And Then There Were None | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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And Then There Were None | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

After dinner the guests notice there are 10 figurines on the table, matching the 10 little Indians in the rhyme the guests discover on the wall in their rooms. Vera Claythorne thinks it's amusing, but Justice Wargrave mutters that it's childish. Vera and Miss Brent leave the dining room to go to the drawing room, and Vera is still put off by the sound of the ocean waves. In conversation, Vera corrects Miss Brent's mistake about the hosts' last name, and Miss Brent says she has never met anyone named Owen in her life. Before the two women can explore the ramifications of this realization, the men enter the room, and everyone has coffee. Suddenly, there is a voice ringing out from the walls accusing each of the guests, as well as Rogers and Ethel Rogers, of specific murders for which justice has never been served, naming each guest with their full name as well as naming the victims with their full names, with one exception: the 21 men of an East African tribe who were left to die by Philip Lombard.

Rogers is so shocked he drops the coffee tray, and his wife screams and slumps to the floor in the next room in a dead faint. Philip Lombard and Anthony Marston rush to bring her to a couch, and Dr. Armstrong treats her, giving her brandy. They discover the voice comes from a record on a gramophone in the next room, which plays through holes drilled in the wall. They put Ethel Rogers to bed, Dr. Armstrong gives her a sedative, and everyone meets again in the drawing room to talk about what just happened.

The men all have drinks to settle their nerves, and Justice Wargrave questions Rogers, who says that he and his wife were hired by letter from an agency and have never met Mr. or Mrs. Owens. Rogers insists he played the record only on written orders of Mr. Owen, his boss, and shows Justice Wargrave the letter. Wargrave asks everyone in the room to talk about their invitation to Indian Island. In the process they discover that Ex-Inspector Blore is there under an assumed name and is not actually from South Africa. Blore admits he was hired to protect "Mrs. Owen's jewels," but now he thinks there is no such person and there are no jewels. Wargrave notices the initials for each letter writer are U.N., and together with Owen, could be construed as "Unknown." He concludes they have all been invited to the island by a "homicidal lunatic."

Analysis

The pace of this chapter before the voice booms out is classic Christie. Everything seems wonderful, the food is good, the people are comfortable, and there's nothing out of place. But she uses techniques like describing the position of the hands on the clock, rather than just telling the reader what time it is, and mentioning small facial tics, like Philip Lombard's narrowing eyes, to make the reader a little nervous. She also mentions only one feature of the room decoration, and that is the circle of figurines, which everyone notices. The reader is invited to notice them, too. The sentences are short, as if there is a breath taken between each one. Something always happens to disturb the peace when everyone gathers together around a dinner table in a Christie novel. The booming voice that suddenly enters the room shatters the peace, and suddenly guests who have begun to get comfortable with each other are suddenly on guard, suspicious of everyone else. The body language and tone of voice of the guests also changes. Strangely, Justice Wargrave and Miss Brent are "unmoved." This type of observation from the narrator makes the reader start to organize facts, reactions, and personalities, knowing someone in the novel is likely to be a killer.

With the accusations leveled at each guest by the voice on the record, it's clear this chapter's theme features guilt. Nearly everyone accused seems genuinely shocked; most of the guests seem eager to establish their innocence in the eyes of the other guests. The author introduces the themes of murder and justice as well, listing the killings each person has supposedly committed or facilitated, all without punishment for their crimes.

Justice Wargrave, while unlikable, uses his social position to become the leader of the inquiry to find out why they are all on the island. No one at this point in the inquiry refuses to speak, and with the revelations of each letter, the picture becomes clear—the person who invited everyone to the island is bent on serving justice to people he or she feels merits punishment. The names on the invitation letters are different, which helps prove this gathering is a trap, and they have all fallen for it.

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