Study Guide

And Then There Were None Criminality

By Agatha Christie

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The Voice went on—a high clear voice:

“You are charged with the following indictments…” (3.54) 

Because the actual law can’t charge all the people sitting in the room, this voice (a.k.a. Justice Wargrave) will charge them in its own court. Noticeably absent: defense counsel or a jury.

“Oh yes, I believe it. Wargrave murdered Edward Seton all right, murdered him as surely as if he’d stuck a stiletto through him! But he was clever enough to do it from the judge’s seat in wig and gown. So in the ordinary way you can’t bring his little crime home to him.” (7.117)

It’s pretty ironic that they’re talking about how Wargrave’s crime can’t come home to him when they’ve all committed crimes that can’t come home to them. Irony #2: Seton was guilty, so Wargrave is actually the only “innocent” person on the island. (For now.)

“And therefore another kind of soldier. The Unknown Soldier! X! Mr. Owen! U.N. Owen! One Unknown Lunatic at Large!” (7.156)

They may all be criminals, but they don’t consider themselves to be real hardened criminal lunatics. As Lombard points out, though, this U.N. Owen person is definitely a crazy madman—and they’re going to hunt him down.

When Vera looked at him, she saw a man standing in the dock—a young man with fair hair and blue eyes and a bewildered frightened face. Edward Seton. (8.95)

One of the reasons we know that Vera is our protagonist is that she’s the only one who really seems to get it. She can’t see past the horrible things they’ve done, and for that matter, can’t see past what she’s done either.

Vera sat down beside him. She said:

“Do you like sitting here looking out to sea?” (8.103-104)

Vera can’t stand to be around the others, but she seem okay with General Macarthur. Maybe it’s because their crimes are similar: they were committed out of overwhelming love for their partners.

“Well, have it your own way. U.N. Owen is one of us. No exceptions allowed. We all qualify.” (9.247)

When the murders start really piling up, it’s clear that one of them is the true criminal. Unfortunately Wargrave has planned it so well that it’s impossible to eliminate anyone from the pool of suspicion. May the odds be ever in your favor!

“From now on, it is our task to suspect each and everyone amongst us. Forewarned is forearmed. Take no risks and be alert to danger. That is all.” (9.366)

By playing off of fear and suspicion, Wargrave gleefully manages to pit all the characters against each other. Since everyone has a shady past anyway, it’s not too hard.

I must say that I watched the faces of my guests closely during the indictment and I had no doubt whatever, after my long court experience, that one and all were guilty. (E.165)

The judge has spoken: all those at Soldier Island are definitely guilty. It’s just like when he held court, only this time it’s on an isolated island and totally crazy.

One: the police are perfectly aware that Edward Seton was guilty. (E.196)

Even though he’s a sadistic murderer, Wargrave still acts like a respectable judge. He only convicts people who he knows to be actually guilty, which is why he sent Edward Seton to his death and why he’s about to kill nine other people.

Crime and its punishment has always fascinated me. I enjoy reading every kind of detective story and thriller. I have devised for my own private amusement the most ingenious way of carrying out a murder. (E.131)

What delightful solitary mental games Justice Wargrave indulges himself in! It’s too bad Candy Crush hadn’t been invented yet; he might have had less time on his hands for “private amusements.”

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