Discuss the narrative techniques that Christie uses to create and maintain suspense throughout the novel.
Christie also employs a constantly shifting point of view to build suspense. She gives us a glimpse of the action from one character’s perspective and then races on to another point of view and then another. Each snippet is calculated to make the character in question seem suspicious. In Chapter II, for example, when the guests have just arrived on the island, Christie cuts abruptly from one character to the next as they prepare for dinner. Dr. Armstrong feels inspired by the beauty of the island to “make plans, fantastic plans”; Anthony Marston lies in his bath thinking to himself that he “must go through with it”; Blore ties his tie and hopes he will not “bungle” his “job”; Macarthur wishes he could “make an excuse and get away . . . Throw up the whole business.” Emily Brent reads Bible verses about the just punishment of sinners, and Lombard looks like a beast of prey. With this sequence of snippets, Christie gives us just enough access to each character’s thoughts to make him or her seem like a potential murderer, and then shifts to the next character. She continues this technique throughout the novel, even as the number of suspects dwindles, so that we are never sure whom we should suspect most.
Discuss the weaknesses of Dr. Armstrong, William Blore, Philip Lombard, and Vera Claythorne, and explain how Wargrave exploits these weaknesses as he carries out his plot.
Aside from Wargrave, the last four characters left alive on the island are Armstrong, Blore, Lombard, and Vera. They are all on their guard, yet Wargrave is able to do away with all four of them by exploiting their weaknesses. Armstrong’s weakness is his firm belief that class defines character. He cannot believe that a man of Wargrave’s stature could be a murderer. Thus, he agrees to help Wargrave fake his own death, and willingly meets Wargrave out by the cliffs late at night, where it is a simple matter for Wargrave to push him over. Blore’s weakness is his foolhardiness—he goes alone to the house to fetch food and so makes an easy target for Wargrave. Lombard, with his gun and his experience in dangerous situations, is a formidable foe, but his weakness is his refusal to believe that women are capable of violence. Vera is thus able to steal his gun and kill him with it. Vera’s weakness is hysteria. She is susceptible to the power of suggestion and tormented by her guilt. Wargrave plays upon these weaknesses as he sets up a noose in Vera’s room and thus compels the half-hypnotized Vera to hang herself.
In some ways, however,