The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Summary: Chapter 113
Christopher likens his mind to a DVD player that can skip backward through his memories to a specific moment in the past. As an example, he recalls July 4th 1992, when he was nine years old, and describes a family vacation to the beach in Cornwall. His mother sunbathes on a towel, wearing denim shorts and a light blue bikini top. She then goes swimming, even though the water is very cold. Christopher refuses to join her because he doesn’t like to swim or take his clothes off. Instead, he rolls his trousers up and walks out into the water. Mother dives out of view and Christopher fears she has been eaten by a shark. As he begins to scream she reappears. She makes her hand into fan to comfort him.
Christopher says that when he meets people he runs a search through his memory to determine if he knows them. He also uses his memory to navigate difficult situations. If someone at school has a seizure, he rewinds his memory to other seizures he has witnessed, and then knows what to do. Other people also have pictures in their heads, but unlike Christopher’s, their images contain things that are not real or did not happen. His mother was able to imagine an alternate history in which she married a man other than his father.
Summary: Chapter 127
When Christopher returns from school, Father is still at work. Christopher goes into the kitchen and puts his things on the table, including his book. He makes a raspberry milkshake and sits down to watch a documentary on underwater life called Blue Planet. Father comes home and goes into the kitchen. He returns a few minutes later holding Christopher’s book. He speaks quietly and Christopher doesn’t realize for a moment that he is angry. Father asks him if the conversation that he had with Mrs. Alexander is true. Christopher replies that it is and his father grabs him hard, like he never has before. Frightened, Christopher starts to hit his father. After that his memory goes blank. When he comes to he has blood on his hand and the side of his head hurts. Father’s shirt is torn, he has a big scratch on his neck, and he still holds Christopher’s book. After a minute, Father goes into the kitchen, and then out into the garden, where Christopher can hear him drop the book into the trashcan. When Father comes back into the kitchen, he locks the back door and hides the key to it in a china pot.
Summary: Chapter 131
Christopher describes some of the reasons why he hates the colors yellow and brown. Mr. Forbes thinks that hating colors is silly, but Siobhan points out that everyone has favorite colors. Christopher compares his hatred for certain colors to all the arbitrary choices people make in life. If we didn’t make choices, he reasons, nothing would ever happen.
Summary: Chapter 137
The next day, Father apologizes for hitting him and decides that he will take Christopher to Twycross Zoo to make up for it. At the zoo, Father tells Christopher how much he loves him, and says he was only angry because he doesn’t want Christopher to get into trouble by sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. Christopher remembers all the things Father has done for him, like picking him up from the police station, and cooking his meals. To Christopher, love is helping someone when they get into trouble, and telling them the truth. They press their hands together in their substitute for hugging.
Analysis: Chapters 113-137
When Christopher’s father discovers Christopher’s book, the two have a dramatic confrontation that reveals more detail about Father’s character. Though Father never says so explicitly, he appears to have wanted Christopher to drop the investigation so that Christopher wouldn’t find out about the affair. This information casts a new light on Father’s earlier instruction to Christopher to cease the investigation. Father, we can see, appears not to have worried so much about Christopher digging up other people’s business as much as he worried about Christopher digging up the secrets he was keeping himself, suggesting that if this secret comes out it will have serious consequences. The narrative also hints that Christopher’s father probably knocked Christopher unconscious during their fight, revealing a violent side to Christopher’s father that we’ve only seen glimpses of to this point. When their altercation turns physical, Christopher appears to black out for a period, and when he wakes up he says he has no memory of what happened and that the side of his head hurts, implying he was struck.
In his narration, Christopher doesn’t describe himself as having an obvious outward reaction to this fight, but the section of narration that follows the fight still hints at a strong emotional response. Immediately after his description of the fight, Christopher goes into a seemingly unrelated commentary on why he hates yellow and brown, and he expresses a sense of disgust toward some of the yellow and brown items he lists, such as feces. Although Christopher doesn’t explicitly link these feelings of disgust to his fight with his father, the placement of this section right after the fight implies that link, so even though Christopher doesn’t tell the reader outright how he feels, the reader can infer what Christopher felt. In fact, the apparently irrelevant tangents in Christopher’s narration often reveal his feelings about the events of the sections just before.
Christopher also describes his memory in great detail in this section, and as he does so he gives the reader more information about Mother. Christopher says that, like a DVD player, he can skip in his mind to a specific time in the past, allowing him to replay the scene in his head exactly as it happened. Many of the memories he recalls to demonstrate the point involve his interactions with Mother. We see them at the beach, for instance, and Mother calming Christopher after he becomes frightened that a shark has attacked her. We also see Mother describing what she imagines her life would have been like had she not married Father. She talks about living in a farmhouse in France with a local handyman named Jean, indicating that she at least fantasized at that point about a different life, and a different relationship, than the one she had with Father.
Along with these recollections, Christopher notes that, unlike most people, he remembers things exactly as they happened, which allows him to know whom he has already met and what to do in situations he has already encountered, like when another student at school has a seizure. Christopher implies that, as a counterpart to this ability, he can’t imagine a false past, as Mother does when she talks about living in France. But as we have seen through Christopher’s dreams of being an astronaut (and through the fantasy he has in the very next chapter as he watches Blue Planet about being in an underwater submersible), he clearly has no difficulty imagining different scenarios in the present and future, indicating that he only has trouble imagining backward in time. Even so, Christopher takes pride in his memory and clearly regards it as one of his strengths.