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Uittreksel Agatha Christie – Ten little niggers

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Extracts English Literature
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Agatha Christie – Ten little niggers

Little, Brown and Company, (1939)

Title:

Ten little niggers

Author:

Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, England in 1891. She was one of the most famous detective writers, and is known as the 'Queen of Crime'. She wrote her first novel in 1920, which was called The mysterious Affair at Style. Her most famous characters are Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. In total, she wrote 77 detective novels, a number of plays and short stories. She also wrote some romantic novels under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott. She died in 1976.

The literary period:

The Twentieth century – first part (1918 to 1945).

The genre:

The genre is a detective novel. During the whole story, the reader must try to work out who the murderer is.

Summary:

Eight people are invited to have a holiday on Nigger Island, a small island off the coast of Devon in the South of England. Six of them, Wargrave, Vera, Lombard, Miss Brent, Macarthur and Blore travel by train. Armstrong and Marston drive down by car. They each received a different invitation, which promises him or her just what they are longing for, but nobody knows the what each other's invitation contains. In addition, nobody knows who owns the island and the villa. Mr. Blore has a list of the eight guests. He decides that he will pretend to be a South African.

A boat takes them to Nigger Island. The owner of the boat, Fred Narracott, thinks the group is peculiar, and he has never heard of their host, Mr Owen. The butler and his wife, Mr and Mrs Rogers, are the only two people on the island. They welcome the guests and generally take care of them. Mr Rogers tells the guests that Mr Owen has not arrived yet.

Vera is in her room and sees a poem hanging over her mantelpiece. It's a nursery rhyme about ten little niggers who disappear one by one until no one of them is left. The guests enjoy their dinner and get to know each other better. They see a china figurine of ten negro boys and discover they each have the same rhyme of the ten little niggers on the wall in their room. Then, suddenly a loud voice accuses all people in the room of having committed murder. Mrs Rogers faints and the other nine people are shocked. It turns out that Mr Rogers had played a record on the instructions of Mr Owen. All the guests compare their invitations, most of them are signed with U.N.Owen, which sounds like unknown.

Wargave says that Owen seems to have a lot of information about their guests, and they start talking about the people they have killed. Wargrave tells his story first. He was a judge, who convicted a man named Edward Seton, who was found guilty and executed. Armstrong remembers the case and thinks Wargrave is lying, because Wargrave knew Seton before the trial. Vera tells them how she was once in charge of a boy who she allowed to go swimming and he drowned. She wasn't held responsible for the boy's death. General Macarthur sent Arthur Richmond on a reconnaissance mission during the war, during which he was killed. Macarthur denies that Arthur Richmond was his wife's lover. Lombard tells of how he deliberately left 21 natives in the jungle without food. He admits he still doesn't feel guilty. Marston accidentally ran over two children in his car. Mr and Mrs Rogers took care of a lady who died unexpectedly, and who left them a sum of money. Mr Blore says he was doing his duty when he handed a bank robber to the police and caused him to be convicted. Later the man died in prison. Dr Armstrong says he remembers operating on someone while drunk, but doesn't know the patient's name. The patient died. Miss Brent doesn't tell her story.

Wargave proposes to leave the island next morning. Marston enjoys his drink, then he chokes, and falls from his chair, dead. Armstrong discovers that Marston's drink was poisoned. Roger sees that there now only nine figures left of the ten china nigger boys. They go to their rooms to sleep. Wargave remembers how he convicted Seton with pleasure. Macarthur thinks about the love letter he found belonging to his wife and Richmond, and he feels guilty for his actions. Vera thinks about how she caused the death of the boy by giving him permission to swim. His uncle, whom she wanted to marry, would inherit a lot of money. Unfortunately the uncle probably suspected her and didn't want to see her again. The next morning Vera thinks about the rhyme about the ten niggers. The verse about the first dead nigger corresponds with the death of Marston.

That morning Mrs Rogers doesn't wake up, she is dead. They are waiting for the boat, but the boat doesn't arrive, so they are forced to stay on the island. Only eight china figures are left. Miss Brent tells Vera about her own crime. She had dismissed her servant because she was pregnant, the girl had no place to go and committed suicide.

Lombard and Armstrong discuss the situation. Two people who committed murder for which law couldn't convict them are dead now. The killer must be on the island. They decided to search for the murderer, who they think will turn out to be U.N.Owen.

They search the small island and the house, but discover that is that the eight people are alone on the island. The murderer must be one of them. The only discovery is that Lombard owns a gun. Macathur does not join them for lunch. They start looking for him and find him dead, killed by a heavy object. Another china figure is missing.

The other seven people no longer trust each other. Any one of them could be the murderer. They all suspect someone. Lombard thinks that Wargrave is the murderer. Wargrave thinks it must be Miss Bent, and Vera does not trust Armstrong.

 

The next morning Mr Rogers has not prepared breakfast. They find his dead body , and discover that he has been killed with an axe when he was chopping wood. Only six china figures are left. Vera becomes hysterical when she realises the rhyme is connected to what is happening.

Miss Brent is found dead in her room, having been injected with poison. The drug has been stolen from Dr Armstrong's bag. They decide to search one another for weapons, drugs and other possible murder weapons. Everything is locked away. Lombard's gun cannot be found. They are all becoming more afraid, decide to watch each other, only one person at a time is allowed to leave the group.

Vera leaves them and stands by the window looking out at the sea. Then she starts screaming. Everybody runs to her room. She thought she felt a hand strangling her, but it was just wet seaweed hanging from the ceiling. The wind had made it touch her throat. They suddenly realise that Wargrave is missing. They find him shot through the head. .

The four remaining guests are frightened and try to work out who killed the other guests. They can't think of a logical answer. They go to their rooms and try to get some sleep. Again, they think about the strange situation and their past crimes. Lombard finds his gun in his room, but cannot figure how it got there. In the middle of the night Blore decides to check on everyone because he hears footsteps, and discovers that Armstrong is missing. They start looking for him without success. Another china figure has disappeared.

The next morning they decide to stay outside, because this is where they feel safe.They try to think of an explanation for Armstrong's disappearance. They can't think of one, and decide they must leave the island before they too are killed. Blore goes to the house fetch some food. A heavy piece of marble falls from the house onto his head, killing him.

Lombard and Vera are left alone. They conclude that Armstrong must have murdered him. A little later they find Armstrong's corpse among the rocks by the sea. Vera becomes afraid, steals Lombard's gun and kills him. She is glad to be finally released from the others. She goes inside the house and thinks about the last line of the poem, which says "he went and hanged himself and then there were none". She sees a noose hanging. The time on the island has affected her nerves, she can't think normally. She climbs on a chair and hangs herself.

The police are puzzled by the whole case. They can't find any explanation for the ten deaths. Later they find a bottle in the sea containing a manuscript written by Judge Wargrave. He admits that he killed all the visitors, because they had each committed a crime for which the law couldn't punish them. They deserved the capital punishment. He himself was suffering from an incurable disease, and didn't want to suffer and thought of ending his life. He arranged the holiday for everyone, so he could give everyone what they deserved, and end his life in a dramatic way. Dr Armstrong helped him. He made it look like Wargrave was really killed with a gun. After he murdered the people, he killed himself. He left the manuscript, because he believed that he deserved credit for his perfect crime.

Time:

The story takes place in the period of three days in which everybody is murdered. Afterwards the police want to find out who committed the crime. It is sometime before 1939.

Setting:

The story is set on Nigger Island, a small island off the coast of Devon in the South of England.

Characters and relationships:

Eight people are invited to the island, none of whom had met before. These are:

Justice Wargrave:

He is the murderer

The other "guests" are:

Vera Claythorn

Phillip Lombard

Miss Emily Brent

General John Gordon MacarthurThey are the two servants who take care of the guests.

Dr Edward George Armstrong

Anthony Marston

William Henry Blore

Thomas and Ethel Rogers

 

Credibility:

….

Theme:

The themes in the story are murder and suspense, and other ingredients of a detective story.

Motto:

None.

Linguistic usage:

The narrator uses correct English, which is easy to read. The language doesn't have much effect on the story.

Dedication:

None.

Perspective:

An omniscient narrator tells the story.

Construction:

The novel contains 16 chapters in which the story is told. At the end there is an epilogue which gives the solution to the crimes.

Own opinion on the book:

Your opinion!

refers to a line in a nursery rhyme which tells the story of ten little niggers (Negros) who are killed one by one. The same thing happens to the guests on Nigger Island.

 

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

Ik heb niet gefaald. Ik heb alleen 10.000 manieren gevonden, die niet werken.

Thomas Alva Edison