And Then There Were None | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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And Then There Were None | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Now the situation on Indian Island becomes more dangerous; someone murdered Anthony Marston. At first the guests think the death is a suicide, but they all remember seeing Marston roar up to the dock in his sports car looking like a "Norse god," and it doesn't seem likely such a person would kill himself. Dr. Armstrong tests the glass as well as the whiskey and soda bottles, and says the glass contained the cyanide, not the bottles. No one, however, saw anyone put anything into Marston's drink. Everyone goes to bed, and Rogers cleans up the dining room. He notices one of the figurines on the table is missing.

Justice Wargrave thinks about the Seton case and feels very satisfied he was the deciding factor in condemning Seton to death. Meanwhile, General Macarthur can't sleep because he envisions Leslie, his wife, with Arthur Richmond. They did have an affair. He remembers his "cold murderous rage" that surfaced when he realized the affair had been going on for a while. He knows he murdered Richmond intentionally. He never told Leslie he found out about her affair, but she became an empty shell after Richmond's death and died of double pneumonia. He feared that Armitage, another young soldier, figured out his intentions and talked. He began to avoid his friends, who started to treat him differently. He decides this is a good time and place in his life to end it all—he will not leave the island alive.

Vera Claythorne can't sleep either. She thinks of Hugo Hamilton, her former lover, telling her that if Cyril Hamilton were a girl, he would have inherited enough money to marry Vera. Vera thinks about how the scrawny, little Cyril begged and whined to swim out to a rock. She didn't think he would drown. She also notices that Marston's death is just what happened in the first verse of the rhyme on her wall, and thinks she would never kill herself.

Analysis

The murder of Anthony Marston strikes the guests as a suicide because none of them saw the poison go into his drink. However, even the possibility of a suicide has sparked the thoughts of some guests about their own situations, announced to the world by the voice on the record. Murder is on everyone's minds. General Macarthur realizes he purposely did send Arthur Richmond to his death, thinking over the affair he discovered between Richmond and his wife, Leslie. The phrase "murderous rage" indicates Macarthur was capable of killing a man in cold blood.

Christie's description of Justice Wargrave's face makes readers see him as a dangerous man. When he removes his teeth, his mouth becomes "predatory" and "cruel." His thoughts turn to how enjoyable he found it to turn around the jury and convince them to convict Seton. "Cooked Seton's goose" connotes an intent to harm Seton. The author portrays Wargrave as a man who is certainly capable of murder.

Vera Claythorne's reminiscence of Hugo and Cyril Hamilton show that she is not entirely innocent either. She remembers that Hugo loved Cyril, but then thinks of Cyril as a "whining" little brat. The phrase—"the kind of child, perhaps, who wouldn't live to grow up"—is creepy and telling, and the reader begins to see that Vera was willing to exploit Cyril's frailty for her own benefit. The author's use of this phrase changes the reader's ideas about Vera's innocence.

Vera's inability to comprehend why someone would commit suicide is an idea that will come back to the reader much later in the novel. Its placement in this chapter intentionally forms Vera's character in such a way that her eventual demise is unexpected. General Macarthur, however, is ready to stay on the island and ready to end his life quietly. He obsesses over his wife and her lover, the guilt for the death of her lover that he caused, and the unspoken lie of the rest of his marriage. He mourns the loss of his wife spiritually, then physically, and starts down an emotional trail from which he refuses to stray. Guilt leads to either murder or suicide in this novel, although Vera doesn't recognize it yet.

The author's use of specialized punctuation in this chapter also helps heighten the reader's emotional reactions and the suspense. An ellipsis (...) at the end of a thought that is particularly telling or murderous causes the reader to guess the next action or possible plot twist. Ellipses also help indicate the way thoughts progress in a character's mind—in fragments. The author uses a lot of internal dialogue in first person, using italics and punctuation to plunge the reader into each character's thoughts.

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