And Then There Were None | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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And Then There Were None | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

The five guests all stay in the same room together all day. Only one of them can leave at a time and must come back before another one can leave. Justice Wargrave makes them all watch Vera make tea, to make sure she doesn't put anything in it. They open a fresh bottle of whiskey. They are all going slowly mad and think in circles to themselves. They eat their lunch standing around the kitchen table looking at each other, and they return to the drawing room to look at each other some more. They have to use candles because no one has run the generator. Finally, Vera can't stand it anymore and goes upstairs to splash water on her face, but she smells the sea in her room. When her candle is blown out by the wind from her open window, she feels something clammy grab her face, and she shrieks.

Everyone runs up the stairs to Vera, making her sit down and put her head between her legs to keep from fainting. They all are stunned to see a clump of wet seaweed hanging from the ceiling. No clammy hand had grabbed her. In the darkness, she had walked right into the hanging seaweed. She perks up when someone hands her a glass of brandy, but refuses to drink it because there might be poison in it. Lombard brings a new bottle of brandy, and Ex-Inspector Blore gets mad that Vera thinks he would poison her.

Vera asks where Justice Wargrave is, because he isn't in the room. They all go downstairs to look for him, and there he is, staring straight ahead, dressed in a red oil-silk curtain worn as a robe, with a wig made from wool yarn on his head. Dr. Armstrong is the only one who goes near him, sees a trickle of something red on his forehead when he removes the wig, and says the judge has been shot. Vera realizes the wool is from Miss Brent and the oil-silk robe is the missing curtain. Philip Lombard begins to laugh because the judge will never make a judgment in court again, "no more ... sending innocent men to death," but his laughter is that of a terrified man losing his mind.

Analysis

The descriptions of the guests sitting around one room for hours looking at each other, stunned and terrified, are vivid. Christie describes them as looking "less like human beings ... reverting to more bestial types." Wargrave sits "hunched up," Blore's eyes are bloodshot, "a look of mingled ferocity and stupidity about him," and Vera looks like an injured bird held in a hand, frozen stiff from fear. The image readers get is of a bunch of predators and prey in a cage, circling and evading each other. And the murders keep stacking up, one by one.

To develop the reader's tension even more, Christie employs a technique to emphasize the panicked thoughts feverishly raging through the guests' minds. Early in the chapter readers encounter three or four large paragraphs containing only thoughts, none of them attributed to any one character. Short phrases followed by ellipses go on and on: "They're going mad ... They'll all go mad ... Afraid of death ... we're all afraid of death ... I'm afraid of death ... Yes, but that doesn't stop death coming." It is similar to a horror movie technique when the audience hear all the thoughts of all characters one by one as they await the murderer. The technique allows readers to more intensely feel the rising tension and fear of the characters.

The seaweed in Vera's room is there specifically to horrify her enough to make her shriek and faint. The person who placed it there knows all about Cyril drowning, and knows that anything to do with the ocean makes Vera scared and twitchy. Seaweed in her face is even worse. Vera has also lost her ability to remain calm, and at this point, her shrieks are "cries for help."

A chancery court is a court of equity, which handles cases and lawsuits that do not seek damages, but other remedies, such as injunctions. In this context, equity implies that Justice Wargrave met his just punishment as equity for his death sentence against an innocent man and, because he was known as the "hanging judge," probably other innocent men as well. Philip Lombard thinks it's funny that the hanging judge is now dead himself and the rhyme says he's gone to Chancery, but Lombard is also too loud and his voice is too high, showing his stress. Everyone in the room is losing their minds, and the theater of the judge's ridiculous, but tragic, position at the table is too much to bear.

All the stolen things reappear, except for the revolver. The judge's death was the result of a bullet, though, so the revolver may appear again. But if everyone was in the room with Vera, how did the judge get shot? The possibilities are narrowing, but nothing makes sense anymore.

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