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Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Say what you like, trial by jury is a sound system

This quote, spoken by Colonel Arbuthnot in Chapter 8, Part two, foreshadows the conclusion of the novel and also reveals subtext of the novel. Poirot and Arbuthnot discuss the validity of the jury system, whether rules and law is better than "private vengeance." When Arbuthnot expresses no remorse or distress when he hears Ratchett was killed and even suggests, "the swine deserved what he got" and would have preferred to have seen him hung, Poirot asks Arbuthnot whether he thinks murder is better than law. Arbuthnot's responds that there shouldn't be "blood feuds," but that trial by jury is a "sound system." Arbuthnot is not referring to law; he is referring to the murder of Ratchett by twelve people claiming to be a jury. Although Poirot doesn't officially crack the case until he "sits down and thinks," it seems he understands Arbuthnot's meaning perfectly. Poirot responds like he knows what Arbuthnot is talking about, "I'm sure that would be your view."

The trial by jury system or justification of so-called "private vengeance" is a pressing subtext of the novel. Because the Armstrong's are let free in the end of the book, it seems the book endorses murder or at least the murder of murderers. The book suggests that the law was useless in the capture of Ratchett; he was able to escape because of his enormous wealth and contacts. Therefore, it is up to citizens like the Armstrong's to "right" the situation and protect society from monsters like Ratchett. This eye for an eye, Roman mentality, is certainly not what one might expect from a British popular fiction novelist like Agatha Christie. The 12-person rag-tag "jury" is not in the same spirit of "trial by jury" as known in the US; a jury is never made up of the victim's family. Murder on The Orient Express suggests that there is a law higher than that of the state, one that permits the vengeful murder of a terrible killer.