The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time GCSE Prose Analysis

The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time

– GCSE Prose Analysis

The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time has everything a good book needs mystery, murder and the overcoming of social fear … but where to begin when it comes to getting to grips with the text for GCSE?

Studying for GCSE English can be overwhelming. There are many difficulties to be faced when conducting a prose analysis as there is the importance of looking at a certain area of the text in the finest of details. You have to consider everything from the many different themes presented within the text to quotations to support the argument you are making… So, if you find you’re struggling with The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time then don’t panic, because you’re not alone.  

When it comes to revising for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I advise my own students to make sure that they have a really solid understanding of the key characters and that they’ve revisited the plot of the play before the exam.

When it comes to picking out quotes and themes, it is essential that the student has good knowledge and understanding of a variety of quotes that supporting the main themes of the text. This will help develop their answer to achieve a higher scorning essay.

The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time. Showing Christopher and the Outline of Wellington

What is The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time about?  

The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time is a novel written by Mark Haddon. The novel is set in Swindon, England, in the year of 1998. It crosses over different genres where it is categorised into mystery, crime fiction and Bildungsroman. The story uncovers Christopher’s quest to seek truth and justice, where people are held accountable for their actions. The story is told by fifteen year old Christopher who at the start of the story, discovers the unceremoniously dead body of Wellington, his neighbour’s dog. This discovery sets the story in motion where Christopher begins his search in finding the person responsible and forming the chronicle styled book- the very one we read. Christopher’s father doesn’t want him to pursue the murder but despite this, Christopher is intent on revealing this person. Much to Christopher’s horror, he discovers that his father is responsible for the death of Wellington, by being embroiled in a secret romantic relationship with Wellington’s owner, Mrs Shears, killing Wellington as an act of revenge. It is here too that Christopher discovers his mother is not dead as his father said, but alive and living in London. Feeling like he doesn’t know his father anymore, Christopher leaves to travel to London in hopes of finding his mother. The visit culminates in both Christopher and his mother moving back to Swindon to live with each other. The novel ends with Christopher feeling a great sense of achievement from solving the Wellington murder, finding his mother and writing the book we read.  

What are the major themes of The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time?  


Owing somewhat to Chris’ autism and his personal struggle to understand emotions and those of others, his understanding of life relies on logic and we see the story’s events unfold through Chris’ keenly logical lens. This is underpinned by the fact that he is trying to solve a murder, which needs logic in order to uncover facts. Both in the investigation and the context of his own life, Christopher uses logic to reveal truths. As well as this, Christopher is gifted mathematically and believes that this will be the porthole to opportunities later in his life.  

Important quotes about the theme of Logic:  

  • Christopher: “I think people believe in heaven because they don’t like the idea of dying, because they want to carry on living and they don’t like the idea that other people will move into their house and put their things into the rubbish.” 
  • Christopher: “I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.” 
  • Christopher: “I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them” 
  • Christopher: “Lots of things are mysteries. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer to them. It’s just that scientists haven’t found the answer yet.” 
  • Christopher: “Mother was only 38 years old and heart attacks usually happen to older people” 


The novel begins with loss itself, the death of Wellington. Whilst it is not Christopher’s dog, he is affected by the brutality of it and we can assume Mrs Shears will be grieving her loss. A more poignant loss for Christopher is the bitter reminder of his absent mother; a loss he has had to deal with for years. Christopher’s father also deals with the lost relationship between himself and Christopher’s mother, which he does in secret. Loss comes to Christopher’s father again when Mrs Shears ends the relationship and as a result, he lashes out in rage and kills Wellington. The novel also begins and ends with loss; the death of Wellington, and the death of Christopher’s pet rat, Toby. The theme of loss can be intertwined with the novel as a Bildungsroman, that part of growing up is learning the lessons in loss.  

Important quotes on the theme of Loss: 

  • Christopher: “But the smoke goes out of the chimney and into the air and sometimes I look up into the sky and I think that there are molecules of Mother up there, or in clouds over Africa or the Antarctic, or coming down as rain in the rainforests in Brazil, or in the snow somewhere.” 
  • Christopher: ‘’Then I stopped reading the letter because I felt sick.’’ 
  • Christopher’s father: ‘’I did it for your good, Christopher.’’ 
  • Christopher’s mother: ‘’And it made me so sad because it was like you didn’t really need me at all.’’ 

The Disorder of Life  

Christopher and his inclination to see the world as an orderly place is disturbed through the story’s events. Christopher’s propensity for order and logic is fragmented when emotions are required to connect and understand others. As well as this, the narrative deviates from the plot to unrelated topics representing Christopher’s desire to contemplate life’s complexities. The relationships that Christopher has are also in confusion, notably with his father which is seen in their onerous communication. Christopher’s discoveries about his own life throw him and his worldview off course. In the falling action of the story, Christopher travels to London to meet his mother and it is here we are affronted by the chaos of London’s urban landscape, serving as a metaphor for the disorder within his family.  

  • Christopher: “Usually people look at you when they’re talking to you. I know that they’re working out what I’m thinking, but I can’t tell what they’re thinking. It is like being in a room with a one-way mirror in a spy film.” 
  • Christopher: “I do not like strangers because I do not like people I have never met before. They are hard to understand.” 
  • Christopher: “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.” 
  • Christopher: “Sometimes we get sad about things and we don’t like to tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes, we are sad but we really don’t know why we are sad, so we say we aren’t sad but we really are.” 

The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time Suggested Essay Topics:  

  1. Christopher is faced with significant news and revelations as the story progresses. Describe how he changes over the course of the novel.  
  1. Christopher thinks and views life in a highly logical way. Does his behaviour typically reflect his logical propensities? What does this further tell us about his character? 
  1. Using evidence from the text, where is it suggested that Christopher feels responsible for his mother’s death? 
  1. In what ways does the novel explore the theme of deception and trust? Consider both the events in the text and relationships between the characters  
  1. Symbols representing logic occur throughout the novel. How do these symbols mirror the action? How does the author use symbols of logic to describe the characters and the changes they undergo?  
  1. Compare and contrast how Christopher’s mother is presented, through the lens of Christopher’s father and Christopher himself? 
  1. How does the theme of family impact Christopher and his attitude towards people and relationships?  
  1. Discuss how the reader could interpret Christopher’ coming of age story? What could be some of the messages about growing up and Christopher’s personal journey? 
  1. Some readers consider the ending to be disconcerting. Evaluate whether the ending of the novel and the events leading up to this, brings about the right resolution for Christopher 
  1. How does the theme of subjectivity in terms of Christopher’s unique perspective on the world, affect how we read the text? Refer to evidence from the text.  
  1. The story is about the relational, domestic struggles between a father and son, rather than the protagonists coming of age story. To what extent do you agree with this statement? Discuss using evidence from the text.  

More The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time resources:  

BBC Bitesize  : Several useful pages to guide you through your learning of the text 

LitCharts : Detailed notes with every aspect of the novel covered  

Course Hero : Essential information about the novel with useful, absorbable diagrams  

Spark Notes : Extensive explanations and analysis featuring important contextual information 

Which Exam Boards have The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time as a set text for GCSE English Literature?  

AQA, Eduqas, CCEA.  

How to get a 9 with your The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time Set Text 

Show understanding of the context of the novel 

For a candidate to score the higher marks on the paper, context must be used and used as part of their explanation and analysis of the text. Simply mentioning context without linking it to analysis will hinder higher marks. An example of contextual understanding is that the author, Mark Haddon, worked with children who had physical and mental disabilities, including autism. This is important to know in understanding the author’s characterisation of Christopher. Read around your set text and the relevant topics that it speaks of. Ask your teacher for suggestions for further reading. Read comparative texts and any media content of the novel to see how the characters have been portrayed.  

Ideas always need to be supported by textual evidence with insightful and thoughtful analysis  

A candidate wanting to score a 9 must be able to analyse the language with perceptive detail, as well as analysing form and structure. The candidate must interpret what the writer’s intentions are behind the language and discuss the meanings and effects of the text’s language. Correct terminology should be applied to describe any literary devices. Nuanced and thoughtful analysis will help to secure a 9, where the student will know the text in detail and would have thought about the various meanings and implications of its language.  


Candidates should practice being able to write in a consistent critical style and nearly all GCSE 

students will need to practice this. Students should therefore aim to write as many practice essays or shorter critical pieces as possible, prior to the exam and to use this exercise to develop their core written arguments. They should write practice essays until they have clear, detailed and well- structured notes on all the main GCSE essay topics that regularly come up for The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time. 

Write in good English  

A candidate’s sentences and overall writing needs to be expressed clearly, accurately and with a wide range of vocabulary. Meaning is clear and accurate spelling and punctuation is applied. No colloquialisms or conversational language should be used, unless directly quoting from the text.  

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