The Significance of Honesty. Portrayed in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon

Term Paper, 2016

8 Pages, Grade: 1




The significance of honesty in Christopher’s world

Honesty as the basis for trust in Christopher’s relationship with his father




Christopher John Francis Boone is the narrator in Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003). Christopher, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism, is convinced that he never lies. And just like he always means to be honest, Christopher expects other people to be honest with him. Honesty is the basis for him to be able to trust others and to build a relationship. Although the condition Christopher is suffering from is not explicitly mentioned in the novel, the reader grasps that honesty is an important factor in his life, whether it be despite or because of him having Asperger’s. Moreover, the reader sees the series of events through Christopher’s eyes, since he is a first-person narrator, making the reader inclined to trust his statements to always be truthful. This paper sets out to illustrate that Mark Haddon gives an example of the significance of honesty and portrays how not telling the truth can severely damage a relationship, nevertheless, he also hints that sometimes the truth can only be discovered by not being entirely honest.

In order to show the importance of honesty in Christopher’s life, this paper firstly deals with his individual point of view and attitude, followed by the crucial role honesty plays in the main relationship Christopher maintains, the relationship with his father Ed Boone. Other than his father, there are further people close to him and people he gets to know in the course of the story. There is his mother, who knows him well and who knows how to treat him in order to not upset or hurt him. Furthermore, there is Siobhan, his teacher at school, who takes an important place in his life and in whom he trusts very much. Then, there are Christopher’s neighbours who know about his condition but rarely interact with him. And finally, there is the outside world, where no one knows about him having this condition, that is to say Asperger’s Syndrome. This paper, however, uses the example of the relationship between Christopher his father, and it aims to show to what extent not being honest can create a snowball effect of untruthfulness, but also how it contributes to get to know the truth.

The significance of honesty in Christopher’s world

Christopher lives in his own little world. He prefers to be on his own because he finds other people strange, and talking to people he does not know makes him feel uncomfortable. Also, he does not want to be touched, which is why not being exposed to strangers gives him safety. But Christopher likes animals, in particular dogs, because “[…] they are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.” (Haddon 4) Therefore, the reader is not surprised that Christopher’s best friend is an animal -- a pet rat. Furthermore, with this statement about dogs, the reader gets a first impression of how important honesty is to Christopher. For him, telling the truth is the normal case and he also assumes to always be told the truth. Lies are unreal and Christopher’s assertion “I find it hard to imagine things which did not happen to me” (Haddon 5) underlines this fact. To him, being honest is the only way, and to tell a lie is physically impossible. To him, being honest is logical. Honesty is also the basis for Christopher to feel safe.

A lie is when you say something happened which didn’t happen. But there is only ever one thing which happened at a particular time and a particular place. And there are an infinite number of things which didn’t happen at that time and that place. And if I think about something which didn’t happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn’t happen. (Haddon 24)

This goes so far that Christopher even considers novels to be lies: “[…] I don’t like proper novels, because they are lies about things which didn’t happen and they make me feel shaky and scared. And this is why everything I have written here is true.” (Haddon 25) Although Christopher is considered to be an unreliable narrator due to his condition, the reader expects the truth after this statement. Nonetheless, Christopher is unreliable not on purpose, but out of a certain naiveté when it comes to world around him.

However, there is a turning point to Christopher being fully honest. When he starts making enquiries to find out who killed his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, honesty gets a new dimension: it becomes more flexible. Determined to find out the truth about Wellington, Christopher starts talking to his neighbours. He continues his enquiries even when his father has told him not to. This is a big step for Christopher who says about himself that he does not tell lies (Haddon 24). At that point, even Christopher is not entirely honest anymore. Wanting to know the truth he keeps disobeying his father, who tells him to “stay out of other people’s business” (Haddon 49). But Christopher justifies his behaviour by defining his lack of obedience to be a white lie. “A white lie is not a lie at all. It is where you tell the truth but you do not tell all of the truth. […] And I said a white lie because I knew that father didn’t want me to be a detective.” (62) To Christopher, it is important to learn what has happened to Wellington and therefore he redefines the meaning of honesty. With the white-lie justification, Christopher continues the enquiries regarding Wellington’s death. But instead of finding his murderer, Christopher has to face a much more hurtful fact. He finds out that important information has been withheld from him, that his father has lied to him. This fact causes Christopher’s world to crash, making him break out of his bubble. His comfort zone is not safe anymore, and he has to move out of his isolation towards independence.

Honesty as the basis for trust in Christopher’s relationship with his father

Christopher and his father do not conceal the truth from each other. At least this is what the reader takes from the first chapters of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Seeing the events from Christopher’s point of view, there is no doubt that his story should not be true. Given his condition, the reader goes with the story told by Christopher, although it is in a rather emotionless way. He seems to unconditionally trust his father, which is an important basis for their relationship. Christopher is aware that his father loves him, and despite Christopher not liking to be touched, they figured out a way for his father to show his love. A way even Christopher is comfortable with, as he describes for the reader in the novel.

He held up his right hand and spread his fingers out in a fan. I held up my left hand and spread my fingers out in a fan and we made our fingers and thumbs touch each other. We do this because sometimes Father wants to give me a hug, but I do not like hugging people, so we do this instead, and it means that he loves me. (Haddon 21)

This gesture is only possible on the basis of trust requiring honesty. Christopher’s confidence in his father is strong and he trusts him until he discovers that Ed Boone has lied to him about his mother. From the very moment Christopher finds hidden letters in his father’s bedroom, addressed to him, and sent by his mother, his confidence in his father is shaken. Telling lies about his mother, telling Christopher that she was dead instead of telling him that she was gone to live with another man, constitutes a severe breach of trust. “I thought she was dead, but she was still alive. And Father lied to me. And also he said he killed Wellington”. (Haddon 166) For Christopher, this is the most painful experience and he cannot trust his father anymore. A devastated Ed Boone tries to explain, tries to fix things by telling Christopher how lying to him was for his own good, and promising that from this point on he will tell only the truth.

[…] I want you to know that you can trust me. And … OK, maybe I don’t tell the truth all the time. […] It’s bloody hard telling the truth all the time. Sometimes it is impossible. And I want you to know that I’m trying, I really am. […] … 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. . (Haddon 150)

But all trust is gone, and what is more, Christopher is even afraid of his father, because Ed Boone has also killed Wellington. “That meant he could murder me, because I couldn’t trust him, even though he had said, ‘Trust me,’ because he had told a lie about a big thing.” (Haddon 152 – 153) The lies not only lead to losing confidence, but the loss of trust turns into fear.

When he sets out to go and live with his mother, Christopher’s relationship with his father is damaged. Christopher is afraid of his father, and there is no possibility for him to go to a place nearby. The only way for him to feel safe is, at that point, to go and live with his mother. However, the fear of his father makes him overcome his other fears: he travels to London on his own. Turning back is no option.

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 is wasn’t my home any more, my home was 451c Chapter Road, London NW2 5NG [his mother’s address, N.B.] and it scared me, having a wrong thought like I wish I was back at home again […]. (Haddon 217)

And he manages to arrive at his mother’s flat in London. Together with his mother, and only because he trusts her and she is with him, he returns to his father’s house back home. But still, the relationship with his father is broken due to Christopher’s lack of trust. Ed Boone is determined to regain Christopher’s trust, and he gets his son to listen to him to make things right:

“Christopher, look… Things can’t go on like this. I don’t know about you, but this … this just hurts too much. Your being in the house but refusing to talk to me… You have to learn to trust me… And I don’t care how long it takes… If it’s a minute one day and two minutes the next and three minutes the next and it takes years I don’t care. Because this is important. This is more important than anything else.”

To show how much he cares, Ed Boone also gives his son a dog to look after as replacement for his pet rat that has died, and of course, also for Wellington. Letting him take care of a puppy is some kind of proof for Christopher that his father means what he says and that he means well. It has taken time and a great deal of courage for Christopher to be able to start trusting his father again. And it is through being honest with each other that they will make their relationship work again.


Excerpt out of 8 pages


The Significance of Honesty. Portrayed in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon
University of Salzburg  (Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
Understanding Fiction
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Mark Haddon, Honensty, Asperger, The curious incident of a dog in the night-time
Quote paper
Elisabeth Lyons (Author), 2016, The Significance of Honesty. Portrayed in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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