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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Main Ideas

Is Christopher Boone a reliable narrator?

Main Ideas Is Christopher Boone a reliable narrator?

In many ways, Christopher is an exceptionally reliable narrator because of his excellent memory and unsentimental nature. Christopher is uniquely observant and remembers every physical detail of his surroundings, including entire conversations, facial expressions, and even smells. In Christopher’s own words, his memory “is like a film…And when people ask me to remember something I can simply press Rewind and Fast Forward and Pause like on a video recorder, but more like a DVD player because I don’t have to Rewind through everything in between to get to a memory of something a long time ago.” Not only does he remember everything in perfect detail, but Christopher’s unique condition makes him virtually incapable of lying. To Christopher, lies are deeply upsetting—not necessarily for moral reasons, but because “there is only ever one thing which happened at a particular time and particular place. And there are an infinite number of things which didn’t happen at that time and that place.” To Christopher, considering the “infinite number of things” which never happened is overwhelming and terrifying, which explains why he always tells the truth.

Although Christopher is a reliable and trustworthy observer, he could also be considered an unreliable narrator because he often lacks the emotional intelligence to understand more nuanced realities and easily becomes overwhelmed. When Christopher and his father get into a physical fight, Christopher says, “I had no memories for a short while…It was like someone had switched me off and then switched me on again.” Because Christopher is so perceptive, certain intense sensory experiences overwhelm him, causing him to forget entire segments of time. Furthermore, his highly cerebral point-of-view can shroud more complex realities, and there are many moments where the reader understands something that Christopher cannot. Most significantly, when he first discovers the letters from his mother, Christopher performs mental gymnastics to find a logical explanation, while the evidence that Christopher’s father has lied appears perfectly clear to the reader. Another example of Christopher’s misinterpretation comes when Mrs. Alexander goes inside her house to prepare biscuits for Christopher, but he misreads her gesture as something malicious, and believes she may actually be phoning the police. Although he always tells the truth to the best of his ability, Christopher often lacks the social and emotional capacity to comprehend the gray areas of human behavior.

Just as Christopher’s developmental disorder equally helps and hinders his ability to investigate the murder of Wellington, his unique point-of-view is not more or less “reliable” than neurotypical narrators. Christopher’s condition makes his point-of-view noticeably different, but his perspective is not necessarily less reliable than narrators with biases that affect the way they perceive the events in their lives. For example, Christopher likes the color red, so he believes he will have a “very good day” if he sees four red cars in a row. When the school psychiatrist notes that this belief is illogical, Christopher asserts that he is no different from people who let the weather affect their moods even if they work inside, or his father who always puts on his pants before his socks, not for logical reasons, but “because he like[s] things in a nice order, too.” Christopher rightly notices that everyone assigns meaning to inconsequential occurrences, and his idiosyncratic way of noticing the world is not necessarily unreliable.