The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Theme of Identity
We're not quite sure how to describe Christopher's self-identification in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Self-centered? Self-involved? Self-obsessed? None of these seem quite right. They all suggest some egotistical prom queen or something, who thinks she's better than everyone else. No, Christopher's focus on himself is almost absolute; he's utterly wrapped within the cocoon of his own mind. He has trouble understanding what other people think, feel, and believe. So his self-identity, his idea of himself, is practically the same as his sense of the outside world too. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the things we usually associate with identity – chief among them our faces and our names – are things Christopher doesn't understand, doesn't care about, or doesn't like. This makes sense, because when you think about it, these things are only important as ways for other people to identify us. And Christopher doesn't seem to care much about being identified by other people.
Questions About Identity
- Is it notable that we don't learn Christopher's parents' names until very far into the story? Or that Siobhan, of all the main characters, is the only one with a unique name?
- As a reader, is it disorienting not to receive any descriptions of what people look like? How does this affect your ideas about them?
- Christopher is unhappy with his name, writing, "I want my name to mean me" (29.10). Can you help him out? Give him a name that means him.
Chew on This
Christopher's enthusiasm for prime numbers stems from his quest to assert his individuality in an unavoidably alien world.
Christopher's fondness for Sherlock Holmes allows him to reveal his own story of self-discovery through the search for the dog-killer.