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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Mark Haddon

Chapters 211-229

Chapters 181-199

Chapter 233

Summary: Chapter 211

The train continues traveling, and Christopher attempts to judge the distance he has gone by noting the amount of time between stops. When the train stops again, Christopher leaves his hiding place. He sees a policeman in the next car and gets off the train. The station he enters overwhelms him again. He imagines his red line and follows it to the far end of the station. A man tells him a policeman is looking for him, but Christopher keeps on walking. The huge number of signs makes all of them incomprehensible to Christopher. He makes his hands into a tube and looks through it in order to focus on one sign at a time. He follows the sign that reads “Information” to a small shop and asks if he is in London. The shopkeeper says he is. When he asks the way to Mother’s address she tells him to take the subway to Willesden Junction or Willesden Green, and points him in the right direction.

In the subway, he hides in a photo booth. Through its curtain he watches people purchase tickets and enter the subway station. He gets up the courage to go and buy his own ticket from a machine, then follows the signs to his platform. People begin to fill the station and Christopher starts to feel very sick. Trains keep pulling in and leaving, but Christopher can only sit paralyzed on the bench, wishing he were at home but unable to go there, because Father murdered Wellington.

Summary: Chapter 223

Christopher describes an advertisement for Malaysia located opposite him on the platform while he remains frozen in the station. Christopher doesn’t see the point of going on holiday to see new things and relax when a person can always discover new things where he is. Christopher gives the example of filling glasses with different amounts of water to form different notes when you run your finger along the lip.

Summary: Chapter 227

Christopher sits in a trance for five hours on the platform before realizing that Toby has run away. Christopher spots Toby between the tracks among some other mice and climbs onto the tracks to get him. The sound of an approaching train grows louder as a man runs forward to haul Christopher, clutching Toby, back onto the platform. The man shouts at Christopher for being so reckless, and a lady approaches to ask if there is anything she can do to help. Christopher tells her to back away, revealing that he has his Swiss Army knife. The man and lady both leave Christopher alone and get on the next train.

After eight more trains pass by Christopher decides to board. Christopher stays on the train until Willesden Junction, where he gets off. He approaches a shop and asks for directions. The shopkeeper sells him a book called London AZ Street Atlas and Index for £2.95. He uses the atlas to get to Mother’s address, but no one answers when Christopher rings the bell. He sits down to wait. At 11:32 p.m. he hears Mother’s voice as she approaches the apartment. Mother tries to hug Christopher but he pushes her away. She makes a fan out of her fingers instead and they touch hands. Mr. Shears is with Mother. Christopher tells her about his frightening journey from Swindon.

Inside the flat Mother draws Christopher a bath. She sits down next to the bath and asks why Christopher never wrote to her. Christopher explains that Father kept all the letters hidden in his closet and said Mother was dead. A policeman comes to the door of the apartment and says Father reported Christopher as a runaway. The policeman asks Christopher if he wants to go back to Father or if he prefers to stay with Mother. Christopher chooses to stay with Mother, and the policeman leaves. Exhausted, Christopher goes to bed on an air mattress in the spare room. He wakes up to the sound of Father shouting in the living room at 2:31 a.m. Mother, Mr. Shears, and Father have a heated argument. Father bursts through the door of the spare room to find Christopher, who has his Swiss Army knife open and ready. Father cries and apologizes and spreads his fingers in a fan, but Christopher refuses to touch him. The policeman comes back and escorts Father from the flat. Christopher goes back to sleep.

Summary: Chapter 229

That night, Christopher dreams a virus has killed nearly everyone on Earth. A person can catch the virus just by looking at someone that has it, even if the infected person is on television. The virus spreads very quickly until the only people left on Earth are people like Christopher who do not look at other people’s faces. In the dream, he can go anywhere he likes without fear of someone touching him or asking him questions. He can drive, and if he bumps into things it doesn’t matter. At the end of the dream he goes home to Father’s house in Swindon, only Father is gone. He makes himself Gobi Aloo Sag with red food coloring, watches a video about the solar system, plays computer games, and goes to bed. When he awakes from the dream he feels happy.

Analysis: Chapters 211-229

Christopher’s successful arrival in London marks perhaps his greatest accomplishment in the novel and a significant step in his journey toward independence. Since Christopher had never traveled alone before this trip, taking the train by himself all the way to London presented a daunting task. In several ways, the trip epitomizes everything Christopher finds uncomfortable about the world. He had to navigate through large crowds where he was touched frequently, he had to navigate an unfamiliar environment, and he had to process large amounts of new information, which actually overwhelmed him to the point that he shut down at times. By meeting these challenges, Christopher proves to himself that he can overcome any obstacle on his own. In other words, he doesn’t need his father to take care of him and can live independently.

Christopher’s journey to London takes on the qualities of an adventure story. While the experience of walking through a subway station and getting on the right train would be ordinary for many people, for Christopher these tasks present a significant challenge, mainly due to his condition and his inexperience with such situations. The large crowds and the huge influx of information Christopher experiences become life threatening in Christopher’s mind, and Christopher even says he can’t remember the exact details of the ad for Malaysia he saw in the station because he thought he “was going to die.” The novel communicates this experience to the reader with a series of hurried, breathless sentences that reflect Christopher’s distress and confusion, such as “And there was sweat running down my face from under my hair and I was moaning, not groaning, but different, like a dog when it has hurt its paw, and I heard the sound but I didn’t realize it was me at first.” The section even includes a situation that could have been genuinely fatal in which Christopher climbs onto the train tracks to retrieve Toby and narrowly avoids being hit by a train.

Chapter 227, which marks the climax of the novel, effectively brings the major action of the story to a close while establishing one additional conflict to be settled: Christopher, Mother, and Father must come to terms with one another. When Christopher’s father comes to find him in London, after Christopher has reunited with his mother, we see for the first time Christopher, Mother, and Father interacting face-to-face. By this point, the relationships between the three characters have changed significantly, putting the situation at the beginning of the novel—Christopher living with his father and his mother absent from their lives—in flux. Christopher now knows his mother is alive and he intends to live with her in London. He also fears his father to the point that he’s afraid to be in the same room with him. Christopher’s mother, meanwhile, wants to be part of Christopher’s life again, while Christopher’s father is in danger of losing his place in Christopher’s life (the only relationship that hasn’t changed is the relationship between Christopher’s mother and father, who continue to dislike each other). As a result, Christopher’s life has become disordered. Christopher, Mother, and Father will have to work through their issues with one another to reestablish an ordered, stable life for Christopher, creating a final conflict to solve.

In Chapter 229, Christopher again dreams of being almost entirely alone on Earth, giving him a sense of relief after his dramatic trip to London while also reflecting Christopher’s desire to be independent. In contrast with Christopher’s experience in the overcrowded underpass tunnel, Christopher’s dream makes him into one of the few survivors on the planet after a virus wipes out most of the population. This scenario represents an ideal life to Christopher. He could live without having to interact with other people and without worrying about other nuisances like someone touching him, which the reader has seen repeatedly to be something Christopher finds distressing. Perhaps more importantly, Christopher would be able to make his own decisions (an ordinary desire for a teenager). He says he wouldn’t have to go anywhere he doesn’t want to go, he could eat anything he wants, and he could play computer games for an entire week if he chose. Notably, he says Father’s house would now be his, because Father would be dead. Christopher expresses no sadness or remorse at this thought, but rather appears to enjoy the idea of living without his father, who has been the primary authority figure in Christopher’s life. Significantly, in the dream Christopher doesn’t replace his father with anyone, such as his mother or Siobhan, but imagines living on his own and taking care of himself. The fantasy insinuates that Christopher has a growing desire for independence not just from his father, but from authority figures generally.

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