And Then There Were None | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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And Then There Were None | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Justice Wargrave adds his letter from Lady Constance Culmington to the pile of evidence regarding reasons for being on the island, noting the letter is written in a way that matches the lady's style. Wargrave concludes that the person who set this trap knows about everyone's lives, their friends, their actions, and their mistakes. Everyone in the group tries to defend themselves at once, but Wargrave has the first opportunity to insist on his innocence. He claims that Edward Seton was guilty, even though the defense attorney thought the jury would judge Seton innocent, and he feels no guilt about acting according to the law and convicting Seton, sentencing him to his death. Dr. Armstrong remembers the case, and privately thinks the judge is lying about not knowing Seton personally.

The others then tell their stories one by one:
Vera Claythorne, in tears, tells the story of her time as a governess to Cyril Hamilton, who she says swam out too far into the ocean. She claims she tried to save him but didn't get to him in time. The inquest exonerated her.

General Macarthur claims Arthur Richmond wasn't his wife's lover, and the dangerous assignment Macarthur sent him on followed normal wartime protocol.

Philip Lombard cheerily admits to leaving 21 natives to die, which horrifies both the general and Vera. Lombard believes natives "don't mind dying."

Anthony Marston suddenly remembers he did hit two children on a road in Cambridge, and calls it a "beastly nuisance" that the children rushed out into the road. He says, "Speed's come to stay," and feels no remorse for his actions. "Just an accident!" he claims.

Rogers explains that he and his wife took care of an elderly woman named Jennifer Brady who was always ill. On the night she died, the telephone was out because of a storm, and Rogers went to get the doctor "on foot." Miss Brady died before the doctor could reach her. Rogers claims no one ever complained about their work at Miss Brady's house. Ex-Inspector Blore, cuts in, asking as an ex-detective would, "Came into a little something at her death, though? Eh?" Rogers insists their inheritance was just a reward for having done a good job.

Lombard questions Ex-Inspector Blore about getting a promotion for providing evidence to convict Landor, and Blore insists he was just doing his job.

Dr. Armstrong claims not to remember the patient he supposedly killed, saying patients come to him too late to be saved all the time, but he remembers to himself the case in which he was drunk and most definitely killed his patient through negligence and malpractice. It shocked him enough to get sober, and none of the sisters in the hospital ever said a word about his culpability.

Miss Brent is the only one who refuses to defend herself. She says she has a clear conscience and "nothing with which to reproach" herself. Rogers says there is no one else on the island, and there is no boat, so they have to wait for Fred Narracott to come the next morning to get off the island. Anthony Marston thinks they should stay and solve the mystery, and says, "I'm all for crime! Here's to it!" as he downs the drink that kills him one second later.

Analysis

Justice Wargrave insists he followed the law in convicting Seton, but Dr. Armstrong's private suspicion that Wargrave is lying about not knowing Seton starts off the cycle of suspicion that will plague the guests as the novel progresses. Each guest has the opportunity to explain themselves, and it sounds like they are trying to convince themselves they are either not guilty of anything or should be forgiven for their actions. Vera Claythorne uses the results of the inquiry to insist she is innocent, but she bursts into tears. Dr. Armstrong pretends not to remember his patient but is privately thankful the incident sobered him up. General Macarthur insists in a stilted voice that his wife was a good woman, and the assignment was normal, but he is shaken by his efforts to explain and never really recovers. Rogers is extremely upset by the accusations against him and his wife, and says they are "wicked lies."

There are, however, a few people who make themselves look bad with their explanations and lack of visible guilt. Ex-Inspector Blore actually turns purple when Philip Lombard mentions Landor. The description of his voice as sulky seems to indicate he is not telling the whole truth about his involvement with the Landor case. His career benefited from Landor's conviction, but when he admits this, he appears to realize that the fact casts doubt on his honesty. Christie's descriptions of facial expression and tone of voice help the reader envision who is doing a convincing job of defending their honor and who is making a mess of their confession.

Three of the guests seems to show no guilt whatsoever, which is disturbing to the rest of the guests. Anthony Marston's conviction that he has every right to speed on the roads and that kids in his way are an inconvenience horrifies the other guests. He truly believes he is not at fault, although he is the driver. Marston's station in life as a rich man who always gets what he wants makes him the type of person who believes rules are not for him if they ruin his fun. Similarly, Lombard's belief that the East African men he left to starve didn't "mind dying" shocks everyone, and their shock amuses him. He is a mercenary who thinks only of himself and his self-preservation rather than sticking with his company like a true leader would. His reaction alerts the reader that Lombard is not the most trustworthy person in the room. Nor does Miss Brent inspire the reader's trust with an answer the narrator says is "unsatisfying." Miss Brent believes she is fully justified in everything she has done in her life with the confidence of a woman who uses her religion to batter and bully other people.

An actual murder occurs for the first time in the novel when Anthony Marston dies from a drink laced with cyanide. The contrast the author creates between his glee at the thought of solving what he sees as an exciting mystery and his death right after he raises his glass to crime heightens the shock of the death. Christie's description of the death as the last sentence in the chapter is also a common move to heighten suspense in mystery novels. This device is a sure page-turner; readers want to move on to the next chapter and find out who did it.

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