And Then There Were None

What kind of narrative techniques does Christy use?

in the novel

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And Then There Were None uses a variety of techniques to create a foreboding, suspenseful mood. Foreshadowing adds tension, as when the old man on the train warns Blore of the approach of “judgment.” The landscape of the island sometimes seems eerie and threatening, as does the weather: during much of the novel, Indian Island is cut off from the mainland by a severe storm whose violence and fury parallels the bloody events unfolding on the island. Psychological suspense also builds: even before the murders begin, the characters feel guilt and foreboding, and, as the novel progresses, they begin to suffer from nightmares, hysterical fits, and hallucinations that amplify the air of impending doom.

Christie also employs a constantly shifting point of view to build suspense. She gives us a glimpse of the action from one character’s perspective and then races on to another point of view and then another. Each snippet is calculated to make the character in question seem suspicious. In Chapter II, for example, when the guests have just arrived on the island, Christie cuts abruptly from one character to the next as they prepare for dinner. Dr. Armstrong feels inspired by the beauty of the island to “make plans, fantastic plans”; Anthony Marston lies in his bath thinking to himself that he “must go through with it”; Blore ties his tie and hopes he will not “bungle” his “job”; Macarthur wishes he could “make an excuse and get away . . . Throw up the whole business.” Emily Brent reads Bible verses about the just punishment of sinners, and Lombard looks like a beast of prey. With this sequence of snippets, Christie gives us just enough access to each character’s thoughts to make him or her seem like a potential murderer, and then shifts to the next character. She continues this technique throughout the novel, even as the number of suspects dwindles, so that we are never sure whom we should suspect most.