Study Guide

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

By Mark Haddon


Chapter 73
Christopher Boone

People say that you always have to tell the truth. But they do not mean this because you are not allowed to tell old people that they are old and you are not allowed to tell people if they smell funny or if a grown-up has made a fart. And you are not allowed to say, "I don't like you," unless that person has been horrible to you. (73.2)

Christopher has a point: we're all taught to tell the truth. But then we're also taught to not say things that hurt people's feelings. This is the aspect that escapes Christopher – that sometimes telling the truth just isn't very nice. And seriously, what would be the point of telling an old person that they're old? Surely they know this themselves, and don't need to have it pointed out by someone else. Why does Christopher sound so personally affronted by this contradiction?

Chapter 107
Christopher Boone

And I am going to finish this chapter with two interesting facts about Sherlock Holmes. (107.22)

Christopher innocently calls this "two interesting facts," but he might also have written "two things people believe about Sherlock Holmes that really aren't true." What's his motivation behind debunking these myths?

Chapter 109

And she said, "Are you telling the truth, Christopher?"

And then I said, "I always tell the truth."

And she said, "I know you do, Christopher. But sometimes we get sad about things and we don't like to tell other people that we are sad about them." (109.10-12)

You might recall that Christopher has a similar conversation with the policeman at the beginning of the book (31.23-24). So what makes this one different? One thing is Siobhan's "I know you do, Christopher," assuring him that she trusts him, and knows he doesn't lie. But what she goes on to say, about the way we often conceal our feelings and keep things hidden, reminds us that this is precisely the sort of thing Christopher is incapable of doing.

Chapter 139
Christopher Boone

And this shows that sometimes people want to be stupid and they do not want to know the truth. (139.8)

Christopher aligns believing in something with not wanting to know the truth, and both of those things with being stupid. It's pretty harsh, right? He probably wouldn't appreciate it if someone told him <em>he</em> was stupid for dreaming of becoming an astronaut. Then why is okay for him to be so intolerant of other people's beliefs and dreams?

Chapter 167
Ed Boone (Father)

"OK, maybe I don't tell the truth all the time. God knows, I try, Christopher, God knows I do, but... Life is difficult, you know. It's bloody hard telling the truth all the time. Sometimes it's impossible. And I want to know that I'm trying, I really am. And perhaps this is not a very good time to say this, and I know you're not going to like it, but... You have to know that I am going to tell you the truth from now on. About everything. Because... if you don't tell the truth now, then later on... later on it hurts even more. So..." (167.16)

This is a pretty moving speech from Christopher's father. We feel for him – we really do. We feel kind of bad dissecting his logic but, hey, that's our job. We're definitely with him about it being "bloody hard" to tell the truth all the time. Like when your friend offers to cook you dinner, but you know she's not exactly the best "chef." You don't want to hurt her feelings, so you tell her you have plans to go out for pizza with your parents. We know, it's okay. Heck, Christopher even has to find ways around telling the whole truth. Really, telling the whole truth all the time might be "impossible." But then how can he turn around and promise he'll always tell the truth from then on? What evidence does he have that it's somehow going to get easier in the future?

Chapter 173
Christopher Boone

And anyway, Orion is not a hunter or a coffee maker or a dinosaur. It is just Betelgeuse and Bellatrix and Alnilam and Rigel and 17 other stars I don't know the names of. And they are nuclear explosions billions of miles away.

And that is the truth. (173.5-6)

What does this mean, "And that is the truth"? Just what is he calling a lie here? It's true that the stars in the constellation Orion aren't really connected out there in the cosmos – of course not. If he's talking about the thing <em>we</em> call Orion, well that's a story we've created that connects those stars in a meaningful way – it's a hunter, not a coffee maker. It's a little unfair for Christopher to demean that story by saying it isn't "the truth."

Chapter 191
Christopher Boone

And then I didn't know what to say because I had Father's cashpoint card in my pocket and it was illegal to steal things, but he was a policeman so I had to tell the truth, so I said, "I have a cashpoint card," and I took it out of my pocket and I showed it to him. And this was a white lie. (191.47)

What does he mean that he has to tell the truth because he's a policeman? We thought he always told the truth! Since when is he prepared to lie otherwise? And, wait, why does he have to tell the truth to policemen – because he got a caution for hitting a policeman and is worried about getting in trouble? Or is there something else about the policeman that prevents him from lying? It certainly can't be that, because he ends up lying to him anyway. Sure, he passes it off as "a white lie," but, hey, that still has "lie" in the title, doesn't it?