The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Wedding Ring (symbol)

The wedding ring that Poirot digs up from the goldfish pond is a symbol for Ralph Paton and Ursula Bourne’s relationship. Although Ralph gave her the ring when they secretly married, Ursula threw it into the pond after discovering Ralph’s secret. That is, he agreed to an engagement to Flora Ackroyd when his uncle requested it, hoping that would encourage his uncle to help settle his debts. Like the ring tossed in the mud in frustration, Ursula and Ralph’s marriage suffers as a result – she is furious at this betrayal, and it causes great conflict between them.

Poirot’s Story (Allegory)

Poirot’s story at the end of Chapter 17 is an allegory for Dr. Sheppard’s guilt in the murder. Indeed, in telling the story about a hypothetical man moved to commit crimes after his weak character is exposed to just the right provocations of situations or events, Poirot is describing Dr. Sheppard’s blackmailing of Mrs. Ferrars and subsequent murder of Roger Ackroyd exactly. At the time, Dr. Sheppard is stunned to silence by the "merciless analysis" (p. 202). Ultimately, he will realize that Poirot by then knew of his guilt and was using the story as a means to explain how Dr. Sheppard was brought to the point of committing murder.

Vegetable Marrow (Symbol)

When Poirot is first introduced, he has just thrown a vegetable marrow (squash) over the wall of his garden in frustration. Poirot, recently retired from his job as a detective, has retreated to King’s Abbott to "enjoy" his retirement, but quickly learns that he misses investigating. Retirement for Poirot is an unsatisfying and unstimulating state. For Poirot, the vegetable marrow is a symbol of the disappointment of retirement. After spending months cultivating the marrow, he became so fed up with the experience that he threw it over his garden wall in frustration. Instead, Poirot needs the stimulation of an investigation in order to find satisfaction.

The Goose Quill (Symbol)

Poirot discovers a goose quill in the summerhouse, which he quickly recognizes as a tool used to snort heroin in an American fashion. The goose quill is a simple symbol for Charles Kent – indeed, it was dropped by him when he met with his mother, Miss Russell, in the summerhouse. The quill represents his presence in the summerhouse as well as his crippling addiction to drugs, which has become the fixation of his entire life, and prevented him from making something of himself.

Gossip (Motif)

A major motif (recurring idea/dominant feature) in the novel is gossip. As Dr. Sheppard mentions, gossip is the major hobby and form of entertainment for the citizens of King’s Abbott – the entire town participates. Caroline exemplifies King’s Abbott’s love of gossip – she constantly learns and disseminates information, and uses the servants to help her get critical information. This motif helps the novel sustain a lighter tone – rather than get bogged down in the tragedy and violence of Ackroyd’s murder, the crime feels more like an interesting puzzle that all the characters are intrigued by and desperate to solve.