Literature: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side is a 1962 novel by Agatha Christie, featuring Miss Marple.Miss Marple investigates the murder of Heather Badcock, who consumed a poisoned cocktail apparently meant for American film actress Marina Gregg, Heather's idol. As Marple investigates, she discovers dark secrets in Marina's past, secrets which also link to other seemingly innocent citizens of St. Mary Mead.The title of the novel comes from the poem "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The character of Marina Gregg is generally assumed to be based on the American actress Gene Tierney—and the central plot points based on events in the life of that actress. Christie herself denied this and insisted the similarity was a coincidence.The story has been adapted three times for the screen, with Angela Lansbury, Joan Hickson, and Julia MacKenzie playing Miss Marple.
The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side contains examples of the following tropes:
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Marina poisoned Heather in a fit of murderous rage. If she had not had the means to do so immediately at hand, she probably would have had time to calm down, and the tragedy would have been averted.
- Beneath Suspicion: Marina successfully makes herself look like the intended victim, taking her off the suspect list completely.
- Blackmail: Ella tries this. She calls up people left right and center to tell them she saw them poison Heather's drink. She eventually reaches the correct person, and gets killed for her pains. Christie always kills off her blackmailers.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Jason uses this explanation when asked about the "previous relationship" between Marina and Heather. He explains that Heather was a fan of his wife's, and as a result, it was a big deal for her to get Marina's autograph. However, Marina has done hundreds of receptions with fans and signed thousands of autographs, so she simply has no memory of the event Heather described or one more autograph seeker among thousands. Subverted, in that Jason is well aware that while Marina didn't remember Heather specifically, the earlier meeting was even more significant to her than it was to Heather.
- Cat Fight: Played for laughs in the 1980 film. Marina and Lola exchange hilarious strings of snide insults.
- Complete-the-Quote Title: No mirror plays a significant role in the mystery; the allusion is to the line of the poem that follows the quoted line:The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.
- Driven to Suicide: The killer is found dead of an overdose after The Reveal. It is implied that this was actually because her husband had done it to prevent further murders and to save her from suffering further.
- Hollywood Old: Having Angela Lansbury, famous for starring in Murder, She Wrote, play Miss Marple in the 1980 film version might seem like a very logical move. However, back then, Lansbury by her own admission was 20 years too young for the role.
- Honorary Uncle: Inspector Craddock starts calling Miss Marple "Aunt Jane" — which he doesn't in any of the other books he's in.
- Inspiration Nod: Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote seems to have been more than slightly inspired by Miss Marple, especially since series star Angela Lansbury had previously played Marple in the movie version of The Mirror Crack'd
- It's All About Me: Heather Badcock is a non-villainous example of this. She isn't mean, and actually goes out of her way to do nice things for other people, like rescuing Miss Marple after a nasty fall or taking in a homeless family. However, she is incapable of recognizing that her actions affect other people or that what something means to her might not be the same for other people involved. The primary example of this was that when she got sick, she didn't recognize that the doctor's instructions to "Stay in bed and don't go out to meet people" might not have been just for her benefit…
- Let Off by the Detective: It is subtly implied that Marina was poisoned by her husband to save her from public disgrace and prevent more murders. Miss Marple suspects this is the case, but keeps quiet.
- Little Old Lady Investigates: Miss Marple.
- Mercy Kill: Implied to have been done to Marina by her devoted husband Jason at the end.
- Murder by Mistake: Heather's murder appears to be a misdirected attempt on Marina's life. In fact, this trope is inverted here, because Heather was killed on purpose by Marina herself.
- Never One Murder
- New House New Problems
- Obfuscating Insanity: Marina wavers between this and actual insanity.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The plot is remarkably similar to the real-life tragedy of Gene Tierney, who contracted rubella while pregnant, resulting in Daria being born premature, deaf, blind, and severely retarded. These problems contributed to (or, perhaps, outright caused) Tierney's own depression and bipolar disorder. About a year later a woman approached Tierney at a party and said that she had sneaked out of her marine base, under a rubella quarantine at the time, to meet her when she appeared at the Hollywood Canteen, a wartime club that catered to service members where Hollywood stars would appear. Tierney simply stared at the woman, then turned and walked away. She later wrote, "After that I didn't care whether ever again I was anyone's favorite actress." It should be noted, however, the Christie was asked about the similarity and claimed she'd never heard about Tierney's story until after The Mirror Cracked was published.
- Society Marches On: Marina's child being disabled would still be a great blow to parents today, but in the time the novel was written, such children were removed to institutions almost immediately and may have had almost nothing to do with their families. The loss is almost as if the baby had not survived at all. It also isn't lightly mentioned that the child even existed.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Heather was unwittingly responsible for giving Marina German measles and causing her only biological child to be born with birth defects. Marina suffered a breakdown as a result, and when Heather turned up telling with pride how she had snuck out of quarantine to meet her, Marina flew into a rage and poisoned her in the heat of the moment.
- Jason Rudd is implied to have killed Marina himself, to stop her committing more murders and to save her from public disgrace.
- White and Grey Morality: Both the victim and the murderer are sympathetic, but both of them have fatal flaws that collectively bring about the tragedy. Heather failed to recognize how her actions would destroy Marina's happiness, and Marina poisoned her in a fit of rage without thinking.
- Woman Child: Marina Gregg.