Vera Claythorne is a former governess who is working as a “games mistress at a third-class school” when the novel begins. She takes a summer job on Indian Island, believing that she has been hired to serve as a secretary to a Mrs. Una Owen. Like the other characters, Vera has a dark secret. At her last job, she was governess to a spoiled little rich boy named Cyril Hamilton. She let Cyril drown so that his relative, Hugo, would inherit his money and then be rich enough to marry her. An inquest cleared her of any wrongdoing, but Hugo, certain that Vera had let Cyril die, would have nothing more to do with her. Throughout the novel, Vera’s guilty memories of her crime plague her. She often thinks of Hugo and feels as if he is watching her.
In some ways, Vera is one of the most intelligent and capable characters in the novel, which explains why she is one of the last people left standing. She outwits the resourceful Philip Lombard, who thinks she is a murderer, by stealing his gun and then summoning up the courage to shoot him when he leaps at her. Despite her strength, however, Vera is not emotionally stable. In addition to her recurrent bouts of guilt over Cyril’s death, she is strongly affected by the almost supernatural nature of the events on the island and prone to attacks of nervous hysteria. More than anyone else, she fixates on the “Ten Little Indians” poem that lends an air of eerie inevitability to the murders. The confluence of these factors—her guilt, her tendency toward hysteria, and her fascination with the nursery rhyme—enables Wargrave to create a suggestive environment complete with a noose and the smell of the sea, which inspires Vera to hang herself and fulfill the last line of the poem.
More characters from And Then There Were None
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