BlogLearnHow to Analyse ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ for HSC English

How to Analyse ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ for HSC English

Are you studying The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and in need of a thorough analysis? (Phew, that took a long time to type, we’re just going to call it The Curious Incident from now on, which you can do too in your essays after you have used the full name once!)

The Curious Incident is a fun read, but it can be really hard to analyse in depth. This article is going to give you everything you need to write a Band 6 essay on The Curious Incident!

You can also access a Band 6 sample paragraph and analysed examples by scrolling down.

Plus…before we get started, we should mention that our HSC English Tutors across the Hills District and wider Sydney know this text inside and out and can provide the personalised support you need! Closer to Western Sydney? We provide K-12 English support in Parramatta too! Get in touch!

Now, lets dive in!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Summary
Characters in The Curious Incident
Context of The Curious Incident
Themes in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Connections to Module B
Analysis of The Curious Incident

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

The Curious Incident begins as a murder mystery story about Christopher Boone, who finds his neighbour’s dog murdered. The story is told through Christopher’s unique voice which reveals to the audience that Christopher lives with autism spectrum disorder (ASD, although the term is never used in the book).

Christopher’s neurodiversity leads to various social misunderstandings which hinder his investigation, however, his sense of logic and deductive reasoning aid his discovery of truth.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time analysis book

Halfway through, when Christopher solves the murder, the novel transforms into a bildungsroman in which Christopher must learn to overcome his fears. The values that Christopher learns along the way show Christopher what he is capable of in the future.

Characters in the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Christopher John Francis Boone

The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Christopher is a highly intelligent but socially awkward 15-year-old boy with ASD. He is passionate about mathematics and has a talent for solving complex problems, but struggles with everyday tasks and social interactions. Christopher’s obsessive nature and literal thinking make him a unique and fascinating character.

Ed Boone

Christopher’s father, who works as a heating engineer. Ed is a caring and protective father, but he also struggles to understand Christopher’s unique needs and challenges. He is often frustrated by his son’s behaviour and struggles to connect with him emotionally.

Judy Boone

Christopher’s mother, who left the family when Christopher was young. Christopher idolizes his mother and has many questions about why she left. Her absence has left a deep emotional impact on Christopher and his family.

Siobhan

Christopher’s special needs teacher at school. Siobhan is patient and understanding, and helps Christopher navigate the complexities of social interactions and emotions.

Mrs. Shears

Christopher’s neighbour and the owner of the dog that is killed at the beginning of the novel. Mrs. Shears is a kind woman who is initially suspicious of Christopher’s behaviour, but eventually becomes a friend and ally.

Roger Shears

Mrs. Shears’ boyfriend, who Christopher suspects of killing the dog. Roger is a mysterious and unsettling figure, and his relationship with Mrs. Shears adds another layer of complexity to the story.

Toby

Christopher’s pet rat, who he loves dearly and cares for meticulously. Toby is an important source of comfort and stability for Christopher throughout the novel.

Context of The Curious Incident

After completing university at Merton College, Oxford, Mark Haddon took a job as a caretaker working with patients who had multiple sclerosis and severe autism. This work helped him to understand autism and subsequently develop the character of Christopher.

In an interview with Powell’s Books, Haddon states, “autism wasn’t a term that was even used much at the time, and only in retrospect do I realize that some of the people I worked with had autism, although they had it much more seriously than Christopher does.”

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time analysis - author

When asked whether Christopher has autism, Mark Haddon famously said that he set out to write a novel about a boy who was a mathematician, not a boy who was autistic. Certainly, many of Christopher’s behaviours place him on the spectrum of autism disorders but because Haddon never explicitly labels him, we’re encouraged simply to accept Christopher as himself.

Haddon uses Christopher’s unique outlook in order to highlight key truths about the nature of the world. He states in the same interview:

For me, disability is a way of getting some extremity, some kind of very difficult situation, that throws an interesting light on people. But it’s also something that’s terribly, terribly ordinary. There are these extreme situations, but they’re happening somewhere in your street at this very moment. And that’s important to me, to find the extraordinary inside the ordinary.

Speaking of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, it is significant that Haddon sets his novel in Swindon, a relatively modern town in Wiltshire. This town is famous for being boring, planned and soulless – equivalent to how some Australians see Canberra. You might like to also think about how Mark Haddon represents the extraordinary within this banal town.  

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

We’ve identified various themes below that can help spark some great ideas for your analysis of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:

The extraordinary in the ordinary

While The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you would be aware that Christopher is not “ordinary”. Instead of stigmatising Christopher’s high-functioning autism, it is celebrated.

The importance of truth and trust

Christopher is unable to lies, propelling the story to interesting plot points and realisations. His honest perspective makes him observe the world from the outside, making for funny incidents.

Christopher writes “”sometimes people want to be stupid and they do not want to know the truth.”

Language

Haddon critiques the form of the novel for being inaccessible, and essentially rewrites it in The Curious Incident!

This makes a humorous plot with funny dialogue, that is further abetted by Christopher’s deadpan and shameless character!

Difference, Tolerance and Love

Humour aside, the Curious Incident offers a brilliant critique to what we consider normal. We get to understand how illogical society’s orders and expectations, as well as the entire idea of “normal” is. As we read on, and begin to normalise Christopher’s point of view in our heads, we also embrace our quirks too.

Connections to Module B

Module B is all about making an interpretation of your text. This means that you should never just repeat the words of the question to create your thesis. It also means that your thesis should be unique and stand out.

It’s not enough to say, “Haddon’s novel is about difference.” Instead, you should choose a more interesting and specific thesis statement! Consider focussing on a key idea such as truth or language, and make sure you’re always making an argument, rather than just talking about a theme!

Module B also asks you to understand how the characteristics of a text establish its distinctive qualities. Some distinctive qualities you might want to consider discussing include

  • The murder mystery genre (and its subversion)
  • The bildungsroman genre
  • Christopher’s unique voice
  • Structure, formatting, diagrams and images

How to Analyse The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in 3 Steps

Analysis is the core building block of any essay. If you don’t know how to analyse well, it doesn’t matter how good your argument is, you won’t be able to achieve the top marks! In this section we will walk you through step-by-step doing incredible analysis!

In the analysis below, we are going to be discussing how Christopher’s voice reveals the absurdity of human communication.

Step 1: Choose your example

There are a few things to look for when you are choosing an example to analyse. Below are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Does the example include a technique?
  • Does the technique show a relevant theme?
  • Is there another example with a stronger technique?

Check out our list of quotes from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time!

The paradoxical thing about choosing examples that the best example is not the example which states your idea the most clearly, but instead the example with a strong technique.

For example, if your paragraph is about the importance of love, and you find a quote which says “love is important”, that might seem like a good example, but you’re going to be left with nothing to actually analyse. You are better off choosing a quote which contains the same idea, but uses a metaphor or symbolism to express that idea.

That’s why we’ve chosen the quote below, referring to the diagram of facial expressions that Siobhan gives Christopher.

“I took it out when I didn’t understand what someone was saying.”

Step 2: Identify techniques

When trying to find a technique within your example, it’s not about finding the fanciest technique or just any old technique for that matter!

It’s about identifying a technique which will enable you to say something about your idea that’s interesting and can contribute to your argument and analysis.

That’s why we’ve chosen humour as a technique. The humour of the situation actually highlights to us as the audience the absurdity of human communication.

Step 3: Carry out your analysis 

There are two things to ask yourself when you are writing analysis

  1. Have I shown the effect of my technique and linked it to the idea?
  2. Have I progressed my argument in some way?

Good analysis involves using a technique to say something in addition to what the quote says.

Bad analysis is using a technique to restate what happened in the quote.

Bad analysis sounds something like this: “Therefore [technique] shows [your idea]”, without going into any real depth.

For the example above we have given the following analysis:

Haddon uses humour when Christopher says that he kept a piece of paper with the diagrams of faces in his pocket and “took it out when [he] didn’t understand what someone was saying.” We find this moment funny because a diagram could never accurately represent the intricacies of facial expression. The humour is therefore able to illuminate to us the deep complexities of how we communicate, revealing how difficult this communication would be to understand for those to whom it does not come naturally.

You should organise all of your analysis you do for each idea or argument into a TEE table, like the one below:

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time TEE table

Need some help analysing other texts?

Check out other texts we’ve created guides for below:

Looking for extra help with your textual analysis of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?

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Brooklyn Arnot has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English Literature with Honours at the University of Sydney. She scored an HD average and has even received the Dean’s award for excellence! Brooklyn teaches our English classes at Art of Smart and has over 5 years of experience supporting Year 11 and 12 students throughout their HSC. She’s also a new Syllabus expert and studied 4U English in high school.

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