Family

A photo of Christopher with his father.
Credit: BRINKOFF/MÖGENBERG
Christopher and his father often disagree (Gielgud theatre production recent UK tour).

The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night-Time can be considered a family drama. The idea of family and what it means is explored throughout the play. Christopher comes from a family that has fallen apart. He has to deal with the impact this has on his life and the lives of his mother and father. The idea of what makes a parent is further explored through Ed and Judy. Ed can be bad tempered but is there for Christopher when it matters most. Judy leaves home but that doesn't mean she doesn't love her son. Christopher lives with his father and then his mother and Mr Shears, and the challenges of living with other people are explored through these situations.

The play explores the importance of family, its impact and its nature.

How is the theme of family shown in the play?

In The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Stephens explores the theme of family through:

  • the breakdown of Christopher's family life and the impact that has on each family member
  • what living with other people can be like
  • the nature of being a parent
How does Stephens show this?EvidenceAnalysis
Christopher's motherThrough her letters to Christopher we get a sense of how she feels about the breakdown of the family."I know you are probably still angry with me. I’m sorry Christopher. But I still love you. I hope you don't stay angry with me for ever."Judy clearly fears for the relationship she has with Christopher. As she is only able to communicate with him through letters, she does not know if Christopher forgives her for leaving. She assumes that he is still angry with her.
Christopher's fatherEd can lose his temper, especially when Christopher is looking into the past, which he finds very painful."Not to mention Mr Shears' name in the house. And not to go asking Mrs Shears, or anyone about who killed that bloody dog. And not to go trespassing on other people's gardens. And to stop this bloody ridiculous detective game."Christopher repeats Ed's words back to him. The list of commands and frequent use of swear words show how agitated Ed has been with Christopher. The reason he finds this so hard is because he doesn't want Christopher uncovering his painful past.
Living with other peopleEd can become weary of living with Christopher. Instead of losing his temper he can sound as if he is tired of him."Could you please, just, give it a bit of a break, mate. Please."Ed repeats 'please' showing that he is being as polite as he can despite clearly being very tired of Christopher's non-stop chatter.
Being a parentEd and Judy are very different types of parent. They are both 'good' and 'bad' at it at different points of the play. Through their actions, Stephens explores what it means to be a parent."I love you very much Christopher. Don't ever forget that. I know I lose my rag occasionally. And I know I shouldn’t. But I only do it because I worry about you"Ed uses simple language to explain why he loses his temper and to make it clear to Christopher how much he loves him. Ed realises that he isn't always a perfect parent but even his mistakes come from the heart. Contrast this to Judy who leaves when parenting Christopher becomes too much of a challenge.

Analysing the evidence

Question

How does Stephens explore the theme of family in The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time?

  • Judy is upset at the thought of losing the family connection she has with Christopher because she has left their home.
  • Ed becomes upset when Christopher could potentially uncover the truth about how the family fell apart.
  • Stephens shows that living with family members can be difficult at times.
  • Stephens also shows how important family is to Ed when he speaks to Christopher after they have fallen out.

Stephens shows that family is very important, even though being part of one can have its difficulties.