Commentary on Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time In this commentary, I will be writing about the different linguistic features of the first two chapters of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon. The use of pictures, in the first two chapters tells us a lot about the narrator of the book, an 11 year old boy with Asperger’s syndrome. For example, at the start of chapter 3, there are four sets of pictures. According to the narrator, these pictures help him to identify which mood people who talk to him are in and also, which emotions they are displaying.
He says they were given to him by Siobhan, his carer as a way to help him understand. The pictures may represent how he actually sees other people, merely as blank faces, with either a clear happy or sad expression or just confusion. The faces do not have personalities or characters – the factors that would normally make us feel emotion towards other people – they are simply featureless symbols of humanity. The encircled page numbers could represent to Christopher a structure, something that is easily understood, and not liable to confusion.
Grammatically, this is a child’s book, with a very intriguing story, perhaps more suited to older readers. For example, he uses very short and simple sentences, which seem suited to him because according to him further on in the book, he cannot understand when people talk in very complex ways. For example, at the start of chapter 7, he quotes a book “I am veined with iron… ” He says directly after, that he doesn’t understand and neither do the people he has asked. He also uses short sentences to create tension and deliver the maximum shock effect, for example “the dog was dead”.
The sentences that the author uses are very impersonal, passive and unemotional. They are also very factual (since Christopher cannot tell lies), and very detailed. The book is written in the first person, which could demonstrate his own self isolation, his lack of ability to interact with others. However, the author varies the way the sentences are written, showing a writing skill which is perhaps unusual with someone with Asperger’s. This could detract from the book’s effect to appear as a genuine manuscript typed by Christopher.
In the first paragraph of chapter 2, Christopher continually repeats the word “dog”. This is to emphasise his impersonal nature towards the dog. Even though he says he feels sad at the dog’s death, this is contradicted by his references to the dog as “it” or “dog”, never “Wellington”. He doesn’t appear to feel any of the usual horror, when describing the murder weapon. For example, “The points of the fork… because the fork had not fallen over”. It is almost as if he is expressing an emotion he knows he ought to feel rather than the one he actually does feel.
He pays an outstanding amount of attention to detail. For example, at the start of the book he describes how the dog was running “running on its side… chasing a cat in a dream”. This is typical of somebody with Asperger’s since they are very acute observers and have to know, do and say everything precisely, otherwise they will become confused. He uses lots of description as well. To achieve this, he employs lots of adjectives and adverbs. For example, “Mr Jeavons smells of soap, and wears brown shoes… 60 tiny holes in each”.