Emily Brent in And Then There Were None
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Emily Brent may seem like a harmless grandma with a pair of knitting needles, but don’t get too close: this is one old lady who’s not about to bake you a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Emily’s #1 mission in life is to make sure that everyone is following her precise interpretation of the Bible. If her moral exactitude causes anyone pain, so much the better: all she cares about is her own black-and-white definitions of morality vs. sin. From the very beginning we see a lady who looks down on other people and holds herself as the paragon of morality: “Enveloped in an aura of righteousness and unyielding principles, Miss Brent sat in her crowded third-class carriage and triumphed over its discomfort and its heat” (1.49).
Even in a crowded train, Miss Brent is judging everyone else and their sinfulness. So, obviously this woman must have a stainless past, right? What’s she doing on Soldier Island?
Turns out, Bible-thumping doesn’t necessarily match up with being a good person. When a servant girl becomes pregnant out of wedlock, Miss Brent throws the girl out and doesn’t care when she commits suicide. Even so, Miss Brent is convinced that her “crime” is faultless because she’s still adhering to her moral code. She thinks that her heightened morality makes her a more worthwhile human being, devaluing other human life. As she tells the other guests, “There is no question of defense. I have always acted in accordance with the dictates of my conscience. I have nothing with which to reproach myself” (4.110).
Brrr. Someone bring us a sweater, because it’s getting cold in here.
Instead of showing compassion towards Beatrice, Miss Brent punishes her. When the girl kills herself, Miss Brent just pats herself on the back for following her religious morals. And even when people start dying at Soldier Island, Miss Brent is sure that her moral superiority will keep her safe—even though everyone else must be guilty. Obviously, she’s so pure and faultless that she’ll survive.
Can you blame us for gloating a little when she turns out to be wrong, wrong, wrong?
Emily Brent in And Then There Were None Study Group
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