And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie

Chapters IX–X

Summary Chapters IX–X

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.