Study Guide

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

By Mark Haddon


It's not so easy to talk about love in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, mostly because its narrator really doesn't understand the concept the way most people do. He has defined a list of behaviors associated with love, so theoretically he can recognize it when he sees it. But this approach really can't come close to truly understanding what love is, and the intangibles of it – the things we simply can't name. So, love in this book is very one-sided: Christopher's parents love their son, but can't expect that love to be returned. If Christopher does love them, it's surely something very different from what they feel. There are also a few examples of unrequited love among the adults, but we're not even going to go there. We're way more interested in Christopher's strong feelings for animals – when he kneels on the ground to hug a bloody dead dog, he can't possibly expect his love to be returned in kind.

Questions About Love

  1. Does Christopher understand what love is? Or is it something he has learned about, like chatting and being polite, but is unable to understand any better than he comprehends either of those?
  2. If Christopher were to make a list of the things he loves, what do you think that list would include?
  3. Can we forgive Christopher's mother for leaving him? Did she do it out of love for him, believing that he'd be better off without her?
  4. The scene in the bathtub (227.123-25) shows that Christopher's refusal to show affection is difficult for his mother. Do you think this is hard for his father, too? Is there a scene to which you can point?

Chew on This

Christopher's father tells him his mother is dead because he assumes he's unable to love, and therefore will be unable to grieve.

Christopher feels love through his connections to animals – particularly to his dog Sandy.