elements used in the novel:
    • dialogue
    • graphics/ illustrations
    • description
    • action
    • letters
    • footnotes
    • reflection
    • facts and figures
    • word choice/ sentence structure

    Complete the table below. For each narrative element, give an example, describe the features and explain the effect and/ or purpose. Sometimes the narrative element has more than one purpose or effect. Give examples and explanations for each.

    Narrative element Example Effect
    dialogue   The dialogue in the novel is often highly idiomatic. This highlights the key communication barrier between Christopher and others.
    dialogue   The characters often use expletives (swear words). This acts as a ‘foil’ or balance to the highly unemotional dialogue and thoughts of Christopher. It also emphasises their realism.
      “And I said…”
    “And she said…”
    “And I said…”
     
    Graphics/ illustrations/ faces   Enables the reader to easily…
    Graphics/ text   Communicates how confused…
    Descriptions “Like two very small mice…” The clever use of similes adds humour…It also….
      “like a mirror” Similes also enable us to…
         
    Facts and figures    
    Action   Often the action is described using long sentences with repeated use of the word ‘and’
    Action   Often the action is interrupted by one of Christopher’s ‘digressions’. This demonstrates…
    Reflection   Christopher’s reflections and the giving of factual information often blur into one. This is because…
    Word choice digression A combination of simple and complicated word choice. The effect of this combination…


  3. Haddon uses the above narrative elements to tell the story and to give us an insight into Christopher’s world and way of thinking. Referring to the above, explain how Haddon achieves this. Do you find it effective?

  4. Haddon’s use of language and his narrative techniques are highly distinctive.
    Explain this statement with reference to the techniques and examples.

  5. ‘So I decided to do a description of the garden. But the garden wasn’t very interesting or different. It was just a garden…’ (p. 85). Read Christopher’s description of his garden. Take note of his writing style. Write your own description of where you live (your garden, the view out the window) using Christopher’s writing style.
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Narrative Development/ Digressions

Christopher’s ‘digressions’ are a unique aspect of the novel. His reflections on life, math and human nature are as important as the central narrative in the development of our understanding of the novel’s key issues and central character.

Aim:

  1. Complete the table below.

    Chapter/ overview of digression’s focus Place in the novel (connection to events before or after) Connection to key ideas/ understanding of character Quotes
           
           

  2. Explain the effect of the use of narrative digressions on the story. How do these digressions shape meaning and add to your understanding of key issues?
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Language/ Close Study of Text Questions

Aim:

  1. Choose a section from the novel where you find the language choices interesting. Good examples include:
    • the novel’s opening scene (Chapter 2),
    • Christopher’s altercation with the policemen (Chapter 9 or 11)
    Consider the following questions in connection to the extract you have chosen. Some questions will not be relevant.
    1. Describe the opening sentence. How does it set the scene and/ or draw you in to the story?
    2. Describe the sentences. Are they long, short, complex, simple, emotional or objective?
    3. Describe the word choice. Is the vocabulary sophisticated or simple? Why and to what effect?
    4. What tense is the story told in?
    5. Is there descriptive language? Consider the use of adjectives, metaphors, similes, alliteration and onomatopoeia.
    6. Is the story told in first, second or third person? Is this consistent throughout the novel? What is the effect of this?
    7. Many sentences begin with conjunctions ‘and’ or ‘but’. What is the effect of this? Why has the author chosen to do this?
    8. What is the effect of the repeated ‘and’ at the beginning of dialogue? How does a writer normally introduce dialogue? What is your response to Christopher’s style of writing dialogue?
    9. Describe the language used in the dialogue. Is it literal or colloquial/ idiomatic and metaphorical? What is the effect of the language choice on your response to the story and your understanding of the issues in the story?
    10. Are there any graphic elements used in this extract? What is the connection between the written content and the graphic element? How does the graphic develop meaning and understanding?
    11. What is the tone of the excerpt?
    12. Is there humour in the scene? How is humour created? (Consider the use of incongruity, juxtaposition, misunderstandings, false conclusions).

  2. In summary, describe the use of language in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Are any particular language features distinctive? What are these features and how do they add to the overall effect of the story?
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Form/Structure

Aim:

Comment on the structure of the novel:

  1. How many chapters are there? Describe the length of the chapters. Are they of uniform length throughout the story? What is the effect of this on your experience reading and engaging with the story?
  2. Are the chapters ‘contained’ or do events continue or ‘spill’ from one chapter to the next? What is the effect? Give examples.
  3. The novel can be considered in two distinct sections. What are these sections and how do they develop the ideas in the novel?

Plot Activity
Aim:
To develop an understanding of how the narrative development shapes meaning.

  1. List the key incidents in the novel.
  2. Now graph these incidents (maximum of ten), as they take place, and give them a ‘tension’ grade out of ten. For example…
    graph
  3. Considering your graph, describe the narrative ‘landscape’. The questions below can be used to help you.
    1. How quickly does the complication of the novel take place? Is it effective in drawing you into the story?
    2. When are we given the story’s orientation? How is the novel/ character introduced?
    3. What often happens after moments of high tension or excitement? What is the effect of this?
    4. The mystery of the dog’s murder is solved quite early on in the novel. Is this the climax of the story? How does Haddon keep the reader engaged after this revelation?
    5. What is the climax of the story?
    6. Is there a clear resolution at the story’s end?
    7. Do you find the end of the story satisfying and/ or suitable? How does the ending develop your understanding of key ideas?
    8. Does the story use a traditional narrative development?
    9. Are any aspects of the story’s narrative development distinctive?
    10. Is Haddon/ Christopher a good storyteller? Why/ why not?
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Key Events

Aim:

Choose three key events from the novel and complete the table below.

Event Importance of event on story Relevant quote Characters involved Your response to event/ characters involved/ understanding Techniques used to shape meaning
           
           
           

Discussion: How does Haddon use key events in the novel to enhance your understanding of the novel’s ideas and character?

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Character

The characters in the novel are not typical of characters in Young Adult fiction. They are complex, with many flaws, and yet many redeeming qualities.

Aim:

Complete the following charts in your books:

Mr. Boone

Positive Quality Example/ Quote Negative quality Example/ Quote
dedicated   Verbally aggressive ‘Holy fucking Jesus, Christopher. How stupid are you?’ p. 102
    Deceitful Does not tell the truth about Christopher’s mother,’ I did it for your own good, Christopher…I never meant to lie.’ (p. 143)
       
       

Mrs. Boone

Positive Quality Example/ Quote Negative quality Example/ Quote
protective      
     selfish  Leaves her son: ‘I realised you and your father were probably better off if I wasn’t living in the house.’ (p. 136)
       
       

Mrs Alexander

Positive Quality Example/ Quote Negative quality Example/ Quote
kind Takes the time to talk to Christopher and get to know him Inappropriate Tells Christopher that his mother had an affair with Mr. Shears. “I mean that they were very good friends. Very, very good friends.” (p. 76)
       
       

As Christopher is less able to control his behaviour, it is difficult to categorise Christopher’s qualities into ‘good’ or ‘bad’. However, he does have qualities that you will respond to in a positive or negative.

Christopher

Positive Quality Example/ Quote Negative quality Example/ Quote
intelligent   Unable to control his violent tendencies ‘I don’t like it when people grab me. And I don’t like being surprised either. So I hit him…’ p. 103

Siobhan and Mr. Shears are far less complex characters. Aim to complete the tables below on these characters.

Siobhan

Positive Quality Example/ Quote Negative quality Example/ Quote
Understanding Siobhan knows how to communicate clearly with Christopher    

Mr. Shears

Positive Quality Example/ Quote Negative quality Example/ Quote
    Abusive When Christopher moves to London

As you will have discovered, it is difficult to find a negative quality for Siobhan or a positive quality for Mr. Shears.

Christopher

  1. What techniques does the author use to create Christopher and develop our understanding of who he is? In your response consider what Christopher says, what he thinks about, how he acts, how other people react to him, what other people say about him.
  2. What are Christopher’s values (what does he consider important)? What are your values? Consider the similarities and differences. What happens when people’s values differ?
  3. We are very aware of how different Christopher is. How is he like us?
  4. Who is Christopher closest to? What are the characteristics of this/these relationships?
  5. Author Mark Haddon considers Christopher to be ‘an ideal narrator’. Do you agree? Why/ Why not?
  6. Does Christopher change over the course of the novel? If so, how? If not, why not?

Ed Boone, Christopher’s father

  1. Describe Ed Boone with examples from the text. How do key events shape your understanding of him?
  2. What techniques does Haddon use to create the character of Christopher’s father?
  3. What is your opinion of Ed Boone? What is Christopher’s opinion of his father?

Judy Boone, Christopher’s mother

  1. Describe Judy Boone with examples from the text. How do key events shape your understanding of her? Does your opinion of her change?
  2. What techniques does Haddon use to develop our understanding of Judy Boone?
  3. What is your opinion of Judy? What is Christopher’s opinion of his mother?

Discussion: How does the complexity of the characters enhance your understanding of human nature?

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Genre

Aim:

Part 1

Working in groups, students discuss and determine the characteristics of Young Adult fiction. Questions to consider are as follows:

  1. What age group does ‘Young Adult fiction’ refer to?
  2. How old is the protagonist/ central character in Young Adult fiction?
  3. Are there common storylines or events in Young Adult fiction?
  4. Are there common Young Adult genres (for example, fantasy or romance)?
  5. Are there common Young Adult themes (for example peer pressure, drug use and abuse, family breakdown, violence, identity)?
  6. Is there are particular style of writing associated with Young Adult fiction? (For example, very rich and metaphorical language, or more straight forward and narrative-driven prose?)
  7. Does Young Adult fiction appeal to adult readers? Why/ why not?

Discussion: How does Adult fiction differ to Young Adult fiction? (Consider the above questions).

Part 2

This activity should be undertaken after you have read the novel and you have a strong grasp of the novel’s content and ideas.

Working in groups, discuss ‘Is ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ Young Adult or Adult fiction?’. Students must report back to the class with their response and their supporting evidence for this. If the consensus is that the novel sits with both categories, discuss if this is a unique characteristic of the novel.

Genre Activity

“This is a murder mystery novel.”

Aim:

At the beginning of Chapter 7 Christopher tells us that ‘This is a murder mystery novel.’

  1. Why does Christopher decide to write a murder mystery novel? Why is it appropriate that that Christopher has chosen to write this type of novel?
  2. Consider each of these conventions listed below. For each convention list how the novel fulfils, plays with, or subverts these conventions?
    Murder Mystery Conventions
    • A morally upright, intelligent and isolated protagonist
    • A crime, usually a murder
    • A suspect/ villain
    • Clues and red herrings
    • Exposure of the protagonist to danger, confrontation and conflict
    • A resolution/ the suggestion that order has been returned to the world
    • A moral/ message
    • A setting of moral decay, or decadence
  3. How does the use of the murder mystery genre shape your understanding of the issues and characters in the novel?
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Imaginative Tasks

Aim:
To engage with the text imaginatively

  1. Choose an incident from the novel that engages you. Rewrite the incident from another character’s perspective.
  2. Brainstorm alternative endings to the novel. Choose the one you find most interesting and develop it. If possible, incorporate the language techniques utilised by Christopher.
  3. Imagine the scene between Ed and Judy Boone where Judy tells her husband she is leaving him. Write the script in the form of a radio play (with appropriate music and sound effects).
  4. Imagine you are Mr. Shears. Write a letter to Judy Boone explaining what you think went wrong in the relationship and how you feel now that it is over.
  5. Imagine that you are Christopher. You are back at school, your adventures are over and you have been asked to give a presentation to the other students. Your presentation is, ‘The five things that are most important to me and why.’
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Developing a thesis

Aim:

Below are the Module B HSC examination questions from 2003-2008. As you read through the questions, ask yourself the following:

Although the questions do not always specifically ask for a response to all of the above questions (for example, the 2006 question did not mention the word ‘distinctive’), considering these questions will help to prepare you for writing your response. To fulfill the requirements of the examination question you must:

  1. answer the question, and
  2. meet the requirements of the rubric (the dot points above the question, as below).

The rubric for Standard paper, Module B:

In your answer you will be assessed on how well you:

HSC 2007

Distinctive ideas are at the heart of every novel.

In your view, what is a distinctive idea explored in We All Fall Down [in your case, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time]? Explain how it is developed throughout the novel.

Possible line of argument/ thesis:

Distinctive ideas are not at the heart of every novel. There are many novels that explore ideas that have been explored countless times before. Distinctive ideas sit at the heart of superior works of prose, novels that aim to explore the world we live in from a unique perspective. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is one such novel…

HSC 2006

In what ways does the author draw you into the novel?

In your response, make detailed reference to your prescribed text.

Possible line of argument/thesis:

Writers use a number of writing techniques to draw readers into their novel. A dramatic opening, an eccentric central character, a quirky style of writing are not unusual ‘tricks’ of the literary trade; however, author Mark Haddon transforms these everyday literary conventions into something distinctive…

HSC 2005

Identify a key episode in your prescribed text.

Analyse the ways in which this key episode reflects the ideas and characteristics of the text as a whole.

Present your analysis in one of the following ways –

Possible thesis:

The ideas explored in Haddon’s text ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, are explored through the central character, Christopher Haddon whose detective experiences take us from the backyards of suburban Swindon and beyond. Through Christopher’s unique perspective we learn about such themes as difference and the need for control and order. This is illustrated most effectively in Christopher’s chaotic trip to London….

HSC 2004

On the basis of the distinctive features of your prescribed text, argue for its inclusion in the ‘Top Prose Fiction’ list.

Possible thesis:

The best prose fiction challenges the way we see the world, the way we see others and, most importantly, the way we see and understand ourselves. Remarkably, Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ achieves all this and more…

HSC 2003

What aspect of your prescribed text had the greatest impact on you?

In your response you should reflect on both ideas and prose fiction techniques used in the prescribed text you have studied.

Possible line of argument/ thesis:

When a novel challenges expectations, it has an impact. This is demonstrated in the novel, ‘A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ by Mark Haddon….

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Notes from the Marking Centre 2007 General Comments

Better responses demonstrated a deep understanding of an idea or related ideas, drawing on detailed textual knowledge. They were thorough, fluently expressed and well structured. Better responses also reflected a personal perspective. This may have been expressed explicitly in the first person or in the more academic impersonal style where the sense of personal response may have been implicit.

Selectivity was the key to success. Candidates who were able to select appropriate textual evidence – and explain why – were the most successful. The type of evidence chosen varied from scene, to quote, to incident. Weaker responses tended to rely on retell and assertion rather than argument. Stronger responses used the metalanguage appropriate to their text type: the language of film for Witness, the language of drama for Navigating and The Shoe-Horn Sonata, the language of the novel for We All Fall Down, and the language of poetry for Owen and Westbury. Weaker responses reflected
an inability to move beyond retelling and were unable to move beyond identification of terms and simple examples.
Candidates who clearly understood the purpose of their texts were able to demonstrate conceptual understanding and respond personally.

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Sample Assessment

Text Type #1: Essay
Assessable outcomes:

3 A student develops language relevant to the study of English
4 A student describes and analyses the ways that language forms and features, and structures of texts shape meaning and influence responses
6 A student engages with the details o text in order to respond critically and personally
7 A student adapts and synthesises a range of textual features to explore and communicate information, ideas and values for a variety of purposes, audiences and contexts.
8 A student articulates and represents own ideas in critical, interpretive and imaginative texts
10 A student analyses and synthesises information and ideas into sustained and logical argument for a range of purposes and audiences.

QUESTION

To what extent is the principal idea of Haddon’s novel an exploration of difference?

In your response you must address:

  1. other ideas explored in the novel
  2. how each of these ideas are represented.

Text Type #2: Viewing and Representing/ Mind map
Create a mind map that represents the major ideas of the novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Criteria:

The mind map can be used in class as a guideline for your essay.

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Journal/ Comprehension Questions

Chapter 2

  1. What chapter does the novel open with? What does this anomaly suggest about the novel and the direction the story might take? List five suitable adjectives in your response.
  2. What does the opening sentence, ‘It was 7 minutes after midnight’ suggest about the a) genre of the novel b) the narrator?
  3. Read the first paragraph closely. What are your impressions of the narrator? (Consider what he/she says and how he/she says it.)
  4. Describe your response to the opening scene. Are you shocked or do you find it humorous? Explain your response with reference to the text.

Chapter 3

  1. Who is the narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time? What do you like/ dislike about this choice of narrator? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this choice of narrator?
  2. This chapter includes graphic elements as part of the narrative. What are these elements? Why has the author chosen to incorporate them? What does the use of these graphics tell us about the narrator, Christopher?

Chapter 5

  1. Chapter 5? Christopher has chosen to number his chapters using prime numbers because he likes them. The numbering system is chosen to suit Christopher’s preferences. What does this tell us about the way Christopher operates in the world?
  2. Why does Christopher like dogs? What does Christopher’s attitude to dogs suggest about his attitude to people?
  3. Christopher’s description of events often contains very precise, fact-focused information. Find examples of this in the chapter. What is the effect of this on the telling of the story and your understanding of the character?
  4. Consider the first line of dialogue used in the novel. Does it change your expectations of the novel? Why/ why not? How does the dialogue shape the stories mood and meaning?
  5. Christopher often responds to his world in a way that surprises and occasionally shocks. You will find many examples of this as you progress through the novel. Take note of these. How does this information develop your understanding of Christopher? How does it challenge your assumptions about the world you live in?

Chapter 7

  1. ‘This is a murder mystery novel,’ writes Christopher. How is The Curious Incident like murder mystery novel (so far)? How is it different?
  2. A humorous and unique aspect of the novel is Christopher’s descriptions of the different characters. Discuss this statement in response to the description of Mrs. Shears, Siobhan and Mr. Jeavons (you may also choose to include references to the descriptions of the police at the beginning of Chapter 11). How do the descriptions add humour to the novel?

Chapter 11

  1. We see a different, darker side of Christopher in this chapter. Describe what happens in this chapter and how this influences your response to the character of Christopher. How (what techniques) does the author enable us to feel what Christopher feels?
  2. Despite the seriousness of the event, and the trauma Christopher feels, the mood quickly returns to one of humour by the chapter’s end. How (technique) does the author achieve this?

Chapter 13

  1. Contrary to Christopher’s statement, ‘This will not be a funny book’; there are many aspects of the novel that are very funny. How (what technique) does the author use to create humour in the novel? How do statements such as this further develop our understanding of the idea of ‘truth’ explored in the novel?
  2. Although the central narrative develops in a linear fashion, the chapters and sections of the chapters often ‘digress’ from this central story. Explain what these digressions are. Why do you think they have been included? How do they add to your understanding of the story?

Chapter 17

  1. How does Haddon use dialogue to emphasise the barrier between Christopher and others? Who communicates successfully with Christopher and who does not?
  2. What is Christopher thinking about as he is driven to the police station? Why is this surprising and what does this emphasis about Christopher?
  3. Not only do Christopher’s explanation of the solar system come at an unexpected time in the story’s development, but a large part of the chapter is dedicated to the explanation. This information does not drive the story forward, nor is it a traditional ‘reflection of character to reveal character through thoughts’. Why had the author included this information and what is the effect?
  4. Does the illustration of the Milky Way enhance your understanding of Christopher’s written explanation?

Chapter 19

  1. It is only in this chapter that Christopher explains the numbering pattern of the chapters. Why do you think Haddon/ Christopher chose to delay the explanation until now?
  2. Christopher believes that prime numbers are like life: ‘They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent your time thinking about them’. Do you agree? Why do you think Christopher would like to believe this?

Chapter 23

  1. How does the author, Mark Haddon, infuse serious situations with humour (such as in this chapter)? How does the use of humour affect your relationship with Christopher?

Chapter 29

  1. Christopher often explains to us what he does not understand about the world he lives in. How (techniques) does he explain his differences? Are his explanations clear?
  2. What does Christopher’s attitude to his name reflect about his character? Why do you think Christopher is never called Chris? How is this reinforced by Christopher’s references to ‘mother’ and ‘father’ rather than ‘mum’ and ‘dad’?

Chapter 31

  1. What does Christopher and his father do instead of hugging? What connections can you make between this scene and the novel’s opening scene and what ironic conclusions can you draw from this?
  2. Christopher cannot understand and does not intentionally use metaphors in his explanations and descriptions; however, he uses similes often and to great effect. Find an example of an effective simile in this chapter and explain its use.
  3. This chapter includes a footnote. In what type of text are footnotes normally found? Why is it appropriate for Christopher to use them?
  4. Reread the final paragraph of this chapter. How many sentences are there? Rewrite this sentence giving only the crucial information, with as few words as possible. How (technique) does Haddon communicate Christopher’s inability to process detail and prioritise information?

Chapter 37

  1. Christopher is a complex mixture of opposites. He is logical and often emotionless he is also irrational and unable to control his extreme emotional responses. How does this chapter demonstrate this? Consider the footnote in your response.
  2. Christopher likes facts and control. How do the existence of lies and fiction challenge him?

Chapter 41

  1. The difference between Christopher and ‘other’ people is highlighted in this chapter. He has different values, different emotional responses, and a different understanding of events. Explain these differences in note form, with references to and quotes from the chapter.

Chapter 43

  1. Why is it ironic that Christopher likes it when his father does not look at him when he talks? How (technique) does Christopher effectively explain his response? What is your response when someone does not look at you when talking to you?

Chapter 47

  1. Mr. Jeavons says that Christopher is a very clever boy because he is so observant. His mother says he is a good boy because he does not tell lies. Christopher disagrees with both of them. Why? Who is correct?
  2. Christopher has a very sophisticated vocabulary and occasionally quotes Latin. How do these displays of intelligence impact on your response to Christopher’s character? Why do you think the author has highlighted this aspect of Christopher’s intelligence?

Chapter 53

  1. The chapter begins with the sentence ‘Mother died two weeks later’ and ends with Christopher beating Mrs. Shears at Scrabble (247 points to 134). Christopher does not display any of the expected signs of distress or mourning. What does he do and what does this tell us about his ability to connect emotionally with others? How does the end of this chapter reinforce this?
  2. Christopher often talks about his teacher, Siobhan. What role does Siobhan play in Christopher’s life? What do we learn about Christopher through Siobhan?
  3. Christopher continues his investigation of the murder despite instructions from his father not to. How does Christopher’s logic free him to do what he wants? What is your response to discovering that Christopher does not always do what he is told?

Chapter 61

  1. Christopher reflects on the presence of God and death in this chapter. What does Christopher believe and why is it appropriate for a character such as Christopher? What is your response to his attitude and explanation?

Chapter 67

  1. Christopher is an unlikely detective. How is his personality suited to his task? What problems does he face?
  2. In this chapter Christopher forces himself to interact with others. What do these interactions reveal about Christopher? Comment on Haddon’s treatment of these scenes.

Chapter 71

  1. Christopher dismisses his fellow students in the opening sentence of this chapter, ‘All the other children at my school are stupid.’ What is your response to this?
  2. Comment on Christopher’s plans for his future. Are they realistic? How does this affect your understanding of Christopher?

Chapter 73

  1. This chapter very succinctly and humorously communicates the enormity of Christopher’s behavioral problems. How does it achieve this? How does this chapter develop a central idea in the novel?

Chapter 79

  1. The chapter closes with Christopher promising to ‘stop doing these things’. How does this promise develop the story’s suspense?

Chapter 83

  1. How is Christopher’s belief that he ‘would be a very good astronaut’ reflective of Christopher’s understanding of the world? Can Christopher be an astronaut?

Chapter 89

  1. The chapter ends with Christopher experiencing two ‘Black Days’. What do we learn about the connection between Christopher’s sense of order and his emotions?

Chapter 97

  1. When Christopher sees 5 red cars in a row he knows he will have a ‘super good day’ and that something special will happen. How does this belief change the way he behaves?
  2. In the course of his investigations, Christopher learns something unexpected from Mrs. Alexander. What does he learn? Is this scene realistic? Why has Haddon chosen to include it?

Chapter 101

  1. What is the message of the Monty Hall Problem described in this chapter? Why does the Monty Hall Problem appeal to Christopher?

Chapter 103

  1. Siobhan encourages Christopher to ‘include some descriptions of things…so that people could read them and make a picture in their own head’. Read Christopher’s description. What does Christopher write about? Is his writing effective? Is it unique?

Chapter 107

  1. Why does Christopher like murder mystery novels, such as The Hound of the Baskervilles?
  2. What connection does Christopher believe he has with Sherlock Holmes?

Chapter 109

  1. Christopher has a very distinctive way of retelling conversations. Describe his technique with references to the text. Why does he retell conversations this way, and what is the effect? How is it different to the language used to introduce ‘normal’ literary dialogue?
  2. Christopher does not ‘feel sad’ about the affair of his mother and Mr. Shears. What is his explanation for not feeling sad? What is your response to his rationale? How do we respond to people who do not display the emotions expected of them?
  3. Haddon often juxtaposes exciting and/or emotional moments with very mundane descriptions of events. Give an example from this chapter. What is the effect?

Chapter 113

  1. How effective is Christopher’s explanation of his memory? What are the benefits and disadvantages of such a memory?
  2. ‘…The pictures in my head are all pictures of things which really happened.’ What can other people do that Christopher cannot do? How might this limit him?

Chapter 127

  1. When Christopher’s father comes home, he jokingly says ‘Howdy, Pardner’ to Christopher. Christopher knows it is a joke but does not understand it. What impact might Christopher’s lack of humour have on his ability to connect with others?
  2. What happens in this chapter? How does it affect your opinion of Christopher and his father?

Chapter 131

  1. How does the opening of this chapter connect and contrast to the events in the last chapter?
  2. How does Christopher’s dislike of brown and yellow make his life simpler? How are his decision-making techniques different to other people’s decision making techniques?

Chapter 137

  1. Is Christopher’s father the most important person is Christopher’s life? Is he able to effectively communicate with Christopher? Explain your response with reference to the text.
  2. What does Christopher’s understanding of love tell us about his ability to understand emotion? How does your definition of love differ? What might the problems be with Christopher’s version of love?
  3. How does Christopher’s ‘memory test’ map of the zoo add to our appreciation of Christopher’s emotional detachment?

Chapter 139

  1. Christopher includes ‘The Case of the Cottingley Fairies’ because ‘this shows that sometimes people want to be stupid and they do not want to know the truth?’ Why might people not want to know the truth?

Chapter 149

  1. Christopher displays some very good detecting skills in this chapter. What are they?
  2. What do we learn/ realise when Christopher finds the letter? Why does Christopher not draw the same conclusion?

Chapter 151

  1. What does Christopher explain about mysteries in this chapter? Is it a convincing explanation?

Chapter 157

  1. A large section of this chapter is devoted to Christopher’s mother’s letters. Why does the author choose to include so many of them? What do we learn about Judy Boone and her relationship with her son? Do these letters affect your opinion of her?
  2. How do the graphic elements (the signature and the stamp) add to your experience and understanding of the situation?
  3. How does Christopher respond to the discovery of the letters and their contents? What do we learn from this?
  4. Why did Christopher’s father hide the truth about Christopher’s mother? How does this affect your response to Christopher’s father?

Chapter 163

  1. This chapter involves a complicated explanation by Christopher of why ‘…people’s brains are like computers.’ Most of Christopher’s digressions include illustrations or graphics to help us understand. Why are there no illustrations in this explanation?
  2. Christopher believes that ‘feelings are just having a picture on the screen in your head…and if it is a happy picture they smile and if it is a sad picture they cry.’ Is this an accurate understanding of what feelings are and how they work? Why might Christopher believe his theory?

Chapter 167

  1. Why did Christopher’s father kill Wellington? What does his rambling explanation reinforce about humans and human relationships? How (what techniques) does the author use to communicate the ‘messiness’ of the human experience in this section?
  2. Christopher’s father explains that Mrs. Shears ‘…cared more for that bloody mutt than for me, for us.’ In what way is Christopher not so very different from other people?
  3. What is your response to Christopher’s rationale that ‘Father had murdered Wellington. That meant he could murder me, because I couldn’t trust him…because he had told a lie about a big thing.’? How does the structuring of the sentence reflect the development of Christopher’s logic?
  4. The ‘murder mystery’ is ‘solved’ in this chapter. How does the novel maintain narrative tension? How is this emphasised by the chapter’s closing sentence?

Chapter 173

  1. Christopher’s ‘truth’ is correct when he says that constellations such as Orion are nothing but stars, nuclear explosions millions of miles away. What do we learn in this chapter? What does Christopher lose by seeing nothing but the truth?

Chapter 179

  1. Christopher is forced to make some difficult decisions in this chapter. What techniques does Christopher use to make a decision? How has the author communicated Christopher’s thought processes and emotions?
  2. List the many challenges Christopher faces in this chapter. Make note of what Christopher does to deal with and overcome these challenges, and the language techniques used to communicate his experiences.
  3. Do you hope that Christopher will make it to London and his mother or that he will be ‘saved’ and returned to the safety of Swindon? Why?

Chapter 181

  1. What do we learn about Christopher in this chapter? How does this enhance our understanding of Christopher’s ordeal?
  2. Christopher often refers to ‘other people’ and the way they think as ‘silly’. Why is Christopher so critical or dismissive of others? What is your reaction to his criticism?

Chapter 191

  1. See question 2 in Chapter 179.
  2. This policeman speaks very differently to the previous officer. What is Christopher’s response to the policeman? What is yours? Why does Haddon introduce two such different policemen?
  3. In the first section of the book Christopher is in a familiar and (relatively) safe environment. Although we learn of many of his disabilities, he also displays his remarkable abilities. What do we realise in this second section of the novel?

Chapter 193

  1. Write down your daily schedule with as much detail as you can (like Christopher, you can include approximations). Would you like to live by your schedule every day? Why/ Why not? Why does Christopher like schedules? Why has this chapter been placed in this section of the story?

Chapter 197

  1. The novel utilises paragraph length, sentence structure, truncated sentences and repetition to create a sense of Christopher’s mental state. Explain this in reference to the first page in this chapter.

Chapter 199

  1. What is the purpose of this chapter? Do you agree with Christopher?

Chapter 211

  1. See question 2 in Chapter 179. Take notes/ discuss further
  2. ‘And I thought I can do this because I was doing really well and I was in London and I would find my mother.’ What is your response to Christopher’s journey so far? What is your response to Christopher’s confidence?

Chapter 223

  1. In the middle of all the drama, this chapter is included. What is the effect on the narrative development and our understanding of Christopher?

Chapter 227

  1. What does Christopher realise about the underground and how does this give him courage?
  2. What does the incident with Christopher’s pet rat, Toby, illustrate about Christopher?
  3. What are the reactions to Christopher of a) the man with the diamond patterned socks b) the lady with the guitar case to Christopher? What would your reaction be?
  4. Christopher finally finds his mother’s home (and his mother). Did you expect he would be successful? Why/ why not?
  5. Why does Mother make ‘a loud wailing noise like an animal on a nature program on television’ when she discovers Christopher had been told she had died? Comment on Christopher’s choice of simile. What is the effect?
  6. Christopher’s mother wants to hold Christopher’s hand ‘Just once. Just for me. Will you?’ Why does she want to hold his hand? Christopher refuses. What is your response to this and why?
  7. A number of highly emotional events take place that evening. What is Christopher’s reaction to these events?
  8. How do you feel toward Christopher’s father, Ed Boone, and Christopher’s mother, Judy Boone, in this chapter?

Chapter 229

  1. Describe Christopher’s favourite dream. Why is it his favourite? What is your response to this? Why has Haddon included this chapter and how does it enhance your understanding of the novel’s ideas and character?

Chapter 233

  1. In ‘rewarding’ fiction the central character usually develops or changes through experience. What does the incident at the shopping centre indicate about this central character? How does the central character add to your understanding of relevant ideas in the novel?
  2. Mr. Shears asks Christopher, ‘Don’t you ever, ever think about other people for one second, eh?’ Does Christopher ever think of other people? What evidence is there for this?
  3. Why is it so important to Christopher that he takes his Maths A level examination? What is the relevance of Christopher’s mother’s failure to recognise this?
  4. The novel ends on a positive note. What is your response to the closing paragraph? How would you like the novel to end?
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