And Then There Were None
Agatha Christie first published her mystery novel, “And Then There Were None” in 1939. The novel inspired a mini-series and has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. It is Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel and also the world’s best-selling mystery.
The story begins with ten strangers who receive invitations to visit Soldier Island, a secluded and mysterious mansion located off the coast of Devon, England. Different hosts signed the invitations, and the prospect of a weekend getaway intrigues the guests.
Upon arriving at the island, two servants, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, who seem uneasy and hesitant about their employers welcome the guests. The ten guests are an eclectic mix of individuals, each with their own secrets and past transgressions.
After dinner on the first night, a mysterious recorded voice accuses each guest of committing a murder in the past, crimes that have gone unpunished by the law. Shocked and bewildered, the guests try to make sense of the situation. And they soon realize that they are trapped on the island with no way to contact the outside world.
Then as the weekend progresses, the guests become increasingly paranoid and suspicious of each other. Each wondering who the real host of the party is and if one of them is the killer. And so they start to suspect that the deaths on the island are a form of vigilante justice, where each person is being punished for their crimes.
Related: Literary Fiction
One by one, the guests meet untimely deaths, following the pattern of the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Soldiers” (also known as “Ten Little Indians”). With each death, a figurine representing one of the ten little soldiers on the dining table disappears. But as the body count rises, the survivors grow more terrified, realizing that the murderer must be one of them.
Amidst the growing fear and desperation, the remaining guests try to uncover the identity of the killer and the motive behind the murders. Secrets are revealed and tensions rise. Now they must confront the darkness of their pasts and face the grim possibility that the murderer may be among them.
In a gripping plot twist, the true identity of the killer is unveiled.
Literary Analysis of And Then There Were None
Each of these characters carries their secrets and regrets to Soldier Island, creating a compelling and suspenseful atmosphere. And in the island their pasts and the prospect of their own mortality confronts them. As the story unfolds, readers become engrossed in the unraveling of each character’s background and psychological complexities. Which leads to a shocking and unexpected conclusion that solidifies the novel as a classic masterpiece in the mystery genre.
Let’s delve into the main characters of “And Then There Were None” and analyze their roles and personalities:
Justice Lawrence Wargrave: Justice Wargrave is a retired judge with a cold and calculating demeanor. He is invited to the island under the pretense of joining a weekend party. Throughout the story, Wargrave emerges as a strong, commanding figure, guiding the group and analyzing the evidence surrounding the murders. He displays a keen sense of justice and a desire for perfection, which makes him a compelling character.
Vera Claythorne: Vera Claythorne is a former governess who appears dignified and capable. She is lured to Soldier Island by a job opportunity. Her past haunts Vera, particularly her involvement in the death of a young boy named Cyril while she was working as a governess. As the events on the island unfold, Vera becomes increasingly distressed and tormented by her guilt, making her one of the most psychologically complex characters in the story.
Philip Lombard: Philip Lombard is a soldier of fortune, invited to the island for security detail. He is a confident and practical man. But he also has a shady past involving an incident in Africa where he was involved in leaving a group of natives to die. Lombard’s rugged nature and resourcefulness make him an interesting character, and his actions are often influenced by his survival instincts.
Related: Fictional Characters
Dr. Edward Armstrong: Dr. Armstrong is a successful physician invited to the island under the pretext of treating the host’s wife. He is a nervous and uncertain man, often doubting his own abilities. Dr. Armstrong’s past involves a patient’s death during surgery due to his alcoholism, leading to feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
Emily Brent: Emily Brent is a highly religious and morally strict woman who receives an invitation to Soldier Island from an old acquaintance. She is cold and judgmental, and has a firm belief in divine retribution for sinful behavior. Emily’s past involves her involvement in a young servant girl’s suicide, and her lack of remorse for this action makes her a polarizing and intriguing character.
General John Macarthur: General Macarthur is a retired soldier invited to the island for a reunion with old friends. His past involvement in the death of a fellow officer, Arthur Richmonde, haunts him. Macarthur’s guilt and remorse over this incident affect his behavior and emotional stability throughout the story.
William Blore: William Blore is a former police inspector hired as a private investigator to watch over the guests. He is arrogant and cunning. And his past involves perjury in a criminal case, leading to the wrongful conviction of a suspect. Blore’s experience as a detective makes him an astute observer of human behavior. But it also makes him a target of suspicion among the other guests.
Related: The Handmaid’s Tale
Thomas and Ethel Rogers: Thomas and Ethel Rogers are the butler and housekeeper on the island. Initially they are servile and timid. But as the story unfolds, it becomes evident that guilt related the death of their previous employer, Jennifer Brady burdens them. The Rogers’ vulnerability and unease add to the atmosphere of dread on the island.
Anthony Marston: Anthony Marston is a rich and carefree playboy who arrives on the island seemingly carefree and oblivious to the dark events unfolding. He comes accross as irresponsible and reckless. Marston’s past involves a hit-and-run accident, where he was responsible for killing two children, but he shows little remorse for his actions.
Mr. Ulick Norman Owen: Mr. Owen, the mysterious host of the party, is the absent eleventh guest. However, as the story progresses, the guests begin to realize that there is no Mr. Owen, and they are the only occupants of the island. The name “U.N. Owen” is a play on “unknown,” signifying that the guests’ host remains a hidden and enigmatic figure.
List of Tropes Used
Agatha Christie masterfully employed various tropes, tone, writing style, and literary devices in “And Then There Were None.” Let’s explore them:
- Closed Circle: The isolated island setting creates a closed-circle trope, where the characters are confined to a limited space, unable to escape or seek help from the outside world.
- Mysterious Invitation: The invitations sent to the guests, signed by different hosts, set the stage for the mystery, inviting them to an unknown destination with unclear intentions.
- Whodunit: The entire plot revolves around a classic “whodunit” trope, where the characters and readers alike are trying to unravel the identity of the killer among them.
- Vigilante Execution: The murders on the island appear to be acts of vigilante justice. The victims are being punished for their past crimes without any involvement from the legal system.
- False Identity: The mysterious host adopts the name “U.N. Owen” (unknown) to remain hidden and create confusion among the guests.
Agatha Christie’s tone in “And Then There Were None” is atmospheric, ominous, and suspenseful. She sets a dark and foreboding mood from the very beginning, with the isolated and eerie island setting contributing to the growing sense of dread. As the story progresses, the tone intensifies, keeping readers on the edge of their seats, uncertain of what will happen next.
Atmospheric and Ominous:
“The island was silent. Only the sea murmured on remorselessly. The sky was without a break. No clouds. In the sky was a perfect wheel of stars.”– Agatha Christie, “And Then There Were None”
Growing Sense of Dread:
“The unhappiness of the future, the pressing evils of the future, weighed on them—on these seven men and three women. They exchanged uneasy glances.”– Agatha Christie, “And Then There Were None”
Christie uses third-person limited point of view. She tells the story from the perspective of a narrator not appearing in the novel and gives the reader insight into a single character’s thoughts. Furthermore, her writing style is clear and concise, her narrative focuses on plot and characterization. Christie’s prose is engaging and straightforward, allowing readers to easily follow the complex plot and the characters’ inner turmoil. Her descriptions are vivid enough to create a vivid mental image of the settings and characters, but not overly detailed to maintain a swift pace.
Clear and Concise Prose:
“The night was clear and frosty. There was a faint mist. Beyond the cliffs the sea was leaden gray. The wash of the waves was monotonous.”– Agatha Christie, “And Then There Were None”
“Mr. Blore went into the dining-room and put the clock back. He had gained ten minutes. He had advanced it two hours, but he had gained ten minutes. He smiled at himself. He was enjoying this.”– Agatha Christie, “And Then There Were None”
- Foreshadowing: Christie skillfully employs foreshadowing to hint at the impending doom and the fates of the characters. For example, the presence of the “Ten Little Soldiers” nursery rhyme, both in the mansion and the guests’ rooms, acts as a chilling foreshadowing of the deaths to come.
- Irony: Throughout the novel, Christie uses situational irony to build suspense and surprise readers. The characters’ ironic fate and their eventual realization of the true identity of their host add depth and complexity to the story.
- “Lombard said: ‘That’ll hold you!’ It did hold him. But not in the way he had meant.”
- Symbolism: The ten little soldier figurines, representing the guests, symbolize their inevitable doom. As each figurine disappears with every murder, it becomes a powerful symbol of death and the dwindling hope for survival.
- “Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.”
- Misdirection: Christie artfully employs misdirection and red herrings to keep readers guessing about the true identity of the killer. This clever use of misdirection adds layers of intrigue and suspense to the story.
- “They exchanged smiles. They were conspirators.”
Finally, I should like to add that Christie described “And Then There Were None” as the most difficult of her books to write. The novel remains a timeless classic in the mystery genre, admired for its ingenious plot twists and psychological depth.