And Then There Were None Summary and Analysis
All sit in the drawing room. They “looked less like human beings. They were reverted to more bestial types.” Wargrave is “a wary old tortoise.” Blore is “a slow padding animal…a beast at bay ready to charge its pursuers.” Lombard is a “lithe and graceful” animal with “lips curling back from his long white teeth.” Vera Claythorne is a small, terrified animal, afraid to move. Armstrong cries out that they should not just sit there but that they should try to do something like light a bonfire to call for rescue. Blore reminds him of the weather. They all agree that only one of them should leave the room at a time. At the midday meal, they open another can of tongue and then “herd” together to the drawing room to sit and watch each other. Each has “feverish” and paranoid thoughts about who the murderer must be.
At five, Vera jumps up and declares that she wants a cup of tea. She offers to make it, but Wargrave suggests that they all go to make sure nothing goes afoul. When Wargrave turns the light switch, nothing comes on because Rogers is not there to turn the generator each morning. Lombard gets candles and places them about the room. After tea, Vera decides she cannot stay in the room any longer. She does to her room to take a bath. When she enters, she is overwhelmed by the smell of the sea. She remembers the same smell from the day when Cyril drowned. She again has a flashback to that day and begins to believe that Hugo must be waiting for her. Her candle goes out from a draft and, suddenly, in the dark she feels a “cold, clammy hand” touching her throat.
She screams over and over again. The men in the drawing room rush upstairs. Vera collapses and the men try to revive her. When she comes to, she looks up and sees that there is seaweed hanging from the ceiling, which had been the “hand” that had grabbed her throat. Lombard tries to give her a drink, but she refuses it. Blore insists that the brandy is fine and they open a brand new bottle, just to assure her there is no poison. Lombard laughs that finally a murder did not go according to plan. They look around and suddenly realize that the judge is missing. They rush downstairs and find Wargrave sitting in his chair in the drawing room. He is wrapped in the scarlet bath curtain as if in a judge’s robe and Miss Brent’s piece of gray wool is pulled over his head like a mock judge’s wig. Armstrong pulls the wig off his head to find that he has been shot. Lombard remembers the rhyme: “’Five little Indian boys going in for law; one got in Chancery and then there were four.”
They carry Wargrave’s body upstairs. Lombard suggests that they all eat, so they open another can of cold tongue. Lombard curses the fact that the killer had deceived them by placing the seaweed in Vera Claythorne’s room just to distract them. They each tell each other that they have no doubt in their minds about the identity of the killer, but they do not say a name. Vera retires to her bedroom to sleep, and they all follow, barricading themselves into their rooms. When in his room, Lombard draws a breath of relief and goes over to his bedside table to undress. He opens the door and finds the revolver inside.
Lying in bed, Vera tries to reassure herself that everything will work out. She begins to remember Cyril, begging to swim out to the rock that day. She tells Cyril that she has a plan; she will talk to his mother and distract her while he goes swimming. Before she even realizes he has gone, Cyril will be on the rock waving to her. If things do not go well, Vera thinks to herself, she will just deny that she ever gave him permission to go out there in the first place. She wonders if Hugo had ever known the truth about her, and she wonders why she had suddenly felt that Hugo was in the room with her when she discovered the seaweed. She opens her eyes in the bedroom and sees a big black hook hanging from the ceiling, something she had not seen before.
Blore sits on his bed and remembers that “self-righteous smug old hypocrite” Wargrave and thinks that they must all be careful now. The candle on his bedside table burns down and he starts to see faces in the dark – the face of Mrs. Rogers and Anthony Marston. He sees a face that he cannot quite recognize until suddenly he knows it is Landor, who he had helped falsely imprison. All of a sudden, Blore hears movement outside of his door. He goes to the door and listens, and he is sure he hears someone creeping down the hall. Blore acts quickly. He takes matches for light and a lamp as a weapon, and he goes out in the hall, but he finds no one. He realizes that if someone left the house, one of the rooms must be empty. He goes to Armstrong’s room and knocks, but no one answers. He then goes to Lombard’s room, and he answers. He goes to Vera’s room, and she answers as well. Lombard tells her to stay in her room and that they are going to hunt for Armstrong. He tells her not to open her door unless both he and Blore are there together. Lombard shows Blore the revolver he had found in his drawer, and Blore hesitates. He quells his fear and goes with Lombard, thinking that he “was not afraid of danger in the open, only of danger undefined and tinged with the supernatural.”
A few minutes go by, and Vera amuses herself by trying to imagine how Armstrong might burst his way in through her door. She hears the breaking of glass downstairs, and then Blore knocks on her door. She opens it to find both men. They tell her that Armstrong has disappeared. They think that he has vanished off the island, like some “conjuring trick.” Lombard adds that a windowpane is busted downstairs and that another of the Little Indian Boys has been smashed.
The sun shines outside. The storm has passed. The three remaining guests eat breakfast outside feeling like “people just awakening from a nightmare.” They begin to think of ways to try to get off the island. They all think it odd that another of the Indian Boy statues should be broken even though they have not found Armstrong’s body. Blore notes that Lombard is once again in possession of the revolver. Lombard declares that he simply found it in his drawer. Blore suggests they lock the revolver up the same way they did the medicines, but Lombard declines. Vera tells them that she thinks they are both idiots and reminds them of the rhyme: “Four little Indian boys going out to sea; / A red herring swallowed one and then there / were three.” She tells them that the “red herring” is the clue. Armstrong’s disappearance is just something to distract them. Thinking of the next verse in the rhyme, Blore tells her that since there is no zoo on the island, the killer will have difficulty pulling off the next killing. “’Don’t you see?’” Vera says. “’We’re the Zoo…Last night, we were hardly human any more.”
They stand on the cliff, flashing S.O.S. signals to the mainland with a mirror. Vera tells them that she feels safer out in the open, and when Blore suggests that they go in to eat, she declines. Lombard offers to stay with her, but he refuses to give his revolver to Blore. When he leaves, Lombard suggests that Blore is the killer since his story last night doesn’t clear him from being the murderer. Lombard assures her that he will not let Blore get them.
Vera asks him if he thinks someone is watching them on this island. She tells him of a story she once read about two American Supreme Court justices that went to a small town to administer “Absolute Justice…because they didn’t come from this world at all.” Lombard tells her that all of this murder is “human enough” and that the supernatural is all in her mind. Suddenly, they hear a crash in the distance. Lombard takes off to see what it is, and Vera goes with him. They find Blore on the house’s stone terrace. His head was crushed by a great block of white marble, which is a bear-shaped clock from Vera’s mantle.
Lombard exclaims that now they know Armstrong is hiding in the house. Lombard wants to look for him, but Vera reminds him that if he did not find him last night, he will not find him now. Lombard reminds her that he has the revolver, but Vera tells him, “Armstrong is mad! And a madman has all the advantages on his side.” They sit on the cliffs and worry about what they will do when night comes. Vera wishes they could bathe and, suddenly, Lombard looks down towards the sea and sees someone’s clothes. As they walk down towards it, they realize it is not clothes, but the body of a man. The man had drowned and his face is discolored, but they know it is Armstrong.
Time seems to stand motionless and Vera and Lombard look down on Armstrong’s dead body. Finally, Vera whispers, “There’s no one on the island – no one at all – except us two.” She suddenly knows that in Lombard she is looking into the face of a wolf. He tells her that they have come to the end. The words in her mind bring rebellion, and she pities Dr. Armstrong. This angers Lombard, and he tells her he has no pity for her or anyone.
Vera tells him that they must move Armstrong’s body, but Lombard refuses. She begins to tug at it herself to get it out of the sea. Lombard helps, but it is not an easy job. When the body is moved, he asks Vera if she is satisfied, and she says, “Quite.” As he turns around, he clasps his pocket and realizes the revolver is gone. Vera has it and points it at him. He demands that she give him the revolver, but she refuses. He decides to take the risky way, and he leaps “quick as a panther” towards her. Vera pulls the trigger, and Lombard’s body crashes to the ground. He is dead, shot through the heart.
Vera sits, relieved that she is alone. As the sun sets, she moves towards the house realizing she is hungry and tired. She is very sleepy and wants “to throw herself on her bed and sleep and sleep and sleep.” She thinks that this whole thing might just be a dream because everything now seems so peaceful. She goes into the house and stops at the dining room. There are still three Indian Boy china figures left. She picks up two of them and throws them out the window, hearing them crash. She picks up the third and takes it with her.
She goes upstairs and begins to get the strange feeling that Hugo is with her. She accidentally drops the Indian figure but does not notice. As she enters her room in a trance like state, she gasps when she sees a noose hanging from the hook in the ceiling. This, she thinks, is what Hugo wants. She remembers the last line of the rhyme: “He went and hanged himself and then there were none.” She remembers Cyril and knows that murder was easy. She climbs up on the chair, puts the noose around her neck, and kicks away the chair.
In chapter thirteen, the characters of the novel begin to seem less than human to each other. Each seems to take on the characteristics of an animal: Wargrave is a tortoise, Vera is a terrified animal, Lombard is like a terrifying tiger. These descriptions are metaphors that help us to understand more about each character, as well as examples of zoomorphism, or the attribution of animal like qualities to human beings.
The novel’s depiction of food is symbolic. The reader can chart the decline of the characters condition by the food they choose to eat during their time there. When the guests first arrive, they are greeted by Mrs. Rogers’s excellent cooking and a feast of many different foods. As the novel progresses, the characters begin to rely on meager sustenance, eating canned tongue for most of their meals. By the time that only three guests remain, Vera Claythorne has paradoxically decided that the best chance of survival is to deprive herself of nourishment so that she will not have to go into the house. This relationship of the characters to food is symbolic of the zoomorphic traits that each character goes through as they become less and less human.
Justice Wargrave’s apparent murder is an example of the concept in detective fiction of distraction. Distraction goes hand in hand with disguise, as one thing appears to be something that it is not. In this case, the reader will discover that Wargrave is in fact the island’s killer. They are distracted from this fact, however, by the apparent murder of one of the possible suspects. Clues, however, are present that would help the reader and the characters still on the island suspect that things are not right with this murder. It is not until one knows who the murderer is, however, that these clues become apparent.
The red mark on Wargrave’s forehead is an allusion to the story of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis from the Hebrew Bible. In this story, Cain kills his brother Abel. It is creation’s first murder, and God marks Cain. Though the Biblical story does not specify what the mark actually is, legend has it that it was a mark of blood upon his head. Wargrave is thus giving his victims and the reader a clue as to his true nature; he is the murderer who has marked himself with blood.
The varying clues throughout the novel, from Wargrave’s red mark to Lombard’s Red Herring, display the difficulty of the act of selection and comprehension. In the first, the reader is forced to attempt to select what clues or signs the murderer has left behind. Through the art of disguise and distraction, this becomes an impossible task. Without knowing the identity of the killer, the reader has no real way of understanding which signs and clues are relevant. Instead, the reader has the illusion of knowledge. A re-reading shows the reader the clues that should have seemed obvious from the novel’s beginning but which, inherently, are not apparent upon a first reading.
This plays into the difficulty of comprehension. The deception by the killer produces numerous false leads – the disappearance of Armstrong’s needle or Lombard’s revolver, for instance. These false leads make the process of comprehension of the clues an impossible task as well. The false leads increase the multiple readings of the text. For example, early in the novel Lombard and Blore notice that Rogers is able to move very quickly and very quietly through the house. This raises suspicions in the readers mind as to whether there are secret tunnels in the house, or perhaps that Rogers has a twin helping him commit the murders. This false lead leads the reader into the confusion of reading. Psychologists have argued that this inability of the reader to organize events and clues produces an affinity for the detective genre in the same way that people will spend large amounts of time trying to defeat difficult games and puzzles.
And Then There Were None Essays and Related Content
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- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-3
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 4-6
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-9
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-12
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-16
- Summary and Analysis of Epilogue and Manuscript
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