Study Guide

Murder on the Orient Express Quotes

  • Justice and Judgment

    <em>"We're going to take for a ride, Ratchett. Some time soon. We're going to GET you, see?" </em>(1.6.85)

    The notes sent to Ratchett suggest that his death was the result of revenge taken by the mob, but they were actually faked.

    "How many wounds are there exactly?"

    "I make it twelve. One or two are so light as to be practically scratches. On the other hand, at least three would be capable of causing death." (1.7.19-20)

    The number twelve is a very important number for this novel. As Dr. Constantine reports, there are twelve wounds on Ratchett; there also happen to be twelve members on a jury. That seems to imply that this isn't a straightforward murder, but instead an attempt at a trial by jury. Apparently, Ratchett was found guilty.

    "The question we have now to ask ourselves is this," he said. "Is this murder the work of some rival gang whom Cassetti had double-crossed in the past, or is it an act of private vengeance?" (1.18.20)

    Poirot and his sidekicks must determine who is taking revenge on Ratchett. Are they dealing with killers who are also bad, or with people who are actually trying to do good?

    "Excellent," said Poirot. "We can open our Court of Inquiry without more ado." (2.1.5)

    Poirot uses the language of the courtroom, suggesting that he will act not only as detective, but also as a judge of sorts.

    "If ever a man deserved what he got, Ratchett or Cassetti is the man. I'm rejoiced at his end. Such a man wasn't fit to live!" (2.2.13)

    Though he was not convicted of any crime, everyone on the train agrees that Ratchett deserved to die. In this case, MacQueen is expressing that opinion. Is Ratchett's death justified?

    "In fact, Colonel Arbuthnot, you prefer law and order to private vengeance?"

    "Well, you can't go about having blood feuds and stabbing each other like Corsicans or the Mafia," said the Colonel. "Say what you like, trial by jury is a sound system." (2.8.89-90)

    Colonel Arbuthnot's comments are a hint as to the solution of the murder: the twelve stabs come from twelve "jurors," so to speak.

    "She is cold. She has not emotions. She would not stab a man; she would sue him in the law courts." (2.12.7)

    Similarly, this reference to Miss Debenham (spoken by Dr. Constantine) is a hint as to the outcome of the case.

    "You do not believe in doing your utmost to further the ends of justice?"

    "In this case I consider that justice – strict justice – has been done." (3.5.38)

    Princess Dragomiroff believes that by killing Ratchett, justice is served. Do you agree with her? Is it okay for ordinary citizens to take it upon themselves to act as a jury and executioners?

    "I remembered a remark of Colonel Arbuthnot's about trial by jury. A jury is composed of twelve people – there were twelve passengers – Ratchett was stabbed twelve times." (3.9.58)

    In case you missed it before, the link is spelled out for us.

    "Ratchett had escaped justice in America. There was no question as to his guilt. I visualized a self-appointed jury of twelve people who condemned him to death and were forced by exigencies of the case to be their own executioners. And immediately, on that assumption, the whole case fell into beautiful shining order." (3.9.59)

    Again, Poirot elaborates the metaphor.

    "I would have stabbed that man twelve times willingly. It wasn't only that he was responsible for my daughter's death and her child's, and that of the other child who might have been alive and happy now. It was more than that. There had been other children before Daisy – there might be others in the future." (3.9.83)

    Linda Arden admits that she would have taken on the sole role of executioner if she had to. Clearly she thinks of this as a case of justice, not revenge. Her motivation is preventing Ratchett from killing again, not simply getting back at him for murdering her granddaughter.

    M. Bouc cleared his throat.

    "In my opinion, M. Poirot," he said, "the first theory you put forward was the correct one ¬– decidedly so. I suggest that that is the solution we offer to the Yugo-Slavian police when they arrive." (3.9.89)

    Dr. Constantine and M. Bouc agree that justice has indeed been served. Check out "What's Up with the Ending?" for more on this.

  • Reason and Logic

    He sipped his wine. Then, leaning back, he ran his eye thoughtfully round the dining car. There were thirteen people seated there and, as M. Bouc had said, of all classes and nationalities. He began to study them. (1.3.13)

    Ever observant, even when he isn't on a case, Poirot is a student of human nature. This certainly helps him later when he decides to solve the Ratchett murder mystery.

    "I know something of your methods. This is the ideal case for you. To look up the antecedents of all these people, to discover their <em>bona fides</em> ¬– all that takes time and endless inconvenience. But have I not heard you say often that to solve a case a man has only to lie back in his chair and think? Do that. Interview the passengers on the train, view the body, examine what clues there are and then – well, I have faith in you! I am assured that it is no idle boast of yours. Lie back and think – use (as I have heard you say so often) the little grey cells of the mind ¬– and you will <em>know!</em>" (1.5.141)

    Poirot's reputation precedes him, and M. Bouc urges him to use his brainpower to crack the case.

    "See you, my dear doctor, me, I am not one to rely upon the expert procedure. It is the psychology I seek, not the fingerprint or the cigarette ash. But in this case I would welcome a little scientific assistance. This compartment is full of clues, but can I be sure that those clues are really what they seem to be?" (1.7.112)

    While Poirot relies mostly upon logic and psychology, we also see he is not opposed to bringing scientific methods into his investigation.

    Poirot shook his head violently.

    "That is just it – it is <em>im</em>possible – quite impossible – that an honourable, slightly stupid, upright Englishman should stab an enemy twelve times with a knife! Do you not feel, my friends, how impossible it is?"

    "That is the psychology," said M. Bouc.

    "And one must respect the psychology. This crime has a signature and it is certainly not the signature of Colonel Arbuthnot." (2.8.118-121)

    Unlike police today, Poirot makes his assumptions based on psychology, rather than on physical evidence such as fingerprints and DNA.

    "I look first at my witness, I sum up his or her character, and I frame my questions accordingly. Just a little minute ago I am asking questions of a gentleman who wants to tell me all his ideas on every subject. Well, him I keep strictly to the point. I want him to answer yes or no, this or that. And then you come. I see at once that you will be orderly and methodical. You will confine yourself to the matter in hand. Your answers will be brief and to the point. And because, Mademoiselle, human nature is perverse, I ask of you quite different questions. I ask what you <em>feel</em>, what you <em>thought. </em>It does not please you this method?" (2.11.32)

    Poirot explains, in detail, the way in which he approaches his interviews with suspects in order to get to the bottom of things. Notice how his method is different for every suspect.

    "Did I not tell you that I was, like you, a very puzzled man? But at least we can face our problem. We can arrange such facts as we have with order and method." (2.13.16)

    Poirot is a big fan of order and precision – from his neat little mustache to the list of clues that he makes for his friends.

    "What to my mind is so interesting in this case is that we have none of the facilities afforded to the police. We cannot investigate the bona fides of any of these people. We have to rely solely on deduction. That, to me, makes the matter very much more interesting. There is no routine work. It is a matter of the intellect." (2.13.33)

    Because they are cut off from the outside world because of the snowdrift, Poirot relies strictly on his own mind to solve the crime.

    "The whole thing is a fantasy," cried M. Bouc.

    "Exactly. It is absurd – improbably – it cannot be. So I myself have said. And yet, my friend, there it is! One cannot escape from the facts.

    "It is madness!"

    "Is it not? It is so mad, my friend, that sometimes I am haunted by the sensation that really it must be very simple…" (2.13.58-61)

    Poirot points us to Occam's Razor: in essence, that most complicated problems usually have one very simple solution.

    On the paper was written:

    <em>Things needing explanation.</em>

    1. The handkerchief marked with the initial H. Whose is it? (3.2.1-2)

    A list! Here we see Poirot's orderly methods at work.

    "I see, nebulously as yet, a certain explanation that would cover the facts as we know them. It is a very curious explanation, and I cannot be sure as yet that it is the true one. To find out definitely, I shall have to make certain experiments." (3.3.21)

    Poirot tests his hypothesis using a logical and scientific method.

  • Visions of America

    At the table opposite them were three men. They were, he guessed, single travelers graded and placed there by the unerring judgment of the restaurant attendants. A big, swarthy Italian was picking his teeth with gusto. Opposite him a spare, neat English-man had the expressionless disapproving face of the well-trained servant. Next to the Englishman was a big American in a loud suit – possibly a commercial traveler. (1.3.14)

    The American is situated beside an Englishman and an Italian. How does he compare? Do these descriptions seem fair, or are they stereotypes?

    "There is a large American on the train," said M. Bouc, pursuing his idea – "a common-looking man with terrible clothes. He chews the gum which I believe is not done in good circles. You know whom I mean?" (1.5.134)

    What are M. Bouc's ideas about Americans?

    "Have you ever been in America, Mademoiselle?"

    "No. Very nearly once. I was to go with an invalid lady, but it was cancelled at the last moment. I much regretted. They are very good, the Americans. They give much money to found schools and hospitals. They are very practical." (2.5.53-54)

    Greta Ohlsson, the Swedish woman, offers a positive vision of America.

    "I don't as a rule like Americans – haven't any use for 'em –"

    Poirot smiled, remembering MacQueen's strictures on "Britishers." (2.8.38-39)

    MacQueen and Colonel Arbuthnot have conflicting views about the other's culture.

    "It is true that America is the country of progress," agreed Poirot. "There is much that I admire about Americans. Only – I am perhaps old-fashioned – but me, I find the American woman less charming than my own countrywomen. The French or Belgian girl, coquettish, charming – I think there is no one to touch her." (2.15.20)

    Poirot admits to admiring America. What does he mean by "progress"?

    "I would like first to mention certain points which appear to me suggestive. Let us start with a remark made to me by M. Bouc in this very place on the occasion of our first lunch together on the train. He commented on the fact that we were surrounded by people of all classes, of all ages, of all nationalities. That is a fact somewhat rare at this time of year." (3.3.22)

    Poirot recognizes that the population of the train car is a reflection of the diversity of the American population.

    "I agreed with him, but when this particular point came into my mind, I tried to imagine whether such an assembly were ever likely to be collected under an other conditions. And the answer I made to myself was – only in America." (3.9.40-41)

    Poirot repeats his point. "Only in America," he says, would you find people of so many different backgrounds and social classes all intermingling.

    "Ratchett had escaped justice in America. There was no question as to his guilt. I visualized a self-appointed jury of twelve people who condemned him to death and were forced by exigencies of the case to be their own executioners. And immediately, on that assumption, the whole case fell into beautiful shining order." (3.9.59)

    The passengers recreate the American judicial system on the train.

    "To play the part she played – the perfectly natural, slight ridiculous American fond mother – an artist was needed. But there <em>was </em>an artist connected with the Armstrong family – Mrs. Armstrong's mother – Linda Arden, the actress…" (3.9.71)

    What stereotypes does Linda Arden tap into to portray Mrs. Hubbard? What does her character say about Americans more generally in this book?

  • Foreignness and 'the Other'

    At the table opposite them were three men. They were, he guessed, single travelers graded and placed there by the unerring judgment of the restaurant attendants. A big, swarthy Italian was picking his teeth with gusto. Opposite him a spare, neat English-man had the expressionless disapproving face of the well-trained servant. Next to the Englishman was a big American in a loud suit – possibly a commercial traveler. (1.3.14)

    The description of the three men plays on stereotypes about each nation.

    Poirot, by now, knew all about Mrs. Hubbard's daughter. Everyone on the train who could understand English did! How she and her husband were on the staff of a big American college in Smyrna and how this was Mrs. Hubbard's first journey to the East, and what she thought of the Turks and their slipshod ways and the condition of their roads. (1.4.24)

    Mrs. Hubbard personifies the loud, obnoxious American traveler. We were a little offended until we found out (many chapters later) that this is just an act.

    "There isn't anybody knows a thing on this train. And nobody's trying to do anything. Just a pack of useless foreigners. Why, if this were at home, there'd be someone at least <em>trying</em> to do something." (1.5.42)

    Mrs. Hubbard suggests that people are most loyal to their own countries and countrymen. Since they're all in a foreign land, she thinks they feel no responsibility to help solve the murder. Do you think that's a fair statement, even though "Mrs. Hubbard" is just Linda Arden putting on a show?

    "No," said Mr. Bouc thoughtfully. "This is the act of a man driven almost crazy with a frenzied hate – it suggests more that Latin temperament. Or else it suggests, as our friend the <em>chef de train </em>insisted, a woman." (1.6.128)

    Mr. Bouc suggests that only someone of the "Latin temperament" could have committed the crime – or a woman. What is the significance of this connection?

    "I thought there were no detectives on the train when it passed through Yugo-Slavia – not until one got to Italy."

    "I am not a Yugo-Slavian detective, Madame. I am an international detective."

    "You belong to the League of Nations?"

    "I belong to the world, Madame," said Poirot dramatically. (2.7.78-81)

    Poirot sees himself as belonging not to one nation, but to all nations. That makes him the perfect detective for the crime. Still, does he hold some prejudices against people from certain countries?

    Poirot leaned forward. He became persuasive and a little more foreign than he need have been.

    "Monsieur, I am about to appeal to you. You and Miss Debenham are the only two English people on the train. It is necessary that I should ask you each your opinion of each other." (2.8.28-29)

    How does Poirot use his difference to play into the psychology of Colonel Arbuthnot and other passengers? Why does be become "a little more foreign" in this scene?

    "I don't as a rule like Americans – haven't any use for 'em-"

    Poiriot smiled, remembering MacQueen's strictures on "Britishers." (2.8.38-39)

    Colonel Arbuthnot and MacQueen express prejudices about people from each other's home countries.

    "Then I go back to my compartment. The miserable John Bull who shares it with me is away attending to his master. At last he comes back – very long face as usual. He will not talk – say yes and no. A miserable race, the English – not sympathetic." (2.10.33)

    A "John Bull" is an English popular culture figure, kind of like Uncle Sam.

    "He has been a long time in America," said M. Bouc, "and he is an Italian, and Italians use the knife! And they are great liars! I do not like Italians." (2.10.51)

    M. Bouc's prejudiced opinion of Italians provides a bit of comic relief in the novel. We know that he's being absolutely ridiculous.

    "I have the little idea, my friend, that this is a crime very carefully planned and staged. It is a far-sighted, long-headed crime. It is not – how shall I express it? – a <em>Latin </em>crime. It is a crime that shows traces of a cool, resourceful, deliberate brain – I think an Anglo-Saxon brain." (2.10.54)

    Poirot's notion that only an Anglo-Saxon brain is cool and resourceful is dated and backwards. Why is his assumption a problem?

    "I like to see an angry Englishman," said Poirot. "They are very amusing. The more emotional they feel the less command they have of language." (3.7.50)

    Poirot uses stereotypes about the English to work up Colonel Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham. Why is this a good angle for getting information out of the Colonel?

    "So, you see, sir, he couldn't have done it. Tonio may be a foreigner, sir, but he's a very gentle creature – not like those nasty murdering Italians one reads about." (3.8.53)

    Masterman rushes to Antonio's defense once he realizes that the stereotype of the bloodthirsty Italian may cast suspicion upon the man.

  • Lies and Deceit

    "Well, yes, I did. For one thing, I don't believe Ratchett was his real name. I think he left America definitely in order to escape someone or something. I think he was successful – until a few weeks ago." (1.6.72)

    We quickly learn that even Ratchett himself had assumed a false identity in order to escape his past. No one on this train is who they seem to be.

    "I mean," explained Poirot, "that if the murderer intended us to believe that he had escaped by the way of the window he would naturally make it appear that the other two exits were impossible. Like the 'disappearing person' in the cabinet – it is a trick. It is our business to find out how the trick is done." (1.7.138)

    Poirot likens the murderer's methods to a magic trick, suggesting that the events have a certain theatrical flair to them.

    "Mr. Hardman sighed, removed the chewing gum, and dived into a pocket. At the same time his whole personality seemed to undergo a change. He became less of a stage character and more of a real person. The resonant nasal tones of his voice became modified." (2.9.33)

    Mr. Hardman reveals his identity to Poirot, and that he has been working undercover. However, he doesn't reveal his connection to the Armstrong family.

    "I look first at my witness, I sum up his or her character, and I frame my questions accordingly. Just a little minute ago I am asking questions of a gentleman who wants to tell me all his ideas on every subject. Well, him I keep strictly to the point. I want him to answer yes or no, this or that. And then you come. I see at once that you will be orderly and methodical. You will confine yourself to the matter in hand. Your answers will be brief and to the point. And because, Mademoiselle, human nature is perverse, I ask of you quite different questions. I ask what you <em>feel</em>, what you <em>thought. </em>It does not please you this method?" (2.11.32)

    Poirot has strategies for dealing with lies and deceit which have to do with manipulating human psychology. Here, he explains to Mary that he must approach each suspect differently.

    "Are these people whose evidence we have taken speaking the truth or lying? We have no means of finding out – except such means as we can devise ourselves. It is an exercise, this, of the brain." (3.1.12)

    Because the train is cut off from crime labs, the solution of the case turns into a battle of the wits.

    "Lies –  and again lies. It amazes me, the amount of lies we had told to us this morning."

    "There are more still to discover," said Poirot cheerfully.

    "You think so?"

    "I shall be very disappointed if it is not so." (3.5.58-61)

    M. Bouc is clearly bothered by the fact that he's been lied to so much – as most people would be, probably, if they discovered they had been deceived. Why is Poirot not more disturbed once the plot starts to unravel?

    "If you confront anyone who has lied with the truth, they usually admit it – often out of sheer surprise. It is only necessary to guess <em>right </em>to produce your effect." (3.5.63)

    Again, one of Poirot's major weapons is human psychology. He's figured out how to catch people in a lie.

    "I wished to ask you, Mademoiselle, why you lied to us this morning?"

    "Lied to you? I don't know what you mean."

    "You concealed the fact that at the time of the Armstrong tragedy you were actually living in the house. You told me that you had never been in America."

    He saw her flinch for a moment and then recover herself. (3.7.5-8)

    Poirot confronts Mary Debenham with the truth, and her reaction, however slight her flinch may be, gives her away.

    "This," said Dr. Constantine, "is more wildly improbably than any <em>roman policier </em>I have ever read." (3.8.59)

    Dr. Constantine compares the plot to a <em>roman policier</em>, or a police novel. This is a very meta thing to do, isn't it? The fiction is calling attention to itself as fiction.

    "And then, Messieurs, I saw light. They were <em>all </em>in it. For so many people connected with the Armstrong case to be traveling by the same train by a coincidence was not only unlikely, it was <em>impossible. </em>It must be not chance, but <em>design</em>." (3.9.58)

    Again, this is another incredibly meta moment. We realize that the plot of the novel is also a plot by the characters.

  • Modernization and Technology

    It was five o'clock on a winter's morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express. It consisted of a kitchen and dining car, a sleeping car and two local coaches. (1.1.1)

    The first line of the novel announces the setting: the thoroughly modern luxury train. We're not in a country house or an old castle. This plot depends on trains, the most comfortable and fastest way to travel at the time.

    "The train is due in at 6:55 and one has to cross the Bosporus and catch the Simplon Orient Express the other side at nine o'clock. If there is an hour or two of delay we shall miss the connection." (1.1.102)

    A lot of the tension in the plot revolves around the train's schedule – more specifically, that it might not reach its destination on time. Here, Mary expresses impatience.

    There were three waiting for him and a telegram. His eyebrows rose a little at the sight of the telegram. It was unexpected. (1.2.2)

    The telegram, a newer and more immediate form of communication than the standard mail (though certainly not brand-new by the time this book is set), calls Poirot back to London.

    "All around us are people, of all classes, of all nationalities, of all ages. For three days these people, these strangers to one another are brought together. They sleep and eat under one roof, they cannot get away from each other. At the end of three days they part, they go their several ways, never, perhaps, to see each other again." (1.3.7)

    The train brings together people of all classes and nationalities, creating a melting pot sorts. In this way, "modern" technology brings people together.

    "No fingerprints at all," he said. "That means it has been wiped. Well, if there had been fingerprints it would have told us very little. They would have been those of M. Ratchett or his valet or the conductor. Criminals do not make mistakes of that kind nowadays." (1.7.13)

    Fingerprint technology exists, but Poirot doesn't think it would help. He knows he must rely on the age-old tools of logic, reason, and psychology.

    "See you, my dear doctor, me, I am not one to rely upon the expert procedure. It is the psychology I seek, not the fingerprint or the cigarette ash. But in this case I would welcome a little scientific assistance. This compartment is full of clues, but can I be sure that those clues are really what they seem to be?" (1.7.112)

    Poirot is not immune to scientific intervention. He relies on the Doctor's medical examination for evidence, and also uses a spirit stove and hat mesh to reveal the writing on a discarded scrap of paper.

    The doctor watched him with great interest. He flattened out the two humps of wire, and with great care wriggled the charred scrap of paper on to one of them. He clapped the other on top of it and then, holding both pieces together with the tongs, held the whole thing over the flame of the spirit lamp. (1.7.119)

    Not one to stick only to old-fashioned methods, Poirot ingeniously sets up a makeshift crime lab to illuminate the script on the scrap.

    "I thought there were no detectives on the train when it passed through Yugo-Slavia – not until one got to Italy."

    "I am not a Yugo-Slavian detective, Madame. I am an international detective."

    "You belong to the League of Nations?"

    "I belong to the world, Madame," said Poirot dramatically. (2.7.78-81)

    Poirot is a truly modern detective in that he belongs not to one nation, but to the world, as he tells Countess Andrenyi. In that sense, he's a lot like the train itself, traveling across many nations.

    Poirot shook his head violently.

    "That is just it – it is <em>im</em>possible – quite impossible – that an honourable, slightly stupid, upright Englishman should stab an enemy twelve times with a knife! Do you not feel, my friends, how impossible it is?"

    "That is the psychology," said M. Bouc.

    "And one must respect the psychology. This crime has a signature and it is certainly not the signature of Colonel Arbuthnot." (2.8.118-121)

    Poirot's reliance on psychology also has a modern flair to it.

    "I see, nebulously as yet, a certain explanation that would cover the facts as we know them. It is a very curious explanation, and I cannot be sure as yet that it is the true one. To find out definitely, I shall have to make certain experiments." (3.3.21)

    Poirot tests his hypothesis methodically – one might even say, according to the scientific method.

  • Appearances

    It was not till they were eating a delicate cream cheese that M. Bouc allowed his attention to wander to matters other than nourishment. He was at the stage of a meal when one becomes philosophic.

    "Ah!" he sighed. "If I had but the pen of a Balzac! I would depict this scene." (1.3.3-4)

    M. Bouc thinks the scene is a perfect one to be written about. (Agatha Christie obviously agrees.) He expresses his wish that he had the skills famous French writer Honoré de Balzac.

    What an egg-shaped head he had. In spite of her preoccupations Mary Debenham smiled. A ridiculous-looking little man. The sort of little man one could never take seriously. (1.1.28)

    Mary Debenham immediately underestimates Poirot because of his size and, quite possibly, his silly mustache.

    "Rather an odd little comedy that I watch here," said Poirot to himself thoughtfully. (1.1.81)

    Poirot immediately senses something theatrical in the conversation between Colonel Arbuthnot and Mary Debenham.

    He was a man of between sixty and seventy. From a little distance he had the bland aspect of a philanthropist. His slightly bald head, his domed forehead, the smiling mouth that displayed a very white set of false teeth, all seemed to speak of a benevolent personality. Only the eyes belied this assumption. They were small, deep set and crafty. Not only that. As the man, making some remark to his young companion, glanced across the room, his gaze stopped on Poirot for a moment, and just for that second there was a strange malevolence, and unnatural tensity in the glance. (1.2.38)

    Though things are not always what they seem in this novel, one thing is certain: everyone knows Ratchett is evil just by <em>looking </em>at him. Is this message consistent with the rest of Christie's novel?

    "If you will forgive me for being personal – I do not like your face, M. Ratchett," he said. (1.3.85)

    Though he knows relatively nothing about Ratchett, Poirot relies on his instincts to judge the man's character.

    "And most conveniently she leaves her handkerchief behind!" said Poirot. "Exactly as it happens in the books and on the films – and to make things even easier for us it is marked with an initial." (1.7.76)
    The placement of the clues is so perfect as to call attention to itself. Note how Poirot compares the clues to books and films in the genre. (Very meta.)

    "Say something, then, my friend, I implore you. Show me how the impossible can be possible!"

    "It is a good phrase that," said Poirot. "The impossible cannot have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances." (2.13.3-4)

    Poirot senses that he must look beyond the surface of things. He's a practical guy, and he refuses to be confounded by how strange things appear to be.

    "Nonsense. It's absurd. Colonel Arbuthnot is the last man in the world to be mixed up in a crime – especially a theatrical kind of crime like this." (2.15.165)

    Christie gives us hint after hint that the reality we are presented with in the novel is not, in fact, reality. The word "theatrical" is a clue here

    "That is all very fine," said M. Bouc. "But what have you to go upon?"

    "I told you just now. We have the evidence of the passengers and the evidence of our own eyes."

    "Pretty evidence – that of the passengers! It told us just nothing at all."

    Poirot shook his head.

    "I do not agree, my friend. The evidence of the passengers gave us several points of interest." (3.1.13-17)

    While M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine remain puzzled, Poirot has made observations that suggest a simple solution to the mystery.

    "I came to the conclusion that the whole business at twenty-three minutes to one was a comedy played for my benefit!" (3.9.50)

    Christie's novel again suggests the theatricality of the crime here as Poirot likens the events to a comic play. Just like in a play, all of the people on the train are acting out roles.

  • Good and Evil

    "When he passed me in the restaurant," he said at last, "I had a curious impression. It was as though a wild animal – an animal savage, but savage! you understand – had passed me by."

    "And yet he looked altogether of the most respectable."

    "<em>Précisément! </em>The body – the cage – is everything of the most respectable – but through the bars, the wild animal looks out."

    "You are fanciful, <em>mon vieux,</em>" said M. Bouc.

    "It may be so. But I could not rid myself of the impression that evil had passed me by very close." (1.2.52-56)

    Poirot compares Ratchett to a wild animal and gets the sense that he is evil just by <em>looking </em>at him. Do you think we can truly know evil when we see it?

    "I'll tell you the truth, Mr. Poirot. I disliked and distrusted him. He was, I am sure, a cruel and a dangerous man. I must admit, though, that I have no reasons to advance for my opinion." (1.6.102)

    MacQueen's opinion is founded on the Armstrong case, though he won't admit it to Poirot this early in the novel.

    "<em>Ah! Quel animal!</em>" M. Bouc's tone was redolent of heartfelt disgust. "I cannot regret that he is dead – not at all!" (1.8.16)

    Again, Mr. Ratchett is compared to a savage animal rather than being talked about as a human being.

    "If ever a man deserved what he got, Ratchett or Cassetti is the man. I'm rejoiced at his end. Such a man wasn't fit to live!" (2.2.13)

    Notice that the opinion of every passenger is the same: Ratchett was evil and he deserved to die.

    "That there are in the world such evil men! It tries one's faith. The poor mother. My heart aches for her." (2.5.59)

    Greta Ohlsson agrees that Ratchett was a terrible person.

    "In my view, then, this murder is an entirely admirable happening! You will pardon my slightly biased point of view." (2.6.90)

    This quote comes from Princess Dragomiroff. Can murder ever be truly admirable? Or was this not a case of murder?

    "Then in my opinion the swine deserved what he got. Though I would have preferred to have seen him properly hanged – or electrocuted, I suppose, over there." (2.8.88)

    Colonel Arbuthnot believes that Ratchett got what he deserved. Do you?

    "What is that you are saying? Why, that little one – she was the delight of the house. Tonio, she called me. And she would sit in the car and pretend to hold the wheel. All the household worshipped her! Even the police came to understand that. Ah, the beautiful little one." (3.8.34)

    Antonio Foscarelli's description of Daisy Armstrong, in all of her youth and innocence, serves as a contrast to Ratchett.

    "I did so rejoice that that evil man was dead – that he could not any more kill or torture little children. Ah! I cannot speak – I have no words…" (3.8.46)

    Greta Ohlsson was comforted by Ratchett's death. The fact that Ratchett's victims were innocent children highlights his cruelty.

  • Strength and Skill

    "Lie back and think – use (as I have heard you say so often) the little grey cells of the mind – and you will <em>know!</em>" (1.5.141)

    Poirot's mental prowess aids his investigation. Here M. Bouc repeats Poirot's famous phrase: "the little grey cells."

    She was not even looking at him. Her gaze went past him, out of the window to where the snow lay in heavy masses.

    "You are a strong character, Mademoiselle," said Poirot gently. You are, I think, the strongest character amongst us."

    "Oh, no. No, indeed. I know one far, far stronger than I am."

    "And that is – ?"

    She seemed to suddenly come to herself, to realize that she was talking to a stranger and a foreigner with whom, until this morning, she had only exchanged half a dozen sentences. (1.5.63-67)

    Mary's calm and collected manner convinces Poirot that she is a "strong character." However, he also sees flaws. What are they?

    "Come, my friend," said M. Bouc. "You comprehend what I am about to ask of you. I know your powers. Take command of this investigation!" (1.5.139)

    Why does M. Bouc have such faith in Poirot?

    Her small toad-like face looked even yellower than the day before. She was certainly ugly, and yet, like the toad, she had eyes like jewels, dark and imperious, revealing latent energy and an intellectual force that could be felt at once. (2.6.47)

    Princess Dragomiroff exudes power. (And ugliness.)

    "I think, Madame, that your strength is in your will – not in your arm."

    She glanced down at her thin, black-clad arms ending in those claw-like yellow hands with the rings on the fingers.

    "It is true," she said. "I have no strength in these – none. I do not know if I am sorry or glad." (2.15.70-72)

    Though she is a feeble, elderly woman, the Princess displays strength of will.

    "It might be a question of the influence of mind over body," said Poirot. "Princess Dragomiroff has great personality and immense will power. But let us pass from that for the moment." (3.2.40)

    Again, Poirot is able to judge the Princess's role in the plot.

    And then, suddenly, after a quarter of an hour's complete immobility, his eyebrows began to move slowly up his forehead. A little sigh escaped him. He murmured beneath his breath:

    "But, after all, why not? And if so – why, if so that would explain everything."

    His eyes opened. They were green like a cat's. He said softly:

    "<em>Eh bien.</em> I have thought. And you?"

    Lost in their reflections, both men started violently. (3.3.11-15)

    That Poirot is the only one who figures out the solution highlights his strength of mind and powers of detection.

    Her voice rang out passionately. She was a true daughter of that mother, the emotional force of whose acting had moved huge audiences to tears. (3.4.35)

    The Countess, like her mother, possesses great acting skills.

    "To play the part she played – the perfectly natural, slight ridiculous American fond mother – an artist was needed. But there <em>was </em>an artist connected with the Armstrong family – Mrs. Armstrong's mother – Linda Arden, the actress…" (3.9.71)

    Linda Arden's talents are obvious as she plays the obnoxious American, Mrs. Hubbard.

    "I would have stabbed that man twelve times willingly." (3.9.84)

    Here we see that Arden's powers are not limited to acting.