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Headscratchers: And Then There Were None
  • The killer's entire plot was based around the characters being stuck on the island, but whether he knew it or not, it required a storm to hit on the night they arrived and lift on the last day. But of course U.N. Owen's plans had to be set in motion so far in advance there was no way to ensure that a storm would hit on the required days.
    • Owen's man told the villagers not to come to the island because it was an experiment, but Narracott ignored him and came anyway as soon as the storm lifted.
      • Seconded. He wasn't planning on the storm but it was convenient.
      • Owen's advance man also spread some rumors about to the effect that the party's isolation involved some kind of wager, which is exactly the kind of stupid thing rural Britons would expect out of silly upper-class city people.
    • The island is described as roughly a mile offshore, which is admittedly a long distance. But it is possible in calm seas for a person who is a strong swimmer, has proper clothes, and is motivated by mortal peril. Like Vera Claythorne, for example.
      • Vera probably hasn't been a lifeguard in many, many years. I think she's out of shape.
    • The second-to-last death of the nursery rhyme says they were "sitting in the sun," and the storm just happens to lift in time for Vera and Lombard to have their final showdown on the beach.
      • That's just good symbolic imagery.

  • When Wargrave fakes his murder, he gets himself alone by staging it so that Vera would stumble into some seaweed he planted and start screaming to draw the men out of the sitting room. But even though all 4 of them now have a rock-solid alibi for his killing, none of the others (Armstrong excepted because he was in on the ruse) seem to accept that. Additionally, no one questions why Wargrave didn't join them in the rush to save Vera.
    • Did you seriously just ask why nobody questions why the dead guy didn't help save Vera?
      • He wasn't shot while they were all sitting there; they assume he was shot after they had left the room, while they were rushing up the stairs. But they never ask why he didn't leave the room when they did.
      • He's old. In the play, this is made even more obvious — the directions specifically say that Wargrave, thanks to his age, is the last character to leave the room when the screaming starts.
      • Also, the few remaining members are panicking, half of them have been killed by a murderer who they can't find. They aren't thinking very clearly at this point out of sheer terror of being next.
      • In addition, Vera is a distraction at the moment and the killer is supposedly upstairs killing her. If they rushed to see if the killer was there, they may not have noticed Wargrave was not with them. Armstrong was in on Wargrave's plan and was the main suspect, so he did not question it.
      • Which might also help explain why they don't assume everyone now has an alibi — in all the confusion, panic etc, they have no clear idea where anyone is, and it wouldn't be difficult at all for somebody to have quickly slipped back, shot the Judge, and rejoined the main party.
    • Note that nobody ever actually points out that this turn of events had cleared Vera herself. She couldn't have been upstairs screaming and downstairs shooting someone at the same time.

  • In the same scene, neither the combat veteran Lombard or the police detective Blore can apparently recognize that the dab of red on the Judge's forehead is not a real entry wound. And neither of them notice that he's alive and faking when they drag his body to his room.
    • Again, at this point Wargrave's plan overall dips heavily into 'too panicked and distracted to notice', which evidently works, albeit not real plausibly at several points.
    • Wargrave is a good actor (and even a good voice imitator), so I think he can play dead convincingly. And how good a look did anyone but the doc get at that wound mark? He probably would have kept anyone from getting too close and the lighting was dim IIRC.
      • Exactly. The generator's run down and they're relying on candles, and Armstrong is in fact the only one who gets a good look at the Judge before he covers the "corpse's" face and directs the others to take it up to Wargrave's room.

  • Also, the Scotland Yard detectives who investigate the murders afterward can't recognize that the Judge shot himself in his room rather than the parlor. The blood splatter should give that away.
    • Maybe the bullet didn't blow the back of his skull out? Not all guns make exit wounds.
      • Early 20th century crime science wasn't nearly as good as you might think.
      • They weren't * that* ignorant. Head wounds bleed profusely, people have known that as long as there have been head wounds. All of Wargrave's blood would have been pooled on the bed and none where he was allegedly murdered.
      • Wounds bleed if the heart's beating; otherwise, unless drained by gravity you'd only get the blood that was in the immediate area of the wound trickling out. It's possible that a head shot without an exit wound might stop the heart immediately and not bleed as much as you might think. But still...
    • Would the police even know where he was "supposed" to have died?
      • More than one member of the party was keeping a diary. William Blore and Vera Claythorne's journals would have said that Wargrave was shot dead in the drawing room. The pool of blood beneath Wargrave's head by the time his really-dead body is found would be just another bizarre, inconsistent detail.

  • Despite knowing that he's on the island to be murdered, his employer was fake, the others blame him for his wife's murder, and one of them is guilty of committing it... Mr. Rogers the servant chooses to remain a servant rather than simply telling the others to pound sand and make their own damn food. And it becomes plot-relevant when Wargrave is able to get him alone because he is out doing servant's work: chopping wood for the breakfast fire.
    • This goes back to the British class system of the time: Rogers (who is repeatedly shown to be an intensely conventional and unimaginative man) 'knows his place', and it isn't with the company, regardless of the situation. Granted, this is probably dependent more on Christie's readers accepting this stereotype than the validity of the type itself.
    • To be fair, The Movie fixed this:
    Roger: If you think I did it, then I won't make any drinks!
    Everyone: NO!
    • Plus, would it had done much good? He would still be on a island with an axe crazy murderer.
      • At the very least, he would have been sleeping in instead of being out alone chopping wood, which is how Wargrave killed him with no one noticing.
    • Lots of people who've just lost a loved one feel compelled to lose themselves in routine daily activities, rather than let grief overwhelm them. Rogers probably kept working to distract himself from the shock of his wife's death.

  • Lombard is generally described throughout the book as a ruthless survivalist. But when he is alone on the island with Vera, is convinced she is the murderer (to his mind, they are the last two left), and is armed with a handgun, he doesn't simply shoot her. Rather, he helps her with Armstrong's body and gives her the chance to steal his revolver even though that was the only way he could put himself in danger. Additionally, somehow Wargrave predicted that he would be Too Dumb to Live, because Lombard wouldn't have hung himself to complete the story.
    • Heck, this troper was surprised he didn't simply shoot Blore, Armstrong and Vera as soon as he got his gun back. He's the one who'd abandoned a whole group of men to starve to death, after all, and had originally come to the island expecting he might have to use the weapon.
      • Lombard probably didn't kill both Blore and Vera immediately because that would still leave him trapped on an island full of corpses. He knew he'd need the person who wasn't the killer alive and with him, once the authorities arrived; otherwise, he'd have nobody to vouch for his story and the police would assume he'd murdered everyone.
    • Presumably if Lombard hadn't made a mistake, killed Vera, and showed no sign of suicide, Wargrave would've knocked him out and hanged him. It doesn't have to fit exactly like the poem, as noted by the bee.
    • The Sparknotes for this book point out that Lombard had an old-fashioned view of women, and thus didn't think that Vera would or could turn the tables on him like that.
    • In his message-in-a-bottle confession, Wargrave mentions that he was curious as to whether or not the last one standing would give into the atmosphere, and hang themselves, indicating that he was prepared if they didn't.
    • Lombard, as usual, doesn't really give a shit, and the scene's dialogue reflects this.

  • A minor point, but notable anyway. Wargrave was not a Chancery judge, but his line in the rhyme said he was. Chancery judges don't hear criminal cases. Perhaps it means something different in England.
    • Again, bee. It doesn't have to be exact.

  • This is a major plothole in the 1945 film that has always bothered this troper: In the book, the judge went to great lengths to dig up on his victims' dirty history. In the movie, it turns out that one of his victims (Vera Claythorne) is innocent (two, if you want to count Charles Morley). How could he not find out Vera was innocent? In the book, he learned about what she had done directly through the person who would have been affected by her crime the most. In the movie, her crime is changed from killing a little boy to supposedly murdering her sister's fiancee. Who would he have had to ask in the first place? The dead fiancee's mother?
    • He's a judge, and therefore capable of accessing legally any number of legal records of past crimes. He probably found out about all the crimes secondhand this way, which accounts for him making two mistakes.

  • Vera's silly death scene just bugged me.
    • Well, she started out as a very strong character, but then it was revealed later in the novel that she wasn't all that stable to begin with and she felt tremendous guilt over what she had done. Not to mention she had to watch eight people around her die within four days before being forced to kill one herself (which would be sufficient to to traumatize anyone). This, combined with the fact that the weekend was rapidly approaching the anniversary of the day she killed a little boy (and it's implied this was part of the reason the murderer chose that particular weekend: to further drive the point home to Vera), was what ultimately drove her to her complete and total breakdown at the end.
      • Does she feel guilt? I only recall her lamenting that she didn't get the payoff for her crime.
    • And the alternative is for her to wait around on an island full of corpses for the police. She knows she'd be the prime suspect, and that the question of the little boy's death would also get dragged back into the public light if she's charged with this new round of murders.

  • The inclusion of Emily Brent in the victims. The Rogers deliberately murdered their employer, Vera Claythorne drowned a young boy, the General sent a man to his death, and Emily Brent fired a servant whose behavior had dissatisfied her. No, she wasn't very nice about it, but what she did is still a long way from the murder/manslaughter that the others had done. It is, in fact, hard to consider her primarily responsible for Beatrice Taylor's death (what about the girl's parents? or the guy who got her pregnant then abandoned her?)
    • True, but it's clear that Miss Brent also knew her servant had been abandoned by both the baby's father and her parents; instead of responding with compassion and assistance, she turned her out and refused to give a reference — which, in combination with the baby, meant she'd effectively made the girl unemployable. Thus a strong case can be made that Miss Brent represented the girl's last hope, and that her actions were what tipped her over the edge to suicide.
    • The fact that she'd turned her back on the servant girl out of self-righteous intolerance could well have been the deciding factor, as it made Miss Brent a Holier Than Thou hypocrite: one who callously consigned someone who desperately needed her help to despair, in the name of what's supposed to be a compassionate faith. Plus, the servant's unborn baby died too, and it certainly shouldn't have paid for its mother's faux pas.
      • The stage version pushes these factors to the forefront: Emily admits to Vera that she not only threw Beatrice Taylor out of her home, but gave her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that may have been the deciding factor in pushing her to suicide. Emily, of course, hastens to point out that she herself did nothing wrong, or at least nothing that acted against her conscience — it was Beatrice who got pregnant out of wedlock, and it was Beatrice who chose to kill herself.
    • Remember, U.N. Owen kills his victims in order of increasing moral culpability, so the first few had to be less flagrantly to blame than the rest. Emily is the least remorseful of the ones who'd killed people through indirect action (withholding medicine, giving suicidal orders, steering a jury) rather than direct and willful crimes (stealing supplies, planting evidence, leading a poor swimmer to the beach). Anthony Marston, the least remorseful of all, goes first because Owen has pegged him for a complete sociopath, incapable of having his nerves racked by guilt no matter how Wargrave might've taunted them all.

  • If U.N. Owen kills his victims in order of increasing moral culpability, isn't Armstrong's place in the order unfair? He comes after people who deliberately killed others. He operated on a woman while drunk and killed her, but that was an accident; he didn't want her to die, it was in fact the last thing he wanted. And he learned from it and stopped drinking. Sure, he didn't take responsibility, but still, I can't see him being worse than Rogers or Macarthur.
    • Calling it an 'accident' is a bit disingenuous. Armstrong made the choice to drink prior to operating — even if it were an unexpected emergency, which the book implies isn't the case, he would still have deliberately indulged knowing he might be called in to the hospital at any time. And he then deliberately made the choice to operate while drunk, which, I'd suggest, a person still sober enough to be able to operate at all might also be capable of considering a bad idea. I think U.N. Owen's ranking here was motivated by degree of self-indulgence. Rogers gave in to obvious opportunity, Macarthur to blind rage and jealousy; not great excuses certainly, but Armstrong's excuse was even weaker.
    • The book does seem to suggest that Wargrave had something of a grudge against doctors in general, perhaps due to his recent diagnosis. He could have allowed this to affect his judgement. Also, Armstrong had a vital role to play in Wargrave's plan, so he had to remain alive until then.

  • The actions of Lombard and Vera Claythorne at the end. They were together when Blore was murdered. They knew that neither of them could be the killer. If they had kept that knowledge in mind, they could have stayed where they were and survived. Yes, yes, they were panicking, but turning on the one person you know isn't the murderer is a level of stupid that I have a hard time understanding.
    • They don't know for sure that neither of them could be the killer; what they do know for sure, or at least think they know, is that they're the only people left alive on the island. Their natural assumption — as made clear in the text — is that Blore's death by falling statuette was 'a trick' rigged up earlier; if that's true, then one of the survivors must be U.N. Owen, and Vera and Philip both think: "Well, it's not me, so..."
    • This situation's called Hostile Suspicion Chain. B knows V isn't a killer, but he's not sure if V knows that B knows that V isn't the killer. Same on the other side.
      • Plus, both of them are pretty sure by then that the other is capable of murder: there's been too much confirmation that everyone else on the island was guilty, so why doubt Owen's word about their past crimes, now? In which case, even if the other survivor is not the killer, they still might opt to attack the only other remaining suspect in self-defense. It's not just the actual killer they have to fear, it's the other survivor's belief that they're the killer.
    • According to the poem sitting out in the sun frizzled their minds plus they weren't eating for fear of entering the house.

  • Just how insane must one be to find the original name of the novel offensive?
    • What, Ten Little Niggers? Gee, I have no idea. Seriously, I think you're referring to the second original title, Ten Little Indians. Not anywhere near as bad, no, but still unnecessary. (Both titles, BTW, reference a nursery rhyme that runs through the book, which has likewise been updated through the years.)
    • Ten Little Yidies, Ten Little Jhonnies (19th centriy Chinese immigrant in Britain), there's a variation of any race if you want to find one. Seriously.
      • Actually, I was refering to the first one, it's just that in Soviet Russia the name of the novel was completely deprieved of any derogatory undertone and sounds like "Ten little negroes". I saw the name written like this in the Web and assumed it was like this initially.I couldn't imagine that they would feature a derogatory variant of the word in the name of a book for no reason.
      • "Negro" isn't exactly an accepted term anymore either, at least in America.
      • What is true in US is not true in the rest of the world. At last in Latin America the term 'negro' is fairly acceptable one (not "politically correct", but not derogatory either. I don't know how things went in Russia, but in Brazil the name change(at 2008) was considered unnecessary.
      • In Spanish "negro" is equivalent to two English words, "black" and "negro", which makes it a bit odd that one is still a fairly acceptable term for black people in the U.S. while the other isn't.
    • Their retcons annoy me. First they change it to Ten Little Indians, and then to And Then There Were None? Can't they just accept that the title is an artifact of the times and move the fuck on?
      • Oh, how terrible that they change something that doesn't affect the plot at all out of a desire to make it less racist. Grow up.
      • Well, considering that black rappers tend to overuse this particular word to no end in their songs and nobody seems to be offended by that, what would be wrong in keeping it in the title of classic, well-known crime novel?
      • A) Plenty of people are offended by that kind of rap music and judging the whole world by one very specific audience is ridiculous. B) Black musicians using the term carries an entirely different connotation than a white author doing so. C) My high school performed the play and I know several people who were assigned the novel — neither of which would be possible if the original title was maintained. The title carries no significance to the story in any way, which makes it not only offensive but useless and offensive. Please note that Lombard's casual racism is left intact since that actually impacts the story. Damn publishers, deciding that maybe society should start acting like everyone has feelings and realizing that there are a lot of people who won't support their company by purchasing something that upholds casual institutional racism.
    • Agreed. The title used a racist word because the name of the existing nursery rhyme invoked happened to have it as well, not out of racism of its own. Had the rhyme been called "Ethel the Aadvark Goes Quantity Surveying" then that would have been the title of the book as well, it was just a matter of happenstance. Not to mention that "And Then There Were None" is a much more spoilerific title.
      • It can hardly be called a spoiler when the rhyme appears in chapter 2 and the whole of chapter 3 is realizing they've been lured to an isolated location with the aforementioned rhyme prominently displayed in nearly every room in the house. The intent is clear very early, and intent does not imply success.
      • ^^^ You two DO remember that that was the last line in the poem, yes? Really, initially the reader could just assume that it was a reference to that, given how there is a murderer who is running around killing people based on the poem. Of course, given how everybody knows the ending at this point, it's rather irrelevant.

  • Part of why Christie changed the ending for the play is that she caught on to a fairly large hole in the killer's plan.
    • You mean what would have happened if Vera had missed when she shot Lombard?
      • She was shooting at a man several feet in front of her that was also running towards her. Any person that can aim worth a damn would hit said person. The bullet possibly not killing him is another matter though.
    • In the novel it was made pretty clear the last 3 deaths were not really part of any plan. Wargrave just knew that, since they had a gun, they would likely to kill each other at some point and just waited to an opportunity to drop the "bear" in the first who passed by.
      • Also, if EVERYTHING somehow went wrong and one or even two people survived- Wargrave is still alive. He has a massive advantage of surprise. I'm pretty sure that he could take care of Lombard and Vera (Or possibly even Lombard and Blore, but the chances of BOTH surviving, particularly with the bear, are slim to none) by himself.
    • Even if there'd been a last survivor, Wargrave might still have gotten his way. Whomever was left behind on the island would naturally be blamed for the murders, and hanged for them. (Technically that wouldn't match the poem's suicide, but Jedi Truth could always claim that they'd put themselves into the noose by committing their original crime, and then coming to the island in the first place!

  • In the movies, the real Lombard killed himself after receiving the letter from "Mr. Owen", and Morley impersonates Lombard to get to the bottom of it. But why would the letter prompt Lombard to kill himself? The whole point of the letter was to goad the victims to the island without raising any suspicion of the real reason for the invite.
    • He caught on better than Wargrave hoped, obviously. We never hear the exact contents of the note in the movie.
    • But in the book, he felt very little, if any, remorse for his crime at all. He was one of few guests to openly admit to his accusation being true, justifying it with "Self-preservation is man's first duty". What would he have had to kill himself over? The judge in the movie said the letter had sounded "threatening"...of what?
    • Possibly he feared revenge by the families of the men he'd left to die? We don't know anything about them, so it's possible that they came from a culture where it's common for avenging relatives to pursue a vendetta at all costs. He read the note, and jumped to the (false) conclusion that "Mr. Owen" was going to torture him to death for his betrayal, and/or kill everyone he cared about along with him, making suicide the only way to avoid a worse fate.

  • When Wargrave asks for Armstrong's help in faking his death, wouldn't Armstrong have realized that the next verse of the rhyme referred to a judge, and thought something was up?
    • You'd think, yes. Wargrave specifically mentions that Armstrong should've made the connexion to the red herring bit, but he never did, evidently mesmerised by the Judge's status and celebrity. Remember, the doctor's been shown to be something of a social climber.
      • Plus, the Chancery line being next makes Wargrave's plan to fake his death sounds more reasonable: only Owen will be caught completely off-guard if the Judge is found dead (because he'll know he didn't kill him), possibly tricking the murderer into crying "That's impossible!" or otherwise betraying himself in surprise. And Armstrong might've assumed that Wargrave wanted to do something drastic before his turn to die comes up, for self-preservation's sake.
    • Moreover, what did Wargrave lead Armstrong to think the real killer was likely to do, when the Judge "turned up dead"? Burst out with a confession at the sight of him lying there? Sneak into Wargrave's room to stab "the corpse"?

  • The police don't ask what seems to me a logical question: Was one of the ten victims terminally ill?
    • There's nothing to suggest that Wargrave was dying, other than his confession. And anyway, not all murderers commit their murders because they're terminally ill.

  • Why didn't they try collecting all the figurines and locking them a box so the murderer can't get to them? If he's going to signal his actions by stealing the figurines, then putting them someplace where it's highly obvious who's trying to get to them will help them find him faster.
    • Because Owen would've obviously not bothered with the locked box. It's symbolic, but not instrumental to his plan.

  • Wargrave must have very distinctive and hard-to-copy handwriting. Otherwise, why would a message in a bottle that purports to be his confession be taken seriously?
    • As a judge, there'd be plenty of samples available which might argue FOR forgery, but a casual prankster wouldn't have bothered, and what the letter asserts in the contents themselves are easily checked out.

  • Putting aside from the default "they're not thinking straight by that point" answer, shouldn't Wargave's "murder" have tipped others off? Vera obviously couldn't have done it, but all three remaning men ran to her aid together, leaving the judge behind, meaning that none of them could've killed him either! Which only leaves, well, Warfrave himself - he either killed himself or faked it, either way he's Owen.

  • If it's clear that the killer relies on his anonymity and can only kill one-on-one, isn't the obvious solution to always stay together? Walk around in groups only, sleep all together in the living room (it's an emergency, to hell with the decorums), keeping watch in turns - seems like a no-brainer, especially for an experienced soldier and survivalist like Lombart.


Agatha ChristieHeadscratchers/LITERATUREFive Little Pigs

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