“I’m talking to you, young man. The day of judgment is very close at hand.”
Subsiding into his seat Mr. Blore thought to himself:
“He’s nearer the day of judgment than I am!”
But there, as it happens, he was wrong.
The quote exemplifies Christie’s use of foreshadowing to increase the suspense of the novel. The reader understands in the first chapter that each character introduced will be, in some way, involved in a murder. In this quote, it becomes clear that Blore will certainly be one of the murdered. The old man that Blore meets on the train acts as a wise seer that accurately predicts Blore’s own death. The old man has no other part in the story except to intensify the reader’s own sense of foreboding.
“Suicide, eh? That’s a queer go.”
Vera said slowly:
“You’d never think that he would kill himself. He was so alive. He was – oh – enjoying himself! When he came down the hill in his car this evening he looked – he looked – oh, I can’t explain!”
Christie’s novel affirms the value of life through the exploration of its negation, as evident in this quote as several characters discuss the death of Anthony Marston. Marston is one of the novel’s least desirable characters. He is remorseless over the deaths that he caused when he hit two young people with his car and, in fact, makes no effort to reform his ways. He speeds dangerously down the road on his way to Indian Island. He is still described at several points during the novel, however, as a person that is full of life. This fact alone accounts for the shock and dismay of the other guests at his death. It is unfair, they believe, even for this despicable person to have lost his life.
He thought: “Best of an island is once you get there – you can’t go any further … you’ve come to the end of things…”
This quote, a piece of internal dialogue by General Macarthur, speaks to the profound influence of the setting – Indian Island. In a sense, the island is more than a setting for the murders because it itself is a cold, uncaring character that is implicit in the crimes of murder. As this quote demonstrates, this island represents mystery and the end of things. The island was owned by a film star and was bought and sold under mysterious circumstances. It is repeatedly referred to as a cold and barren rock with no outlet for safety or refuge. The description of the island, therefore, is a symbol of the deaths that will occur there.
"My point is that there can be no exceptions allowed on the score of character, position, or probability. What we must now examine is the possibility of eliminating one or more persons on the facts.
As it becomes more evident that there is foul play occurring on the island, Mr. Justice Wargrave begins to lead the novel’s characters in a frank discussion of the facts of the case. Other characters, throughout the novel, have inclinations that there is something supernatural about the murders. Vera Claythorne has a sense of evil presiding over these murders and Miss Brent, with her devout and fundamentalist faith, is sure the devil has possessed one of the guests. Wargrave, however, represents the logical and real, and insists that facts will lead the way, an insistence backed by the as yet unknown fact that he is orchestrating the entire drama.
"Ulick Norman Owne – Una Nancy Owen – each time, that is to say, U.N Owen. Or by a slight stretch of fancy, UNKNOWN!”
“But this is fantastic – mad!”
The judge nodded gently.
“Oh, yes. I’ve no doubt in my own mind that we have been invited here by a madman – probably a dangerous homicidal lunatic.”
This dialogue, spoken by Mr. Justice Wargrave and Vera Claythorne, illustrates Christie’s mastery of including puzzles and surprise facts within her novels. This bit of wordplay is unexpected by the reader, though it is a fact that, in hindsight, is evident to anyone wishing to engage the text for word games and clues as to the murderer’s identity. This quote illustrates the way in which detective genre novels succeed by engaging readers in the text. The reader, it can be argued, becomes a kind of silent character in the novel; a part of the deducing process.
"From now on, it is our task to suspect each and every one amongst us.”
The genre of detective novel engages readers because it builds a sense of suspense throughout the entire novel. Until the final chapter, when the killer is revealed, each person in the novel is shrouded in a degree of suspicion. Christie’s style of detective fiction, thus, differs from previous masters of the genre such as Arthur Conan Doyle. In Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, there is a clear protagonist, even if the reader does not initially know the antagonist. Christie’s novels reverse this style by suggesting that each of the characters could be the novel’s main antagonist.
There was little pretence now--no formal veneer of conversation. They were five enemies linked together by a mutual instinct of self preservation.
And Then There Were None delves beyond the cursory detective mystery into exploring the psychological chaos of its characters. Each character is already somehow damaged by the moral tragedy of the deaths that they took part in. This psychological damage begins to emerge as the killings escalate. The killer, in his confession, even admits that he allowed the more guilty persons to suffer longer in the psychological cage of the island. The result is a lapse into insanity. Vera Claythorne, as the last person on the island, loses her mind causing her to take her own life. The lines between psychotic killer and victim are blurred.
"No, I don't believe in the supernatural. This business is human enough."
Lombard speaks this quote after discussing Vera's suspicion that the cause of all the murders might be supernatural in nature. Lombard dismisses this talk as nonsense. Throughout the novel, there is a slight suspicion from some of the characters that there are supernatural elements involved. Miss Brent, for instance, believed that someone had been possessed by the devil. This postulation is rejected, however, by the rationalist characters, especially Mr. Justice Wargrave and Lombard. They insist on a strict principle of logical deduction for coming to the answer. This rationalist approach is a hallmark of the detective mystery. The answer must always be deductible from the evidence presented to both the reader and the novel's characters.
"Murder isn't what most people think--giving someone a dollop of arsenic--pushing them over a cliff--that sort of stuff."
This quote illustrates the justification of Mr. Wargrave, the murderer, for the method of his killings. He admits that the killings are motivated by a kind of evil desire inside of him, but he also makes a case that each of the persons invited to the island are there because they are guilty of a crime of which the law could not convict them. And Then There Were None explores the gray areas between crime and accident. Christie asks the reader to consider the question of justice and how it should be applied. Ultimately, she asks if the victims of the novel are really victims and if they are deserving of the punishment handed to them.
…my final conclusion is that the reading of detective stories is simply a kind of vice that, for silliness and minor harmfulness, ranks somewhere between smoking and crossword puzzles.
This quote is taken from a famous essay of Edmund Wilson, the twentieth century writer and literary critic. Wilson experimented with reading popular detective fiction and found the genre lacking. The title of his essay, "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd," is an allusion to one of Agatha Christie's most famous novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Wilson exemplifies the literary establishment of the mid-twentieth century, which exalted the achievements of modern literary fiction while casting aside genre fiction such as mystery and detective novels. Such criticisms helped to create a strict demarcation between "serious" works of literature and other types of fiction written for entertainment purposes.
And Then There Were None Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for And Then There Were None is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.