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Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie

Chapters 6–8, Part one

Chapters 4–5, Part one

Chapter 1–3, Part two

Summary

Chapter 6

The passports and the tickets of all the passengers are gathered. Poirot will interview each passenger and firsts calls Hector McQueen, the younger man Poirot has seen with Ratchett. Poirot tells McQueen that his employer, M. Ratchett is dead. The young man is not surprised and replies, "So they got him after all." McQueen explains to Poirot that he had worked as Ratchett's secretary for just over a year. He traveled all over the world with Ratchett and was particularly helpful because Ratchett didn't know any languages. McQueen also tells Poirot that his employer was American, full name, Samuel Edward Ratchett, which McQueen thinks is an alias, and was escaping from something. A few weeks back, Ratchett had begun to receive threatening letters. McQueen shows one of the letters to Poirot who determines it has been written by not one, but several people. Mc Queen last saw Ratchett alive at 10PM when he took some memoranda down for him. McQueen is released from the interview.

Chapter 7

Dr. Constantine escorts Poirot to Ratchett's compartment. The room has been left untouched since the murder and Ratchett lies dead on the bed. Dr. Constantine observes that some of the stab wounds were delivered after Ratchett was dead and Poirot notices that some of the blows were delivered right-handed and some left. Some of the blows are very deep and others just scraping the skin. Anther curiosity is two different kinds of matches in the ashtray—one round and one flat. Poirot compares this to Ratchett's matches and suspects the flatter may have been used by the murderer. Poirot also finds an embroidered handkerchief with the initial H on it and a pipe cleaner on the floor. The hands of Ratchett's watch, found in his jacket, are pointed to 1:15. Lastly Poirot discovers a small, charred piece of paper. With a spirit stove, curling tongs and the netting from a lady's hat box Poirot is able to read the paper: "—member little Daisy Armstrong." Poirot instantly knows whom Ratchett's really is, an American named Cassetti.

Chapter 8

Poirot and Dr. Constantine join M. Bouc in the dining car for lunch. Poirot explains the identity of M. Ratchett. Ratchett, real name Cassetti, was the kidnapper of Daisy Armstrong. Daisy was the three-year-old daughter of Colonel Armstrong, a man with great Wall St. inheritance, and the famous actress, Linda Arden. Daisy was the couple's only child. The young girl was kidnapped and the parents paid 200,000 dollars for her return, but Daisy's body was found dead. Mrs. Armstrong then had a premature child who was born dead and the Colonel shot himself, broken-hearted. At about the same time, the child's nursemaid also committed suicide suspected of some involvement with the crime. About six month later, Cassetti was arrested, but because of his enormous wealth and power he got off. Poirot believes the murderer to erase any connection to the name Armstrong destroyed the charred piece of paper.

Analysis

Mystery writers are often accused of "sanitizing" murders. They do this to detach the reader from the horror of the crime. Especially in Murder on The Orient Express where the murderers are let off, the writer needs to make the murder as neat and un-extraordinary as possible. Of course, the planning and so forth of Ratchett's murder by the Armstrongs was quite extraordinary, but the blood and gore of the actual crime is lessened to make the murder seem more "just" and less apprehensible

The treatment and description of Ratchett's body in Chapter 7 is particularly revealing on this point. When Poirot enters Ratchett's compartment the first thing he notices is the cold breeze. He actually goes over to the window and checks for fingerprints on the windowsill before even looking at or acknowledging the body. Poirot even jokes about the temperature of the room, "Positively it is the cold storage in here!" When Poirot does look at the body with the doctor, he still seems unconcerned. Ratchett's blood is never described as anything too ugly or gruesome, rather his pajama's are stained with "rusty patches"—presumably of blood. In fact, blood is hardly mentioned except when the doctor speaks of two especially deep wounds that probably severed blood vessels, but did not bleed, as one would have suspected. The crime is also painless, Ratchett was drugged before he was stabbed and apparently did not struggle with his attackers. The men speak about Ratchett's body as if it were a science project, wondering how varied types stab wounds could have been afflicted on the victim.

There is little sympathy expressed towards the victim in Chapter 7. Poirot only takes Ratchett's died once, he asks aloud what Ratchett might have done as he was attacked, "Does he cry out? Does he struggle? Does he defend himself?" The possible murderers are described with more vigor and passion than Ratchett himself, "a young, vigorous, athletic woman...in the grip of a strong emotion" or a man with great strength" or a feeble woman or great man" could have done such damage. The descriptions of possible murders are more positive than those given of Ratchett. Even at this early moment the reader is called to sympathize with the young, passionate woman or feeble lady or the man of great strength who struck the beast, as described by Poirot. Christie is working to wear away our sympathy for Ratchett in favor of the Armstrongs. Thus, the challenge and focus of the novel is on the duel between murderer and detective, rather than the murderer and victim. The reader's attention is directed purposefully away from the crime.

After inspecting the body, Poirot and the doctor go to the dining car and eat lunch. Although Christie writes, "none of the three men were hungry," the meal was "soon eaten." Poirot and the doctor have quickly recovered their stomachs after going to Ratchett's compartment. They, like the reader, have shifted focus and objective onto the murderer still on the train.

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