Emily Brent and Vera Claythorne walk together out to the summit of Indian Island to watch for the boat. Miss Brent tells Vera she is annoyed with herself for being so easily taken in by the false invitation to the island. Vera asks her if she thinks the Rogers “did away” with the old lady, and Miss Brent says she is sure that they did. Miss Brent recites a Bible verse from her childhood: “Be sure thy sin will find thee out.” She explains that all of the other guests must have sin that will find them as well.
Miss Brent then explains the story behind her own accusation. Beatrice Taylor had worked for Miss Brent. According to Miss Brent, the girl had a great many troubles and lived a loose lifestyle. Miss Brent shut her out from her house, and one evening, the girl jumped into the river and drowned herself. Vera looks into Miss Brent’s eyes and sees that she has no remorse for the incident and feels that she is in no way responsible. Suddenly, Vera believes that Miss Brent is “terrible.”
Dr. Armstrong and Lombard move away from the terrace for a confidential talk. Armstrong asks Lombard for his take on the situation. Lombard is sure that the Rogers were responsible for the death of their charge and Armstrong suggests that they might have killed the old woman by withholding a dose of amyl nitrate that would have been needed for a heart condition. In this way, there was “no positive action. No arsenic to obtain and administer – nothing definite – just – negation!” Lombard suggests that this explains Indian Island: all of these accusations are “crimes that cannot be brought home to their perpetrators.” As an example, Lombard tells Armstrong that he believes Wargrave murdered Mr. Seton. Armstrong thinks about his own accusation, and about how he thought he had been safe from retribution as well.
The two then discuss the legitimacy of the suicide claims for Marston and Mrs. Rogers. Lombard tells him that he cannot believe two suicides would happen in such close proximity and Armstrong agrees, adding that no one carries around Potassium Cyanide. This means that both were murdered. They think on the “Ten Little Indian Boys” rhyme. The first Indian Boy dies from “choking,” just as Marston did. The second dies from oversleeping. Mrs. Rogers, they note, overslept herself “with a vengeance.” Lombard reminds Armstrong that they are on an island and that there are only so many places for someone named U.N. Owen to hide. They decide to enlist Blore to help them search the island and find this Mr. Owen.
Blore, Armstrong, and Lombard begin to search the island. It does not take long because the island is just one big rock with few hiding places. They check any place that might have a cave or hiding place, but they find nothing. They discuss how someone might have poisoned Marston, and Lombard suggests that Marston had kept his drinking glass close to an open window. While everyone was distracted, someone could have reached in and put poison in his drink. Blore thinks that when they discover U.N. Owen, they will probably face a dangerous lunatic. Armstrong tells Blore that he may be wrong, and that “many homicidal lunatics are very quiet, unassuming people. Delightful fellows.”
As they are searching the island, they run across General Macarthur sitting quietly watching the sea. He tells them that he does not want to be disturbed, and Blore thinks that he is mad. Blore suggests that there might be a cave in one of the island’s cliffs, so Lombard finds a rope and begins to rappel the side of the cliff to see. As he descends the sheer cliff, Blore suggests to Dr. Armstrong that it is quite suspicious for Lombard to have a pistol with him even though he is an explorer and adventurer. When he returns, Lombard declares there are no caves and that the man must be hiding in the house.
The house is easily searched. It is a modern structure, and they find no hiding places. They see Rogers carrying a tray of drinks out to the guests and declare that he is a great butler since he carries on so well after the death of his wife. As they continue to explore the house, they hear soft footsteps above them in the bedroom with Mrs. Rogers’s body. They rush up to the bedroom and burst in. It is only Rogers, however, carrying some of his things to a new room. They all remark how quietly Rogers had moved from the garden outside up to the bedroom. Blore wrestles with a low manhole and then disappears into its cavernous darkness. He emerges a few minutes later covered in dirt and cobwebs. They have found no one and know that only the eight of them remain on the island.
Lombard is convinced that the two deaths on the island are coincidences, but Dr. Armstrong insists that Marston’s death was no suicide. Blore insinuates that perhaps something in the brandy that Dr. Armstrong gave to Mrs. Rogers is to blame for her death. He accuses Dr. Armstrong of giving her an overdose of medicine. Armstrong furiously denies this accusation. Lombard becomes angry with Blore, and Blore confronts him about the reason for bringing a pistol to the Island. Lombard tells them that he expected to run into trouble while on the Island and he tells the story about how the “Jewboy,” Mr. Morris, had persuaded him to come to the island with a bribe of a hundred guineas. Lombard tells them that he realizes now it was all a trap.
Mr. Rogers makes a cold lunch of tongue and boiled potatoes for the guests, and they all enter the dining room. Emily Brent mentions that the General has not joined them yet. Dr. Armstrong volunteers to go and fetch him, and he leaves the room. There are sudden gusts of wind, and Miss Brent remarks that the weather is changing and that a storm is coming soon. Suddenly, Armstrong reappears with the shocking news that General Macarthur is dead. As they bring the body of the General into the house, the storm breaks and “a sudden hiss and roar” of rain envelopes the house. They return to their meal to find that now there are only seven Indians left on the table.
Armstrong looks over the body and tells them that he had been killed by a blunt trauma to the back of the head. Wargrave speaks up as if he is presiding over a court. He tells them that he has concluded that these deaths are acts of murder and that Mr. Owen has enticed them all to this island in order to kill them. He tells them that he is sure Mr. Owen is on the island and that, in fact, Mr. Owen is one of the guests. The judge begins to go over all the evidence with the other guests. He attempts to narrow the list of possible killers down. They all decide that even though Armstrong and Wargrave are professional men, and Rogers is a common butler who would have had to kill his wife, there is no way to definitively rule out any of them as the killer. Mr. Justice Wargrave proclaims, “There can be no exceptions allowed on the score of character, position, or probability.
Wargrave tells them all that no one can be eliminated from causing the death of Anthony Marston since a common poison had killed him. He says that Mr. Rogers and Dr. Armstrong are the likely suspects in the death of Mrs. Rogers, but that several of the other guests could have had opportunity to administer a lethal dose of poison. Blore wants to know where this line of inquiry leads. Wargrave moves on to the death of General Macarthur and determines that Lombard, Armstrong, Blore, and Vera Claythorne all had opportunity to kill Macarthur but that each guest had had moments in which they were unobserved by the others. Wargrave warns them all to be on guard and “to suspect each and every one amongst us.”
And Then There Were None is also a reflection of the meaning of guilt and the gray areas of legality regarding life and death. This reflection serves as the novel’s motif. This is especially true in the cases of Miss Emily Brent and Vera Claythorne. Both are implicated in the deaths of children; Miss Brent’s young house servant participates in some teenage mischief and partying and becomes pregnant as a result. Miss Brent will not allow people of such loose morality into her house and, therefore, literally causes the girl to be homeless because of her mistake. The girl sees no other option but suicide. This motif of guilt is seen in Miss Brent’s Bible reading. The verses she chooses to read are all about justice and the act of guilt finding the guilty.
Vera Claythorne’s crime, it will be seen, is as much an incident of carelessness as murder. She teasingly tells the annoying child she cares for that he can swim out to a rock in the ocean, a distance much too far. When the boy drowns, Vera attempts to swim out to him, being caught in the rip currents as well, and almost drowning. This act, as well as her denial of any wrongdoing, means that she is never charged with any crime. Again, her guilt ends up finding her.
In Miss Brent’s case, it is clear that she did not commit a willful act of murder. Her cold-hearted refusal of a home for a pregnant unwed teen is without doubt cruel, but she commits no crime by adhering to such principles. Likewise, though Vera Claythorne is certainly a liar, Cyril’s drowning can still be considered an accident. Her guilt of carelessness does not carry the same legal authority as a crime of murder. The Indian Island murderer, however, is administering absolute justice. The killer erases the gray areas between murder and accident. Each person on Indian Island is leveled as a criminal in this vigilante setting. Christie, therefore, is attempting to have the reader ask the question of what really constitutes murder, and whether the crimes of Indian Island are any worse than the crimes each guest is accused of committing.
The novel works on several inverse principles. One of these is the principle that detective fiction and murder mysteries uphold the value of life through the horror of its negation. By demonstrating the horror of the Indian Island murders and dealing such absolute justice out for crimes for which each guest is often only circuitously responsible, the value of life is upheld as the greatest ideal. This ideal of life is further cemented by the revealing of the killer’s identity in the end. The detective genre stipulates that the murderer must have their own day of judgment to reconcile their own negation of life. Through this process, the reader’s belief in the sacredness of living is confirmed.
Lombard’s discussion of Mr. Morris in Chapter Nine represents a disturbing racial element that runs through much of Agatha Christie’s fiction. Later commentators have noted that her novels are often passively anti-Semitic. Lombard’s description of Morris as a sneaky, conniving “Jewboy” is characteristic of this tendency. The original title of And Then There Were None is also an example. The original title of the novel was Ten Little Niggers and it was first published in Britain with this name. The rhyme upon which the title is based also went by this name. American editions of the novel were changed to And Then There Were None. Further changes have been made in recent years to show respect to Native American cultures. Several editions in the last decade have replaced “Indians” with “Soldiers.” Critics are divided on whether the use of these racial and cultural expressions is simply representative of the time and place in which Christie wrote, or reveals certain tendencies in the author’s own beliefs.
The breaking of the storm in Chapter Nine is one of the novel’s most important symbolic scenes. The storm represents the release of chaos onto the island. Macarthur’s death is an important one in the narrative because it cements the fact for each character that these deaths are not simply accidents but are planned murders. It is also the first time that each character realizes that they have been called to the island for the specific purpose of being murdered. Mr. Justice Wargrave’s sure prediction that the killer is one of the guests is the beginning of the true tension and suspense on the island.