And Then There Were None
Summary: Chapter IX
Mr. Owen could only come to the island in one way. It is perfectly clear. Mr. Owen is one of us.
Blore, Lombard, and Armstrong become argumentative. Blore suggests that Armstrong gave Mrs. Rogers an overdose of sleeping medication either by accident or on purpose. Lombard tells Blore not to be offensive, and Blore demands to know why Lombard carries a gun. Lombard explains that he was hired to do a job by Isaac Morris, who implied that he might find trouble of some sort on the island. The bell rings, announcing lunch. Everyone troops in for the midday meal except for Macarthur, whom Armstrong goes to fetch. Rogers serves a makeshift lunch of cold ham and tongue along with a few other items, anxiously expressing his hope that the food will satisfy the guests. People make small talk about the approaching storm and then hear the doctor returning at a run. He bursts into the dining room, and Vera immediately surmises aloud that Macarthur is dead. Armstrong confirms this fear, stating that Macarthur was killed by a blow to the head. Blore and Armstrong retrieve Macarthur’s body, and the storm breaks as they bear the corpse into the house and place it in Macarthur’s room. Vera and Rogers notice that only seven statues remain on the dining-room table.
Everyone except Rogers gathers in the drawing room, and Wargrave takes charge of the meeting. He says he has come to the conclusion that the murderer is one of the guests. The others, except for Vera, agree with this theory. He then asks if anyone can be cleared of suspicion. After some initial objections, including discussions of whether women and professional men can possibly be suspected of such crimes, it is agreed that they must proceed as if any of them could be the murderer. The guests then review their movements of the past two days to see if anyone’s actions made it logistically impossible that he or she committed all three murders. No one has a foolproof alibi. Wargrave warns everyone to be on his or her guard, and dismisses them as if adjourning a court.
Summary: Chapter X
Vera and Lombard talk in the living room. They agree that they do not suspect one another. Lombard remarks that Vera seems very levelheaded for a woman. He then tells her that he suspects Wargrave; perhaps, Lombard suggests, years of playing God as a judge have driven him mad and made him want to be both judge and executioner. Vera says she suspects Armstrong, because two deaths by poison sounds like a doctor’s handiwork. She suggests that he might have killed Macarthur when he went down to fetch him for lunch. She also points out that since Armstrong is the only member of the group with medical knowledge, he can say what he likes about the manner of death and no one can contradict him.
Rogers, polishing the silver, asks Blore if he has any suspicions. Blore says he suspects someone, but he will not say whom. Meanwhile, Wargrave and Armstrong talk. Wargrave strikes Armstrong as eager to hold on to his life. Armstrong worries that they will all be murdered in their beds, and Wargrave thinks to himself that Armstrong can think only in clichés and that he has a “thoroughly commonplace mind.” Wargrave then says that while he has no evidence that would stand up in a court of law, he thinks he knows the identity of the murderer.
Emily sits in her room, writing in her diary. She begins to feel groggy and writes in a shaky hand that the murderer is Beatrice Taylor (the pregnant maid she once employed who killed herself). She snaps to her senses and cannot believe she could have written such a thing. She thinks that she must be going mad.
Later that afternoon, everyone gathers in the drawing room. The normalcy of teatime makes them relax a bit. Rogers rushes in to announce that a bathroom curtain made of scarlet oilsilk has gone missing. No one knows what this absence means, but everyone feels nervous again. The guests eat a dinner consisting mostly of canned food. They retire to bed soon after eating, locking their doors behind them. Only Rogers remains downstairs. Before he goes to bed, he locks the dining-room door so that no one can remove any of the remaining Indian figures during the night.
Analysis: Chapters IX–X
The storm that breaks as the men carry Macarthur’s body inside symbolizes the increasing gravity of the situation on Indian Island. The guests can no longer deny that something terrible is afoot, and the windswept island begins to seem like a prison. Amid this turmoil, Wargrave takes charge, bringing the surviving characters together to confront the menace facing them all. His suggestion that the murderer is one of them forces the remaining guests to confront suspicions and convictions they are earlier unwilling to face. Here Wargrave plays the role of the conventional murder-mystery detective, gathering evidence, drawing conclusions, and making cryptic comments, such as his remark to Armstrong that the identity of the murderer is “clearly indicated” by the evidence. Indeed, most of Christie’s mysteries end with a scene much like the group discussion in Chapter IX, in which the detective gathers the suspects together, reviews the evidence, and announces the identity of the killer. The formula gets tweaked in And Then There Were None, with the climactic and orderly drawing-room scene coming halfway through the novel and the identity of the murderer remaining unknown.
Throughout the novel, Christie depicts the weaknesses of each character, weaknesses that eventually doom them. For instance, we earlier see how Vera, more than the others, is plagued by guilt over her crime. In the group discussion in Chapter IX, the weaknesses of Armstrong and Lombard become apparent. Armstrong declares that he is a “well-known professional man” and so should be exempt from suspicion. He is blinded, in other words, by ideas of class and respectability; he cannot imagine that any “professional” person could be a murderer. This attitude makes him suspect Lombard, since Lombard is far from respectable, and prevents him from suspecting others. Lombard has a similarly limited understanding of the world—his quaint and antiquated view of women makes him unable to fathom that the killer could be female. “I suppose you’ll leave the women out of it,” he tells Wargrave, and later, in his conversation with Vera, he tells her that she is too “sane” and “level-headed” to be the killer. Lombard has an old-fashioned, almost chivalrous view of women as powerless and harmless, which leads him to a fatal underestimation of Vera.
Christie uses the details of everyday life to illustrate the increasing desperation of the situation. The first night, the guests eat a sumptuous meal; now, however, they eat cold tongue. They begin to watch each other suspiciously until their bedroom doors are safely locked for the night, and they openly express their misgivings about one another. The tense situation is chipping away at their standards of decorum. Still, strangely enough, Rogers continues his impeccable service, staying downstairs to clean up after everyone and scraping meals together as best he can. Even though his wife has been murdered and there is a murderer on the loose, he does not find his continued subservience strange, and neither do the guests. His determination to cling to his place in the social hierarchy proves a fatal weakness, since the class divisions that separate him from the guests make him an easy target for the murderer.
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