And Then There Were None | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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And Then There Were None | A Manuscript Document | Summary

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Summary

The full title of this section of text is "A Manuscript Document Sent to Scotland Yard by the Master of the Emma Jane, Fishing Trawler." The Manuscript Document is written by Justice Lawrence Wargrave, and it is a confession to all the murders and encouraged murder/suicides, as well as the murder of Isaac Morris before anyone even got onto the island, and his own suicide. The document also details his long-standing desire to commit a murder, preferably a mass murder.

Wargrave explains that he sent Edward Seton to his death with justification, but that he began to lose his ability to judge and wanted to "act" instead. He heard about the Rogers' possible murder of the lady they served from a man who was certain they had withheld her medication and just didn't get caught. Wargrave details the collected stories he heard about each victim, including his conversation with Hugo Hamilton about Vera Claythorne. Wargrave says he wanted to combine his sense of justice with his desire to kill. He knew of Isaac Morris, who had given drugs to a friend's daughter, causing her suicide. Since there had to be 10 victims, he thought, he used Isaac Morris to set everything up on the island and hire people, and then he killed him.

Wargrave describes in detail how he orchestrated each death, and how he convinced Armstrong to help him fake his own death, later setting himself up for a suicide that looks like the murder that supposedly happened. He thinks this "red herring" (misleading clue) leading to Armstrong's death will serve as a clue for the police. He also says his own sense of justice, condemning Edward Seton, a man everyone knew was guilty, does not make him a murderer in the eyes of the police; therefore, he must be the murderer on the island. The "mark of Cain" on his forehead is the third clue that he is the guilty party. Wargrave has a "pitiful human wish" that the police find out how "clever" he is, hence the confession.

Analysis

This section of the novel is the only section that solves, without a doubt, every mystery in the novel. Golden Age crime novels always have a full explanation at the end, and while some of these murders may seem far-fetched to the reader, they are not impossible. What is nearly impossible is the reader's knowledge of the solution without this confession. Agatha Christie wrote this novel because she knew it would be extremely difficult to do, and it is a baffling mystery all the way to the end.

The theme of guilt is limited to criminal guilt in this section. The only reason Wargrave confesses to the crime is his need to be clever and to be seen as clever by others. He feels a little bad about that, but doesn't feel bad about having committed any of the crimes.

The murders, in detail, highlight Christie's knowledge of poisons, which makes her novels particularly realistic. Christie's time as an apothecary's (pharmacist's) assistant gives her the ability to say exactly how cyanide affects a body, as well as how a sleeping draught overdose occurs. Christie has also thought of every possible reason a murder could go wrong, and the Justice Wargrave character makes sure that all those loopholes are closed. Who knows what might have happened if Vera Claythorne had kept her sanity, but Wargrave's "psychological experiment" worked because by that time, Vera was so traumatized by fear and suspicion that even her relief to be the last one alive is temporary. Her guilt overtakes her, and all the situations she is placed in throughout the story build up to that moment. Justice Wargrave's gamble pays off.

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