The Perfect Family What is a perfect family? In the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, the family of a 15 yearold boy is broken and disproportionate. He is ignorant as to what goes on in his family because family related issues are kept hidden from him. Similarly, in Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the families that are discussed in the play deal with multiple issues as well. In both texts, family is a vital theme but is portrayed in a negative way.
Haddon and Shakespeare both emphasize and exaggerate the flaws that occur in family relationships to resemble the reality that it is “normal” to have a “not normal” family. These defects are shown through the mistrust between family members, broken relationships and the consequences that are brought up from wrongful acts towards one another. Trust is an important element in any type of relationship in order to maintain its strength and longevity. It is especially upsetting and hurtful to not be able to trust those who you put the most trust in- your family members.
Christopher from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was dramatically impacted to find out that his father had lied to him about two important matters, the death of his mom and the death of Wellington, Mrs. Shears’ dog. When Christopher found out through hidden letters that his mom whom he thought was dead for two years, was actually alive, he lost his trust for his dad. He decided to leave and said, “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 had had told a lie about a big thing” (Haddon, 122).
Christopher reacted to this loss of trust by running away. Polonius from Hamlet on the other hand, initially didn’t trust his son Laertes, and began to take action before Laertes even did anything wrong. By assuming the worst from him going off to France alone, Polonius sends Reynaldo to spy on him and instructs him to, “(… ) put on him/What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank/ But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips/ As are companions noted and most known/To youth and liberty” (Shakespeare, 59).
Although the type of mistrust in both texts differ, the mistrust between these family members lead to a fragile relationship. The idea that a family cannot be broken up is questioned when reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Hamlet. The fragility of each family is tested when someone closely related to them comes into the picture. Christopher learns from an elderly neighbour, Mrs. Alexander that the reason for the break-up of his parents was caused by another man. Shockingly, the man is Mr. Shears, the ex-husband of Mrs. Shears, who lives across from Christopher.
Mrs. Alexander broke the news to him on a walk to the park by telling him, “Your mother, before she died, was very good friends with Mr. Shears. (… )I mean that they were very good friends. Very, very good friends” (Haddon, 60). This substantiates the point that even marriages that seem to be impeccable, are capable of breaking up. Quickly after the death of her husband, Hamlet’s mother Gertrude from Hamlet remarries Claudius, her brother-in-law. Angered, Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus that, “She married; O most wicked speed, to post/With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! (Shakespeare, 23).
Later Hamlet confronts his mother and asks how she could marry Claudius who is incomparable to King Hamlet. Haddon and Shakespeare show that families can be as easily broken up as they were brought together. The acknowledgement of a wrongful act is usually followed by repentance or asking of forgiveness. Christopher’s dad from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was well aware of his actions, and confessed what he did wrong then apologized. He said, “I’m sorry, Christopher. I promise you, I never meant for it to turn out like this” (Haddon, 122).
Unfortunately for him, Christopher was unable to accept such behavior and decided to run away. Claudius from Hamlet repents his sins and acknowledges what he’s done by saying, “O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven. / It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t/ A brother’s murder” (Shakespeare, 141). His prayer stops him for being murdered by Hamlet in that moment, but doesn’t stop him from dying later on in the play. Both texts show that the mistreatment of family members result in severe consequences and don’t go unpunished. Family members are the people you spend the most time with, trust and love.
In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime and Hamlet, the idealistic traits of a perfect family are tested. Although the family issues in reality may not be as dramatic or severe as those in both texts, they reflect the fact that families cannot be perfect no matter how much they seem to be. Lack of trust, separation and mistreatment between family members are magnified in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Hamlet but are used to represent an image of a real family. Even the “perfect family” faces obstacles like any other family does, so what is a perfect family? It doesn’t exist.