Honesty and trust

A photo of Christopher with Siobhan and his mum in the background.
Credit: BRINKOFF/MÖGENBERG
Christopher trusts his teacher, and his mother is honest about her mistakes (Gielgud theatre production recent UK tour)

Honesty and trust is a key theme in The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time. Each of the main characters has issues of trust and honesty with each other. Ed lies to Christopher about his mother, Christopher lies to Ed about stopping his investigation. When Christopher discovers the truth about his mother and Wellington, he feels he can no longer trust his father. Christopher's mother, Judy is more honest with her feelings towards Christopher but the audience might initially find it hard to trust her after she walked out on the family.

As well as these issues within his family, Christopher maintains a mistrust of strangers but trusts the advice of his teacher, Siobhan. She has worked with him for a long time and taught him strategies to cope with challenges. During the course of the play, Christopher also learns that he can trust himself to achieve his goals.

How is the theme of honesty and trust shown in the play?

In The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, Stephens explores the theme of honesty and trust through:

  • the lies of Christopher's father, Ed
  • the honesty of Christopher's mother, Judy
  • the trust issues Christopher has with other characters
How does Stephens show this?EvidenceAnalysis
Ed's liesEd tries to keep the truth about Judy leaving home from Christopher."Ed: Christopher, I'm sorry your mother's died. She's had a heart attack. It wasn't expected. Christopher: What kind of heart attack? Ed: I don't know what kind of heart attack. Now isn't the moment Christopher to be asking questions like that."This is a shocking lie for a father to tell their son. Ed avoids telling the truth so he doesn't have to confront the reality of his marriage breaking down. Ed realises the error of his ways when the truth comes out later and realises that it is important to be honest with people from the outset because it can only be more hurtful if you are not.
Judy's honestyJudy is honest in her letters to Christopher about her feelings and her own failings. In this sense she is braver than Ed."And I remember that night I just cried and cried and cried and your father was really nice about it at first and he made you supper and put you to bed and he said these things happen and it would be OK. But I said I couldn’t take it anymore and eventually he got really cross."It is very brave for Judy to be this honest. She is not afraid of painting Ed in a positive light even if it makes herself look worse. It is clear that she really struggled with some of Christopher's more unusual behaviours but her openness and honesty earns her the respect of the audience.
Christopher's trust issuesChristopher separates the people he meets into two categories - friends and strangers. He trusts friends but not strangers. This means he reacts in a way the audience might consider 'different' when talking to people he doesn't know, like Mrs Alexander for example."I began to get nervous because I didn't know her well enough to know whether she was telling the truth about getting orange squash and Battenberg cake. And I thought she might be ringing the police and then I'll get into much more serious trouble because of the caution. So I walked away."Christopher walks away from a conversation because he doesn't know the person very well. This uncertainty can make Christopher very nervous, he struggles to trust people that he doesn't know as friends. He learns later in the play, much to his distress, that he sometimes can't trust people that he knows very well, like his father.

Analysing the evidence

Question

How does a lack of honesty and truth in the Boone family affect Christopher?

  • Ed's lack of honesty with Christopher means that Christopher believes his mother has died from a heart attack.
  • When Christopher discovers the truth about his mother his world is turned upside down and he becomes very distressed.
  • Judy's honesty in her letters means that Christopher feels that he can find her and live with her.
  • When Ed realises the importance of telling the truth he can begin to rebuild his relationship with Christopher.

Stephens shows how a lack of honesty and truth can create problems and barriers between family members. He also shows how being honest can help heal these problems.