Murder on the Orient Express | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express | Part 2, Chapter 10 : The Evidence (The Evidence of the Italian) | Summary

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Summary

Antonio Foscarelli, an Italian-born, naturalized American salesman of Ford cars, arrives next in the dining car for his interview. The verbose Foscarelli is ready to tell everything he knows about any subject that comes up—or even one related to it. Hercule Poirot reins in his tendency to go off topic and asks if he had ever come across the deceased in his travels in America. Foscarelli says he has not, but he knows the type: someone who appears very respectable but "underneath is all wrong"—a crook. Poirot confirms his assessment and provides Ratchett's true identity. Foscarelli explains how he correctly identified Ratchett's type. In America he says salespeople are taught "to read the face," or know the type, to effectively make sales.

When told Ratchett's crime involved a baby girl, Foscarelli waxes philosophical, saying, "These things they happen" rather than expressing sadness or indignation. Poirot then makes his standard request: describe "your exact movements last night from dinner onwards." Foscarelli states he went back to his compartment, which he shares with Edward Masterman, the Englishman, after dinner. Masterman was reading and did not speak at all. Foscarelli smoked and read in his upper berth before falling asleep. He confirms Masterman's account of a toothache and that Masterman had never left the compartment.

Poirot asks if he smokes, and when Foscarelli says he smokes cigarettes, Poirot offers him one. Poirot asks him to sign a sheet of paper and write his address. After he leaves, M. Bouc provides his litany of reasons supporting him as the killer: he has been in America a long time, he is Italian, Italians use the knife, Italians are great liars, and he does not like Italians. Poirot acknowledges Bouc may be right but points out there is "absolutely no evidence against the man." Bouc asks about the psychology, or type of person who would commit this crime. Poirot explains this crime was not committed "in the heat of a quarrel" but involved long-term planning and staging. Thus he believes the perpetuator has "an Anglo-Saxon brain," not an Italian one.

Analysis

Hercule Poirot, M. Bouc, and Antonio Foscarelli generalize based on nationality. Foscarelli holds English people in low regard, referring to Edward Masterman as a "miserable John Bull," unsympathetic, very stiff, and a fish. John Bull is an imaginary person who represents England in much the same way Uncle Sam represents the United States. On the other hand, Foscarelli holds Americans in high regard, citing how only in America do they teach the right way to sell.

Poirot declares his belief in different types of brains and believes this crime was committed by an Anglo-Saxon one. Thus he suspects the crime was committed by an English person or one of English descent. Interestingly, Foscarelli is a mixture of Italian and American. Born in Italy, he is now an American citizen and lives and works in America. He has been shaped by his new country, as evidenced by his sales techniques. So how does this affect his brain? Does he have a Latin brain or an American brain?

The expressive and voluble Foscarelli and somewhat taciturn Poirot have something in common: an understanding of psychology, or how to identify a person's type and use that knowledge in one's profession. Foscarelli uses it to sell cars, while Poirot uses it to catch criminals. They are in some ways intellectual equals despite their very different temperaments.

Poirot tends to hold things close to his chest. How long has he suspected the crime was committed by an Anglo-Saxon? He doubted Bouc's theory of Foscarelli as the killer and told him so, but only now does he provide his reasoning. Poirot likely was waiting for more evidence—provided by these interviews—before sharing his views. When Poirot says the killer has an Anglo-Saxon brain, he narrows the suspects—unless Christie is intentionally misdirecting readers, as she is wont to do. Because Poirot has not yet interviewed all the passengers, he has still to collect all the evidence. It is far too early to name the killer.

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