Study Guide

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

By Mark Haddon

Fear

Chapter 5
Christopher Boone

I do not like people shouting at me. It makes me scared that they are going to hit me or touch me and I do not know what is going to happen. (5.5)

Sometimes Christopher is afraid of the things we're <em>all </em>afraid of: in this case, violence. He takes it one step further, though, and includes "touch" as a scary possibility.

Chapter 67
Christopher Boone

It is like being in France, which is where we went on holiday sometimes when mother was alive, to camp. And I hated it because if you went into a shop or a restaurant or on a beach you couldn't understand what anyone was saying which was frightening. (67.4)

The literal language barrier serves as a powerful illustration of Christopher's difficulty with more subtle kinds of communication, like body language and tone of voice. And, of course, his fearfulness in France at hearing words he doesn't understand is dwarfed by the daily occasions in which people express themselves in ways he's totally unable to interpret.

Chapter 97
Christopher Boone

So because it was a Super Good Day I decided to walk into the park with Mrs. Alexander even though it scared me. (97.73)

Isn't it amazing how Christopher can overcome his fears and limitations seemingly at will? Surely there isn't anything intrinsically special about having seen a few red cars in a row. What is that enables him to muster courage at these otherwise random moments?

Chapter 113
Christopher Boone

And she jumped backwards and disappeared under the water and I thought a shark had eaten her and I screamed and she stood up out of the water again and came over to where I was standing […] (113.4)

This is a rare occasion when Christopher (contrary to his claims) lets his imagination get the better of him. Usually he's scared when he doesn't know what's happening. But here, he's scared because he <em>thinks</em> he knows something bad is happening. When his mother returns, he doesn't need to know what she was doing (as long as it wasn't being eaten by a shark).

Chapter 167
Christopher Boone

And then I knew it wasn't a joke and I was really frightened. (167.23)

Christopher has a difficult time determining when people are joking, which makes it especially interesting to imagine him sort of putting his fear on stand-by until he decides whether or not his dad is joking (about killing Wellington the dog). When he realizes his pop's not joking, he makes an immediate (logical, in a way) connection between his dad killing a dog and the thought that his dad would be capable of hurting him as well.

Chapter 179
Christopher Boone

I was cold and I was frightened Father might come out and find me. But I felt safer in the garden because I was hidden. (179.1)

It's really incredible just how quickly Christopher's father becomes a villain. This is the man who has taken care of Christopher for fifteen years, but in just one moment, he becomes someone who Christopher feels might want to do him serious harm.

And then I realized that there was nothing I could do which felt safe. (179.23)

We'll just take a moment to remind you that this is the same boy who on previous occasions (89.14) put his head against the wall, closed his eyes, and groaned when things didn't feel safe. The fact that he reaches this point and still perseveres through the rest of his adventure is truly extraordinary.

Normally I would have got more and more frightened if I was walking to school, because I had never done it before. But I was frightened in two different ways. And one way was being frightened of being far away from a place I was used to, and the other was being frightened of being near where Father lived, and they were in inverse proportion to one another, so that the total fear remained a constant as I got further away from home and further away from Father [...] (179.71)

Christopher's world has been turned completely upside-down. School is no longer safe (because he's walking there for the first time), home is no longer safe, and his father is no longer safe. Unfortunately, the "total fear" continues to increase as he progresses on his journey.

Chapter 211
Christopher Boone

But after a few seconds [the signs] looked like this [...] because there were too many and my brain wasn't working properly and this frightened me so I closed my eyes again and I counted slowly to 50 but without doing the cubes. And I stood there and I opened my Swiss Army Knife in my pocket to make me feel safe and I held on to it tight. (211.27)

Two things: (1) We want to emphasize not only how dependent Christopher is on his stupendous brain power, but how keenly aware of it he is at all times. (2) We have to say something about the open Swiss Army Knife. Does it represent just how intensely frightened he must be feeling to be prepared to stab (or at least threaten to stab) someone? Or does it show how incapable he is of empathy (that is, that hurting someone else would be a bad thing)?

Christopher Boone

And I was shaking and I wanted to be back at home, and then I realised I couldn't be at home because Father was there and he told a lie and he killed Wellington which meant that it wasn't my home any more, my home was 451c Chapter Road, London NW2 5NG and it scared me, having a wrong thought like <em>I wish I was back at home again</em> because it meant my mind wasn't working properly.

Finally, Christopher begins to feel betrayed even by his own mind. If anything's going to scare him, it's that.