Imagine that you’ve just arrived at some swanky spa for a holiday weekend and, in the dining room, is a line of GI Joe toys. That’s about the 21st-century equivalent of the soldier figurines that the guests find in the dining room, so it’s a weirdly childish motif—which, if you ask us, makes it even more creepy when you realize that they all represent the different characters.
Rogers almost realizes it the morning after Anthony dies, when he hyperventilates to Dr. Armstrong that “There’s only eight, sir! Only eight. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Only eight…” (6.235). Adding in the nursery rhyme makes the figurines even more sinister. It clues the characters into the fact that they’re in a bigger plot, and that someone is dispassionately killing them off in a specific order. Intrigued? Check out our “Epigraph” section for more on the nursery rhyme.
The contrast between the seriousness of the events (the gradual murder of ten people) and the childishness of the symbol lets us know that this whole gambit is a game to Justice Wargrave and gives us insight into just how much of a sociopath he is. While other people are concerned about, oh, we don’t know, their lives, Wargrave is just playing game master.
And, as the game master, Wargrave is also in charge of the clock. As the figurines go missing one by one, the characters get more nervous: the killer is still counting down. You could even say that the figurines represent the whole dawning sense of doom that Wargrave is going for: not just killing off the guests but putting them through some nice psychological torture while he’s at it.