Study Guide

And Then There Were None Good vs. Evil

By Agatha Christie

Good vs. Evil

The little elderly spinster was no longer slightly ridiculous to Vera.

Suddenly—she was terrible. (7.75-76)

Everyone who comes to the island looks pretty harmless, and Miss Brent most of all: aw, she’s nothing other than a little old church lady! But they’re all total Monets: up close, they’re morally a mess.

“I reiterate my positive belief that of the seven persons assembled in this room one is a dangerous and probably insane criminal.” (9.365)

LOL irony. Here, Justice Wargrave is actually referring to himself as the dangerous and probably insane criminal. And oh boy, is he right.

“You’ve admitted, you know, that you don’t hold human life particularly sacred, but all the same I can’t see you as—as the man who dictated that gramophone record.” (10.28)

Even though Lombard is clearly a racist and a bit of a jerk (he did leave a bunch of native men to die), that doesn’t necessarily him evil or a lunatic. We guess. In fact, Vera can even relate to his flawed nature.

“Unfortunately it’s taken her this way. Religious mania—thinks she’s God’s instrument, something of that kind! She sits in her room, you know, reading her Bible.” (11.97)

Like Miley Cyrus, Justice Wargrave and Miss Brent believe that they can do just about anything and be morally justified. Pro tip: these people are very, very dangerous—and often very, very successful.

And by now the thoughts that ran through their brains were abnormal, feverish, diseased… (13.21)

Abnormal, feverish, and diseased—just like the thoughts of someone evil, or perhaps just extremely disturbed. This actually raises an important point: is And Then There Were None a study of evil, or a psychological study of sociopathy? (Fun fact: the 1930s were a heyday of Freudian psychoanalysis, which was super into exploring and understanding abnormal psychology.)

She didn’t like the hook on the ceiling. It drew your eyes, fascinated you… a big black hook… (14.91)

Um, yeah. We’d be requesting a room change pretty quickly if we got put in the room with the big black hook fastened to the ceiling. Here, Wargrave is trying to torment Vera by convincing her that she’s evil—evil enough to hang herself from this very hook.

“But don’t you see, he’s mad? It’s all mad! The whole thing of going by the rhyme is mad! Dressing up the judge, killing Rogers when he was chopping sticks—drugging Mrs. Rogers so that she overslept herself—arranging for a bumble bee when Miss Brent died!” (15.89)

It’s bad enough that they’re all dying off, but the real terror comes from knowing that the killer is a lunatic who takes pleasure in going by a silly children’s rhyme as he’s stalking his prey. You can’t get much more evil than that.

I have a definite sadistic delight in seeing or causing death. I remember experiments with wasps—with various garden pests… From an early age I knew very strongly the lust to kill. (E.130)

Uh-oh. Animal abuse is a classic serial killer tell, and Wargrave is apparently no exception. Too bad no one staged an early intervention.

To see a wretched criminal squirming in the dock, suffering the tortures of the damned, as his doom came slowly and slowly nearer, was to me an exquisite pleasure. (E.132)

Pop quiz: who’s more evil: the criminal in the dock, or Wargrave who is enjoying everything that’s happening? We’ll give you two guesses, but we bet you’ll only need one.

That was the beginning of the whole thing. I suddenly saw my way clear. And I determined to commit not one murder, but murder on a grand scale. (E.144)

Justice Wargrave isn’t the kind of man who will be satisfied with small and unimpressive murders. Oh, no. If he’s going to commit a murder (or two, or three, or ten), he’s going to do it right. It’s nice to see someone with a real work ethic these days.

“I’ve known a murderess—known her, I tell you. And what’s more I was crazy about her… god help me, sometimes I think I still am… It’s hell, I tell you—hell. You see, she did it more or less for me… Not that I ever dreamed… Women are fiends—absolute fiends—you wouldn’t think a girl like that—a nice straight jolly girl—you wouldn’t think she’d do that, would you?” (E.151)

Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell if someone is a murderess or a “nice straight jolly girl.” Hugo sure can’t tell. He loved her—maybe still does—but he can’t reconcile the Vera he loved with the one who let Cyril drown.