Study Guide

And Then There Were None Guilt and Blame

By Agatha Christie

Guilt and Blame

Drunk, that’s what it was—drunk… And I operated! Nerves all to pieces—hands shaking. I killed her all right. Poor devil—elderly woman—simple job if I’d been sober. (4.101)

Dr. Armstrong may act as innocent as everyone else, but he knows exactly what that booming voice is talking about when it starts going. Way to make us even more terrified of surgeons, Dr. Armstrong.

Yes he’d sent Richmond to his death and he wasn’t sorry. It had been easy enough. Mistakes were being made all the time, officers being sent to death needlessly. (5.108)

Not sorry, huh? Then why all the misery and the desire to have it all end? We’ve got a feeling that General Macarthur isn’t being quite honest about his feeeeeelings.

Emily Brent said:

“I think that the accusation was true. You all saw her last night. She broke down completely and fainted. The shock of having her wickedness brought home to her was too much for her. She literally died of fear.” (6.122)

Hello, Pot. We’d like you to meet Kettle. Miss Brent considers herself a bastion of morality who’s totally fit to judge Mrs. Rogers, even though they’re literally accused and guilty of the same thing.

“What did you feel like when you knew she’d done that? Weren’t you sorry? Didn’t you blame yourself?”

Emily Brent drew herself up.

"I? I had nothing with which to reproach myself.” (7.67)

When Vera asks if Emily Brent feels guilty about the servant girl’s death—like just about anybody else would be—Emily can barely comprehend the question. Guilt? What’s that? Just like Christian charity or mercy, it’s not something Miss Brent is going to mess with.

“But it does come! The blessed relief when you know that you’ve done with it all—that you haven’t got to carry the burden any longer. You’ll feel that too, someday…” (8.116)

Macarthur may sound kooky, but he’s the only person on the island who’s accepted his fate. For an odd and possibly addled old man, he’s got a pretty strong grasp on reality.

“Miss Claythorne was wonderful—kept her head—started off swimming after Cyril at once.” (11.140)

Part of Vera’s guilt lies in the fact that no one ever questioned whether or not she was guilty for Cyril’s death. In fact, she was praised afterwards and thanked for being levelheaded. Come on, would you confess if everyone was calling you a hero?

What was that—hanging from the hook in the ceiling? A rope with a noose all ready? And a chair to stand upon—a chair that could be kicked away…

That was what Hugo wanted… (16.125-126)

Check out this interpretation: at this point, Hugo is less Vera’s lover boy and more of a stand-in for her conscience. And right now her conscience is telling her that she has to pay for what she did.

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

Okay, Mr. Mind Reader. We’re pretty sure that, “Dude, he totally looked guilty” isn’t actually a legally acceptable accusation—which is probably why none of these people were ever tried in a court of law.

Would the consciousness of her own guilt, the state of nervous tension consequent on having just shot a man, be sufficient, together with the hypnotic suggestion of the surroundings, to cause her to take her own life? (E.187)

Justice Wargrave’s final touch is more of a twisted psychological experiment about guilt rather than a cold-blooded murder. We’re betting this is one psychological experiment that would make undergrads pass up even the promise of $10 and a free cookie.

The third is symbolical. The manner of my death marking me on the forehead. The brand of Cain. (E.197)

And the final question, for ONE MILLION DOLLARS: does Wargrave feel guilty? Well, notice the subtle clue he leaves when he shoots himself in the head: it’s the brand of Cain signifies that he is the actual murderer, just as Cain was the one who killed his brother.