Murder on the Orient Express | Study Guide

Agatha Christie

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Course Hero, "Murder on the Orient Express Study Guide," August 31, 2017, accessed September 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Murder-on-the-Orient-Express/.

Murder on the Orient Express | Symbols

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Christie used symbols in Murder on the Orient Express to represent concepts related to the themes of justice and restoring social order. The two dominant symbols represent judge and jury, the primary instruments of the criminal justice system.

Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot functions as a judge. He is the arbitrator of truth and the highest authority. In the case of the murder on the Orient Express, he uses his belief in an unwritten moral law to determine how justice can best be served. When he knows all the facts related to the murder of Samuel Ratchett—aka Lenfranco Cassetti—he identifies those responsible. His next step is to accept or override the decision of the jury—who are themselves guilty of murder. He evaluates the reasons for their crime and decides to allow them to go free. He determines the perpetrators do not merit punishment and society would not benefit from their punishment. This decision rests on his belief that the murderers were justified in killing Ratchett. Ratchett's own crime was despicable enough to deserve the ultimate punishment—death—but the criminal justice system failed to mete it out. Poirot's decision is apparently based on a higher law than that of humans or country. Because Poirot embodies a superior morality, in the author's view he is qualified to make such a judgment.

The 12 Murderers

The 12 murderers represent the 12 members of a jury in a serious criminal case. A jury hears the evidence, determines innocence and guilt, and in some jurisdictions sets the punishment. The jury in the state's case against Samuel Ratchett—aka Cassetti—failed to convict him of kidnapping and murdering Daisy Armstrong due to a technicality. The victim's survivors view the jury's decision as flawed and decide to remedy this situation. They become a self-appointed jury and carry out what they consider a just sentence: executing the criminal. Although the passengers break the law, Poirot treats them like a valid jury that in the context of the story made a legal determination.

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