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Discussion Questions

1. What were your impressions of Christopher's way of telling a story when you first began the book? How did it make you feel?

2. How did the story help you understand people with autism differently?

3. Talk about the relationship between Christopher and his father. Do you think his father does a good job of relating to his son?

4. Were you sympathetic to his father's actions, did you think they were unforgivable, or a combination of both? Explain your perspective.

5. Talk about Christopher's relationship with his mother. Do the letters he finds help explain her actions for you? Do they explain her actions for him?

6. Is this a book about forgiveness or acceptance? Is it easier for you to forgive or accept his father or his mother?

7. Why do you think it is easier for Christopher to trust his mother than his father? What does Christopher's reaction to his parents' actions reveal about Christopher's approach to relationships? How would your reactions be different?

7. What did the illustrations add to the story?

8. How did you feel about Christopher's critical thinking process? What did it reveal about your own?

9. Was the novel believable? Please explain.

10. Were you satisfied with the ending?

Line Items

1. On pages 45–48, Christopher describes his "Behavioral Problems" and the effect they had on his parents and their marriage. How do you feel about the way he relates this information?

2. Given Christopher's aversion to being touched, how does he experience his parents' love for him? Can he understand the emotion only as a fact, because they tell him they love him? What evidence in the novel demonstrates that he experiences emotional attachments?

3. One important aspect of the novel is the inclusion of maps and diagrams as descriptors. Are these effective in showing the reader the world through Christopher's eyes?

4. Love and desire can often be through-lines in works of fiction. How does Christopher's character development shape those subjects in The Curious Incident? Further, does his character development change the way you view your social interaction? How different would the book have been if Haddon had chosen the lens of Mrs. Alexander or Siobhan to tell the story?

5. Christopher likes the idea of a world with no people in it [p. 2]; he contemplates the end of the world when the universe collapses [pp. 10–11]; he dreams of being an astronaut, alone in space [pp. 50–51], and thinks it would be nice if a virus carried off everyone and the only people left would be "special people like me" [pp. 198–200]. What do these passages say about his relationship to others? What is striking about the way he describes these scenarios?

6. "I find people confusing," Christopher says on page 14, "...people do a lot of talking without using any words." Scientists say that nearly 80% of communication is body language. The other reason Christopher finds people confusing is because, "people often talk using metaphors." [p. 15]. Consider the conversations you have had in the past 24 hours and imagine if there had been no body language and no metaphorical references. How much miscommunication might have happened?

7. On pages 67–69, Christopher goes into the garden and contemplates the importance of description in the book he is writing. His teacher Siobhan told him, "the idea of a book was to describe things using words so that people could read them and make a picture in their own head" [p. 67]. What is the effect of reading Christopher's extended description, which begins, "I decided to do a description of the garden" and ends with, "Then I went inside and fed Toby"? How does this passage relate to a quote Christopher likes from The Hound of the Baskervilles: "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by chance ever observes" [p. 73]?

8. According to neurologist Oliver Sacks, Hans Asperger, the doctor whose name is associated with the kind of autism that Christopher seems to have, notes that some people with autism have "a sort of intelligence scarcely touched by tradition and culture --- unconventional, unorthodox, strangely pure and original, akin to the intelligence of true creativity" [An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks, NY: Vintage Books, 1995, pp. 252–53]. What does the novel's intensive look at Christopher's fascinating and often profound mental life suggest about how people who do not have autism view those who do?

9. Based on the progression of the novel and Christopher's growth throughout, what do you anticipate for his future?

10. Christopher experiences the world quantitatively and logically. On page 61, Mr. Jeavons tells Christopher that he likes math because it's safe because "there is always a straightforward answer at the end." Christopher's explanation of the Monty Hall problem gives the reader more insight into why he likes math. Does Mr. Jeavons underestimate the complexity of Christopher's mind and his responses to intellectual stimulation? Does Siobhan understand Christopher better than Mr. Jeavons?

11. Think about what Christopher says about metaphors and lies and their relationship to novels [pp. 14–20]. What about lying is difficult for him to understand? In his antipathy to lies, Christopher decides not to write a novel, but a book in which "everything I have written . . . is true" [p. 20]. Discuss the dichotomy between the approach that minor characters take to truth and lies in contrast to how truth and lies impact Christopher?

12. As a reader, did you find any scenes in the novel amusing? While being amused did you also experience other emotions?

13. Christopher's conversations with Siobhan are possibly his most meaningful communications with another person. What are these conversations like, and how do they compare to his conversations with his father and his mother or the neighbors he encounters while detecting?

14. One of the primary markers of someone with autism is the difficulty in interpreting social cues, which is illustrated in the scene where Christopher has to guess what his mother might think would be in the Smarties tube [pp. 115–16]. When does this deficit become most clear in the novel? What is your reaction?

15. Through Christopher's description of his parents, we see that they have an emotionally charged relationship. Where does Christopher, through his actions in the novel, fit in their world? Do you have the impression that they will make room for him, moving forward?

16. On pages 83–84, Christopher explains why he doesn't like yellow and brown, and admits that such decisions are, in part, a way to simplify the world and make choices easier. What about simplicity makes him feel safe? Which aspects of life does he find unbearably complicated or stressful and how does he handle them?

17. Family dynamics are a challenge for every child coming of age. What is the basis for Christopher's reaction to reading his mother's letters? Does Christopher comprehend her apology and her attempt to explain herself [pp. 106–10]? Does he have strong feelings about the loss of his mother? Which of his parents is better suited to taking care of him?

18. Christopher's father confesses to killing Wellington in a moment of rage at Mrs. Shears [pp. 121–22], and swears to Christopher that he won't lie to him ever again. Christopher thinks, "I had to get out of the house. Father had murdered 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" [p. 122]. Why is Christopher's world shattered by this realization? Is it likely that he will ever learn to trust his father again?

19. How much empathy does the reader come to feel for Christopher? How much understanding does he have of his own emotions? What is the effect, for instance, of the scenes in which Christopher's mother doesn't act to make sure he can take his A-levels? Do these scenes show how little his mother understands Christopher's deepest needs?

20. Christopher's journey to London underscores the difficulty he has being on his own, and the real disadvantages of his condition in terms of being in the world. What is most frightening, disturbing, or moving about this extended section of the novel [pp. 169–98]?

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