Agatha Christie is known as the ‘Queen of Mystery’. Her book ‘And Then There Were None’ is premised on the poem ‘Ten Little Soldiers’ – serving as the basic plot of the novel. This proves the calibre of Agatha Christie as a writer. This book is a work of exception and adds a feather to an already overflowing cap.
The story is set on an island called Soldier Island, where ten different people are summoned. The people summoned on the island are responsible for someone’s murder. They all start dying in a similar fashion described in the poem. Who is killing them? Is the real mastermind amongst them?
You will have to read the novel to find out. The characters in the plot are straightforward, and many in number. Before you dwell on the story, let me give you a brief sketch about the interesting women characters:
Vera is one of the most clever and intelligent characters in the novel, which explains why she is one of the last persons standing.
Vera Claythorne: The character of Vera is one of the strongest characters in the novel, although she is unstable and irrational about the crime she has committed. At her last job, she let Cyril drown, so that Hugo, his relative, could inherit all the property. What makes her stand out as a woman character is that she does not fit the stereotypical woman character from the literature of the first half of the twentieth century.
A stereotypical woman is the one who is supposed to care of the child, nurture them and submit to the demands of a man. However, Vera was the exact opposite – she is responsible for the death of a child. She is one of the most clever and intelligent characters in the novel, which explains why she is one of the last persons standing. Vera is not portrayed as meek or a woman waiting to be rescued. She had the courage to steal the gun of Philip Lombard and shoot him to protect herself.
Emily Brent: Emily Brent is a religious lady. Agatha Christie again forms this woman character who is not contained in the box of gender stereotypes. Emily is opinionated about her beliefs, she holds no regret about her actions and is confident about herself. Unlike the typical woman characters back then, who are often shown as dependent and under-confident, Christie smashed that regressive mindset with this character.
That being established, the book is placed on the bedrock of masculinity – where masculinity is most active and leads the narrative in the story. The male characters – such as Lombard and Blore (the closest the readers come to heroic figures) – are the characters with most of the agency. They are the ones who are pro-active in taking initiative and trying to find a way out of the death-labyrinth that most of the characters have found themselves in.
This enforced masculinity is then made to face the consequences of its actions.
The character of Lombard also refuses to involve women in the investigation because he decided that they won’t be of much help. The leaders, not heroes, are strong, able-bodied, privileged and perform dominant masculinity and exclude the men who are not active like them – General Macarthur does not make the cut because of his age and neither does the working class Rogers. To further enhance the active masculinity – the women characters are constructed as passive.
This enforced masculinity is then made to face the consequences of its actions. Even though Vera and Emily are by NO means passive, they are subject to exclusion by the men who have taken it upon themselves to lead. Emily defies the normative constructions of femininity, satisfactorily disturbing the male characters and their textbook sexism. Vera breaks every construction of masculinised reason, rationale and action – and asserts that she is just as active, capable and dangerous. Underestimating her was Philip Lombard’s ultimate undoing.
Agatha Christie described ‘And Then There Were None’ as one of the most difficult books for her to write. It was first published in 1939 and is still loved by people. You will keep flipping pages till the end. Finding out the real culprit in the story proved to be the best adventure ever. The story is complex yet intriguing and the best part about the book, unlike other mystery novels, is that the loops are tied in the end. All the readers’ questions are answered. This book has the ability to keep the readers hooked until the end. A timeless must-read for all seasons.
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Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: Owen Theatre