"And Then There Were None" By Agatha Christie

2113 words - 9 pages

"Ten little Indians going out to dine; One went and choked his little self and then there were nine. Nine little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight. Eight little Indian boys traveling to Devon; One got left behind and then there were seven. Seven little Indian boys gathering up sticks; One chopped himself in half and then there were six. Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five. Five little Indian boys going in for law; One got in chancery and then there were four.Four little Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three. Three little Indian boys walking to the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two. Two little Indians playing with a gun; One shot the other and then there was one. One little Indian boy left all alone; He went and hung himself and then there were none." Ten Indian figures made of china seem harmless right? Would they determine your fate? Or would you not even notice they are there? What if they slowly disappeared and you had no thought of as why. How would you look at life now?What is theme? Theme is merely the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. There are many themes that provide detail to the story starting with the Administration of Justice. Most murder mysteries examine justice--its violation, through the act of murder, and its restoration, through the work of a detective who solves the crime and ensures that the murderer pays for his or her deed. "And Then There Were None" examines justice, but it bends the formula by making the victims of murder people who committed murder themselves. Thus, the killings on Indian Island are arguably acts of justice. Judge Wargrave does the work of detective and murderer by picking out those who are guilty and punishing them. Whether we accept the justice of the events on Indian Island depends on both whether we accept Wargrave's belief that all the murder victims deserve their deaths and whether we accept that Wargrave has the moral authority to pronounce and carry out the sentences. At least some of the murders are unjust if we do not consider all of Wargrave's victims murderers . Christie explores the line that divides those who act unjustly from those who seek to restore justice. She suggests that unjust behavior does not necessarily make someone bad and enforcing justice does not necessarily make someone good . Wargrave's victims, although they have violated the rules of moral behavior in the past, are, for the most part, far more likable and decent human beings than Wargrave. Although Wargrave serves justice in a technical sense, he is a cruel and unsympathetic man, and likely insane. The next theme would be the effects of guilt on one's conscience. By creating a story in which every character has committed a crime, Christie explores different human responses to the burden of a guilty conscience. Beginning with the first moments after the recorded voice reveals the guests' crimes, each character takes a different approach to dealing with his or her guilt. While the ones who do not own up to their crimes feel the guiltiest, no such correlation exists between levels of guilt and likelihood of survival. Conscience has no bearing on who lives the longest, as is illustrated by the contrast between the last two characters left alive, Lombard and Vera. Lombard feels no guilt, and the air of doom that enshrouds the island doesn't affect him. Vera, on the other hand, is so guilt-ridden that she ends her life by succumbing to the seemingly inevitable conclusion of the "Ten Little Indians" poem and the aura of almost supernatural vengeance that pervades the novel. Last but certainly not least is the theme of danger of reliance on class distinctions. This implies that in And Then There Were None takes place in 1930s Britain, a society stratified into strict social classes. These distinctions play a subtle but important role in the novel. As the situation on the island becomes more and more desperate, social hierarchies continue to dictate behavior, and their persistence ultimately makes it harder for some characters to survive. Rogers continues to perform his butler's duties even after it becomes clear that a murderer is on the loose, and even after the murderer has killed his wife. Because it is expected of a man of his social class, Rogers washes up after people, remains downstairs to clean up after the others have gone to bed, and rises early in the morning to chop firewood. The separation from the group that his work necessitates makes it easy for the murderer to kill him. Additionally, the class-bound mentality of Dr. Armstrong proves disastrous for himself and others, as he refuses to believe that a respectable professional man like Wargrave could be the killer.As they discuss what to do, Tony Marston chokes on poisoned whiskey and dies. Frightened, the party retreats to bed, where almost everyone is plagued by guilt and memories of their crimes. Vera Claythorne notices the similarity between the death of Marston and the first verse of a nursery rhyme, "Ten Little Indians," that hangs in each bedroom. The next morning the guests find that Mrs. Rogers apparently died in her sleep. The guests hope to leave that morning, but the boat that regularly delivers supplies to the island does not show up. Blore, Lombard, and Armstrong decide that the deaths must have been murders and determine to scour the island in search of the mysterious Mr. Owen. They find no one, however. Meanwhile, the oldest guest, General Macarthur, feels sure he is going to die and goes to look out at the ocean. Before lunch, Dr. Armstrong finds the general dead of a blow to the head. The remaining guests meet to discuss their situation. They decide that one of them must be the killer. Many make vague accusations, but Judge Wargrave reminds them that the existing evidence suggests any of them could be the killer. Afternoon and dinner pass restlessly, and everyone goes to bed, locking his or her door before doing so. The next morning, they find that Rogers has been killed while chopping wood in preparation for breakfast. At this point, the guests feel sure the murders are being carried out according to the dictates of the nursery rhyme. Also, they realize that the dining-room table initially featured ten Indian figures, but with each death one of the figures disappears. After breakfast, Emily Brent feels slightly giddy, and she remains alone at the table for a while. She is soon found dead, her neck having been injected with poison. At this point, Wargrave initiates an organized search of everyone's belongings, and anything that could be used as a weapon is locked away. The remaining guests sit together, passing time and casting suspicious looks at each other. Finally, Vera goes to take a bath, but she is startled by a piece of seaweed hanging from her ceiling and cries out. Blore, Lombard, and Armstrong run to help her, only to return downstairs to find Wargrave draped in a curtain that resembles courtroom robes and bearing a red mark on his forehead. Armstrong examines the body and reports that Wargrave has been shot in the head. That night, Blore hears footsteps in the hall; upon checking, he finds that Armstrong is not in his room. Blore and Lombard search for Armstrong, but they cannot find him anywhere in the house or on the island. When they return from searching, they discover another Indian figure missing from the table. Vera, Lombard, and Blore go outside, resolving to stay in the safety of the open land. Blore decides to go back into the house to get food. The other two hear a crash, and they find someone has pushed a statue out of a second-story window, killing Blore as he approached the house. Vera and Lombard retreat to the shore, where they find Armstrong's drowned body on the beach. Convinced that Lombard is the killer, Vera steals Lombard's gun and shoots him. She returns to her bedroom to rest, happy to have survived. But upon finding a noose waiting for her in her room, she feels a strange compulsion to enact the last line of the nursery rhyme, and hangs herself. The mystery baffles the police until a manuscript in a bottle is found. The late Judge Wargrave wrote the manuscript explaining that he planned the murders because he wanted to punish those whose crimes are not punishable under law. Wargrave frankly admits to his own lust for blood and pleasure in seeing the guilty punished. When a doctor told Wargrave he was dying, he decided to die in a blaze, instead of letting his life trickle away. He discusses how he chose his victims and how he did away with Marston, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, Macarthur, and Emily Brent. Wargrave then describes how he tricked Dr. Armstrong into helping him fake his own death, promising to meet the doctor by the cliffs to discuss a plan. When Armstrong arrived, Wargrave pushed him over the edge into the sea, then returned to the house and pretended to be dead. His ruse enabled him to dispose of the rest of the guests without drawing their suspicion. Once Vera hanged herself on a noose that he prepared for her, Wargrave planned to shoot himself in such a way that his body would fall onto the bed as if it had been laid there. Thus, he hoped, the police would find ten dead bodies on an empty island.Judge Wargrave. A recently retired judge, Wargrave is intelligent, cold, and commanding. During his years on the bench, he had a reputation as a "hanging judge"--a judge who persuaded juries to bring back guilty verdicts and sentenced many convicted criminals to death. Christie describes Wargrave as wizened and ugly, with a "frog-like face. . . tortoise-like neck," and "pale shrewd little eyes"; his ugliness makes his appearance more forbidding. Once the situation on Indian Island becomes clear and the guests realize that a murderer is hunting them, they look to Wargrave for leadership, and he obliges. He is the first to insist publicly that they are dealing with a homicidal maniac, and the first to acknowledge that the killer must be part of their group. When leading group meetings on the island, he often acts like a judge presiding over a court. Wargrave analyzes evidence, authorizes searches both of the island and of people's possessions, and takes charge of drugs and other potential weapons, ensuring that they are safely locked away. It is partially Wargrave's experience with criminal proceedings that makes the others go along with his leadership, but he also has a confidence-inspiring ability to project an air of cold reason in a time of crisis. In a standard detective story, Wargrave's behavior would make him the detective figure, using his experience with the criminal mind to unmask the killer. But as we learn at the close of the novel, when a local fisherman recovers his confession, Wargrave himself is the killer. He plans the entire enterprise, selects his ten victims, buys the island, and then pretends to be one of the group. Despite his identity as murderer, however, Wargrave is not entirely unlike the detective in a traditional mystery story. Since all of his victims are supposedly guilty of murder, Wargrave, like the detective, acts as an agent of justice, making sure that murderers are punished for their crimes. Nevertheless, in spite of his victims' obvious guilt and Wargrave's insistence that he would not let an innocent person suffer, we are unlikely to find him a sympathetic character. Far from being a disinterested agent of justice, Wargrave is a sadist, taking perverse pleasure in murder. As a boy, he killed insects for sport, and he brings the same zeal to his task on Indian Island. He never shows pity for his victims; instead, he regards them as pawns to move around and kill in order to create what he terms a "work of art"--his perfect killing spree.


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