And Then There Were None

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Death Theme Analysis

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Death is obviously a central part of And Then There Were None, but it is treated quite casually. There is no pomp or circumstance surrounding the death of any of the characters. They are laid out on their beds and that is it. This simplicity comes from the fact that the characters revert to a more primitive state when death becomes present in their everyday lives. When so many people are dying there is no time for mourning, and life just has to go on. In addition, their own murderous pasts have brought them to this proximity with death. The characters have all killed other people so they are unusually knowledgeable about death.

The inevitability of death is highlighted on Soldier's Island. Many of the characters, such as Vera, Anthony Marston, Mr. Lombard and Mr. Blore, feel immortal. They believe that they will be the ones to survive because they have avoided danger at other times in their lives. Yet one of Wargrave's lessons is that no one can escape death.

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Death ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Death appears in each chapter of And Then There Were None. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Death Quotes in And Then There Were None

Below you will find the important quotes in And Then There Were None related to the theme of Death.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Watch and pray,” he said. “Watch and pray. The day of judgment is at hand.”

Related Symbols: The Storm
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Blore speaks to an old stranger on the train. The man warns him of an impending storm, both physical and metaphorical.

The dialogue here enters a prophetic and spiritual tone. The repetition of the phrase “Watch and pray” combined with the commanding statements casts the old man as a sort of oracle. By his account, Mr. Blore should prepare himself for the trying events ahead. This oracular tone is corroborated by the idea of “the day of judgment”: a Christian belief in the return of Christ. According to that theological belief, the second coming of the messiah will cause a world-wide judgement of sinners. The old man applies this religious belief to Mr. Blore and implicitly to the other character’s in the novel — contending that they will meet their own trial.

This man’s presence poses a deeper question on fate and destiny within the novel. Although the murders to come are ultimately the result of human action, they often appear to have taken place due to divine intervention. That sense is primarily the result of the internal symbolic coherence of the text: Various images and lines predict what will transpire, giving the novel a sense of inevitability. Christie thus poses the question of whether the characters ultimately deserve their fates for having sinned before—and whether their murders are cruel or a twisted form of justice.


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Chapter 3 Quotes

“Oh, yes. I've no doubt in my own mind that we have been invited here by a madman – probably a dangerous homicidal lunatic.”

Related Characters: Justice Wargrave (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

After discovering the gramophone that has charged everyone with being a murderer, Wargrave organizes the other characters to assess the situation. He expresses the belief that their host is insane.

Wargrave’s tone here is notably assertive and commanding. This quality speaks foremost to his role as a judge, for he rapidly takes control of an uncertain group of people and establishes a site and framework of justice. He rapidly psychologizes and passes judgement on the host, which sets Wargrave as the leader of the scene and binds together the characters.

That Wargrave has “no doubt,” however, strikes as somewhat suspicious given the relative lack of information available to him. Why, the reader must wonder, would he be so purely confident given a relative lack of evidence on the matter? The qualifications “in my own mind” and “probably” speak to a latent doubt, making the close reader suspicious of Wargrave’s professed certainty. Only later will the true irony of the comment become clear, when we learn that Wargrave himself is responsible for the murders: He is indeed correct that the host is a “dangerous homicidal lunatic” because he is himself that lunatic.

Chapter 5 Quotes

He thought: Best of an island is once you get there – you can't go any farther … you've come to the end of things …
He knew, suddenly, that he didn't want to leave the island.

Related Characters: General John Gordon Macarthur (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Island
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

After the first murder, the characters retire to their rooms and reflect on their feelings of guilt. Macarthur curiously decides that despite the impending danger he does not want to leave the island.

Once more, Christie uses the physical geography of the novel to give the reader access to the psychology of the characters. Just like Vera found the sea to be cruel, Macarthur finds the island calming because it provides a symbolic “end of things.” This image implies that the island forces characters to confront their guilt and their pasts: By placing them in a closed space, it offers no alternative routes and no progress in which one could go “any farther.” It thus functions like a physical manifestation of the last judgment of which the old man on the train spoke.

Though many might consider this "entrapment" to be an unpleasant feature of an island, Macarthur finds in it a source of solace or freedom. His professed wish not to “leave the island” thus reflects a sense of wanting to escape his guilt, of wanting to receive the punishment that his guilt tells him he deserves and that will, at the same time, free him from that guilt forever.Christie thus shows how the host's murderous activities, for all their cruelty, do offer a certain moral and poetic justice.

Why had Anthony Marston wanted to die? She didn't want to die.
She couldn't imagine wanting to die …
Death was for – the other people …

Related Characters: Vera Claythorne (speaker), Anthony Marston
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

After Macarthur describes his acceptance of dying on the island, the scene shifts to Vera. She expresses the opposite belief: a firm desire to stay alive.

Her question about Marston is perplexing here. Wondering “why” he “wanted to die” indicates that his demise was an active choice, rather than the result of a murder. Vera thus contends that death is a matter of individual agency rather than something occurring at the whims of another. This perspective foreshadows the way she will try to defend her own life later in the text, hoping to thwart the prophecy of the ten little soldiers. By juxtaposing her ardent resistance to death with Macarthur’s solemn acceptance, Christie shows the divergent ways that people conceive of and react to their guilt.

This passage is also an excellent example of how Christie gives the reader contradictory and confusing information on the guilt of the characters. Although Vera’s belief that death was for “the other people” might seem to cast her as the murderer, her belief that Anthony willed his own death implies that she does not actually know what is causing the murders. Thus Christie maintains dramatic tension through two seemingly contradictory sets of clues.

Chapter 6 Quotes

We're not going to leave the island … None of us will ever leave … It's the end, you see – the end of everything …”
He hesitated, then he said in a low strange voice:
“That's peace – real peace. To come to the end – not to have to go on … Yes, peace …”

Related Characters: General John Gordon Macarthur (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Island
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

When Lombard and Blore discuss the potential arrival of a motorboat, Macarthur makes this pronouncement. He believes they will all die on Soldiers Island.

This passage shows the bizarre psychological effect that the events on Soldiers Island have on different characters. Whereas some try to staunchly defy their imminent demise, Macarthur accepts his fate. His tone here is not one of desperation: Rather, his “low strange voice” implies a calm acceptance of what will transpire. Indeed, he comes to see his demise as a form of “peace”: a peace not just from life but more specifically from the guilty existence he has lived since committing his murder. Though some may interpret these beliefs to be the manic ravings of the psychologically disturbed, they also imply that Macarthur is coming to terms with his own guilt. Thus Christie presents the story as a tale of repentance for these characters, in which the bizarre set-up of Soldier’s Island forces them to reconcile with their crimes.

Chapter 7 Quotes

“I mean – it explains Soldier Island. There are crimes that cannot be brought home to their perpetrators. Instance the Rogerses'. Another instance, old Wargrave, who committed his murder strictly within the law.”

Related Characters: Philip Lombard (speaker), Justice Wargrave, Thomas Rogers, Ethel Rogers
Related Symbols: The Island
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

With Dr. Armstrong, Lombard reviews the information on the visitors to the island. He concludes that everyone who was invited is guilty of some form of murder.

Lombard articulates, here, the unifying concept for the island and for Christie’s text. He is thus the first character to be an effective detective, providing a model for the reader to follow as we take on a similar investigating role. Like any good reader, Lombard first reviews the information available to him and then makes a final pronouncement—“it explains”—that can connect all the threads of information.

The common feature for those who have been invited to the island deserves some consideration: The guests are not just murderers but rather ones whose crimes resist traditional methods of prosecution. They cannot be tried in normal courtrooms and thus the island becomes itself a pseudo-courtroom—a place where culpability is punished in a way that normal social regulations do not permit. Christie thus complicates the ethics of the ensuing murders, casting them as cruel but also as providing a form of vigilante justice that could not be dealt out elsewhere in society.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“Your argument seems logical. I agree that one of us is possessed by a devil.”

Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

After the third murder, Wargrave concludes that one of the guests must be the mysterious Mr. Owen. Miss Brent affirms this belief but offers a different explanation for the murderer's actions.

This response shows how the characters respond to questions of faith and guilt in varying ways. Whereas Wargrave and Miss Brent are both relying on “logical” statements, Miss Brent bases her logic not on social ethics but rather on religion. She thus examines the same information as the other characters but reaches the wildly different conclusion that someone is “possessed by a devil.” For her, evil is not a matter of personal choice but rather occurs as a result of divine forces. Through Miss Brent, Christie demonstrates how personal identity and background structure one’s conception of fate and of guilt. Her novel becomes far more than a straightforward detective story in which one character is guilty—but rather an exploration of what causes people to assign guilt and blame in themselves and in each other.

Chapter 10 Quotes

“I know very well that I'm not the murderer, and I don't fancy there's anything insane about you, Vera. You strike me as being one of the sanest most levelheaded girls I've come across. I'd stake my reputation on your sanity.

Related Characters: Philip Lombard (speaker), Vera Claythorne
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

The characters have concluded that one of them must be the murderer but that there is no way to know who it could be. Vera asks Lombard who he suspects, and he responds that he believes it not to be her.

Although he lacks a rational reason to trust Vera, Lombard seems to confide in her entirely. His explanation focuses exclusively on her “sanity,” implying that he thinks the murders must be the result of mental instability. As a result, determining the psychological health of each character becomes of utmost importance, for the guilty person would be the most unstable. Just as Miss Brent offered the religious explanation of being possessed by the devil, Lombard relies on psychological analyses.

Despite this emphasis on mental stability, Lombard and Vera’s behavior is actually deeply irrational. They have no real reason to trust each other and seem to do so largely as a response to a stressful environment in which no other option for support is available. Thus even as Lombard asserts Vera’s steadiness, their interaction also foreshadows the way that these characters will become increasingly unstable—ever more likely to behave rashly as their paranoia grows.

Chapter 11 Quotes

“The damned fool, he believed every word I said to him. It was easy … I must be careful, though, very careful.”

Related Characters: Justice Wargrave (speaker), Dr. Edward Armstrong
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

While eating breakfast, the characters continue to panic about the murderer. Scraps of interior dialogue mix into the text, one of which seems to come from the murderer’s own mind.

Christie uses an innovative narrative style to generate dramatic tension. Though the novel has previously plunged into the interior psyches of the characters, here she declines to identify whose mind each line of text is in. This line, for instance, could perhaps be spoken by the murderer: for he would consider Rogers to be a “damned fool” and to have been easily manipulated. Or perhaps it references the syringe that has just been taken from Dr. Armstrong in order to kill Miss Brent in the ensuing scene. Similarly, he would want to be “be careful” about his future killings. This sentence thus confirms that the murderer is one of the guests who is still alive, instead of an additional character hiding on the island. Furthermore, by not making the thinker of this statement clear, Christie puts the reader in an analogous position to one of the guests at the table: able to presume that the guilty person is among them while lacking the capacity to identify just who that is.

Chapter 12 Quotes

“One more of us acquitted – too late!”

Related Characters: Justice Wargrave (speaker)
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

Miss Brent is discovered dead in the kitchen. In response, Wargrave makes this exclamation about how she is now innocent.

The reference to being “acquitted” actually has a double meaning in this sentence. It refers most directly to the fact that Miss Brent could not be the murderer since she has been killed. But it also refers to her earlier crime that has brought her to the island in the first place. Wargrave implies, then, that Miss Brent has been “acquitted” from her own crime by herself dying. So her murder becomes an act of ethical justice. Yet the fact that it is “too late” implies that each of the characters must die in order to doubly absolve themselves: of both suspicion for the murders committed on Soldiers Island and of guilt for what they have previously done. In this way, the text makes an odd parallel between being acquitted and dying, implying that the only "justice" for these characters can come in their demise.

Chapter 13 Quotes

There was little pretense now – no formal veneer of conversation. They were five enemies linked together by a mutual instinct of self-preservation.

And all of them, suddenly, looked less like human beings. They were reverting to more bestial types.

Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

After Miss Brent’s murder, the social bonds between the characters start to erode. They think of each other only as enemies and suspicions creep ever higher.

This passage demonstrates the way in which social forces are undermined in extreme circumstances. Though the guests have all previously tried to maintain normal practices—mealtimes, conversations, etc.—here they abandon that “formal veneer.” This phrase casts “conversation” as itself a showy luxury, in contrast to the “self-preservation” that must now predominate. For all its poetic and symbolic artifice, Soldiers Island actually signals a return to more basic forms of human interaction. It becomes a site to play out human psychology in its most anxious and ungrounded state.

Christie draws attention in particular to the difference between human and animal behavior. She contrasts the characters’ previous decorum with their current “more bestial types,” implying that the their identities have corroded, become more animal0like, under psychological stress. Thus even as the characters are charged as humans for their crimes, they are described in increasing animalistic terms.

Philip Lombard's senses seemed heightened, rather than diminished. His ears reacted to the slightest sound. His step was lighter and quicker, his body lithe and graceful. And he smiled often, his lips curling back from his long white teeth.

Related Characters: Philip Lombard
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

After the lights go out, Lombard searches for candles. His movements are described as furtive and calculated.

This passage continues to make use of animal imagery to describe the altered way that the characters have begun to behave under stress. Although the psychological disturbance would seem to weaken them, instead Lombard finds himself “heightened, rather than diminished.” The physical disappearance of the lights thus serves as a metaphor for the way the characters have become increasingly disoriented. But instead of being immobilized by this event, Lombard becomes “lighter and quicker.” Language like “lithe and graceful,” in particular, casts his behavior to be like that of an animal. Christie thus highlights how the events that have transpired so far cause the characters to act less and less like humans.

Yet this image does not transform Lombard into just any animal. Rather the reference to his “lips curling back from his long white teeth” presents him as a predator. One might interpret this as a sign of his guilt, as evidence that he is the murderer preparing to strike on his victims. Yet the fact that similar language is applied to many such characters implies that they are all taking on increasingly predatory tactics: The psychological toil has turned them once more into potential murderers.

Chapter 14 Quotes

They'd believe her all right. Cyril often told stories. He was an untruthful child. Cyril would know, of course. But that didn't matter … and anyway nothing would go wrong. She'd pretend to swim out after him. But she'd arrive too late … Nobody would ever suspect …
Had Hugo suspected? Was that why he had looked at her in that queer far-off way? … Had Hugo known?

Related Characters: Vera Claythorne (speaker)
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

Alone in her room, Vera remembers the events leading up to Cyril’s death. She recalls worrying that her murder attempt would be unsuccessful.

This interior monologue marks a decisive shift in Vera’s character. Whereas before the reader has only scant knowledge about the crime she has committed, here the true nature of her murder becomes horrifyingly clear: She was responsible for the death of a child. Even more alarmingly, what she recalls is not guilt or uncertainty about the crime—but rather fear of being caught. Thus Vera’s previously sympathetic character becomes increasingly diabolical, perhaps even deserving of the murder that, at this point in the novel, seems like it might possibly be her fate.

Even so, Vera seems to now be experiencing remorse for what she has done. That she was previously able to exclude these thoughts from the narrative shows how the events transpiring at Soldiers Island are causing her mindset to shift. She is increasingly forced to confront the nature of her crime, pointing to the efficacy of host’s plan to bring the characters to moral justice.

Chapter 16 Quotes

“Why did I never see his face properly before? A wolf – that's what it is – a wolf's face … Those horrible teeth …”

Related Characters: Vera Claythorne (speaker), Philip Lombard
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:

After seeing the dead body of Dr. Armstrong, Vera and Lombard both believe each other to be the killer. Vera looks with new eyes at Lombard and perceives an entirely different person.

Christie shows, here, just how radically the characters’ apprehensions of each other shift based on their psychological states. Though Lombard’s actual facial features have, of course, not changed, Vera identifies him in starkly different terms. Her use of the term “properly” implies a level of objectivity, asserting these to be his actual features—and thus showing how unaware Vera is of how warped her reality has become. That his features are animalistic, in particular, highlights that the characters have continued to shed their human qualities as the story has developed. Indeed, Vera adopts similar imagery as Lombard himself did while describing his own senses to become like a predator as he crept through the darkened house. That they both simultaneously use this language demonstrates how pervasive this animalism has become to the interior symbolism of the text. Thus it is not only the result of Vera’s psychological deterioration, but also a metaphorical structure employed by Christie to show how humans regress to a state of pure survival.

How very quiet the house was. And yet –it didn't seem like an empty house …
Hugo, upstairs, waiting for her …

Related Characters: Vera Claythorne (speaker)
Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:

After killing Lombard, Vera returns to the silent house. She feels as if someone else is present and imagines it to be her former beloved, Hugo.

These lines show how Vera’s mental state has continued to degrade in the wake of the murders. She now seems to be fully hallucinating, believing that the house is not “empty” despite how “quiet” it is. By juxtaposing Vera's belief that the house is occupied with her actual hearing (i.e. its quietness), Christie emphasizes just how unstable Vera has become. Meanwhile, Vera's thoughts gravitate, in particular, to Hugo, the man who moved her to commit murder, verifying that the events on Soldiers Island force the characters to confront their past misdeeds. That she imagines Hugo is “waiting for her” demonstrates that Vera believes her life to still be scripted by the ten little soldiers poem: Christie demonstrates that in her deeply fraught existence, Vera has come to see the poem as a kind of prophetic text—which will dictate her destiny.

Epilogue 1 Quotes

“And therefore, sir, there must have been someone else on the island. Someone who tidied up when the whole business was over. But where was he all the time – and were did he go to? The Sticklehaven people are absolutely certain that no one could have left the island before the rescue boat got there. But in that case –”

“But in that case,” he said, “who killed them?”

Page Number: 283-284
Explanation and Analysis:

In the tale’s first epilogue, Assistant Commissioner Sir Thomas Legge and Inspector Maine discuss the murders. They observe that someone remained alive after Vera’s death and wonder who this could have been.

Their discussion adds a further complication to the story: Though the reader likely thinks at this point that Vera is the murderer, the fact that someone “tidied up” means that there must have been an additional presence on the island after the events of the previous sixteen chapters. Though this observation confirms Vera’s feelings before that she was being watched, it also makes the progression of events increasingly difficult to figure out.

Recall that the characters were absolutely certain, after searching the island, that one of them had to be the murderer. Christie is playing here with the conventions of a normal detective or mystery story: Generally the criminal is revealed at the end of the story and certainly by the end of an epilogue. But here, the epilogue only features two people trying to put together the details of the murders just as the reader is, with the addition of even more contradictory information.

Epilogue 2 Quotes

I was born with other traits besides my romantic fancy. I have a definite sadistic delight in seeing or causing death.

Related Characters: Justice Wargrave (speaker)
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

The second epilogue is a letter that we later learn was written by Wargrave. He observes how his personality is composed of contradictions of romanticism and sadism.

For the first time, here, the reader begins to understand the inner workings of the murderer’s mind. The epilogue relies on some of the conventions of a confession text: a writer expressing his motivations to an unknown audience and at last divulging the secrets previously obscured. Yet it also plays with those traditional expectations: If a normal confession would begin by explaining the motivation to murder a specific person or group of people, this one starts with a personal self-analysis. In explaining his actions based on his “traits,” Wargrave implies that the events of the novel were a way for him to manifest that personality.

More specifically, they resulted from the interaction between his “romantic fancy” and “sadistic delight.” The first of these phrases clarifies the way that Wargrave organized the murders around the ten little soldiers poem—providing an organized symbolism that turned the proceedings into a game. The second reveals the more direct impulse for murder, and the combination thus resulted in a uniquely diabolical and creative series of events. Christie thus grounds her tale not in a normal narrative arc of cause and effect but rather in the unique and paradoxical personality of Wargrave.

I have wanted – let me admit frankly – to commit a murder myself. I recognized this as the desire of the artist to express himself! I was, or could me, an artist in crime! My imagination, sternly checked by the exigencies of my profession, waxed secretly to colossal force.

Related Characters: Justice Wargrave (speaker)
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

Wargrave continues to provide backstory on his motivations for the murders at Soldiers Island. He explains that serving as a judge did not fully satisfy his sadistic impulses and that he wished to actually commit a crime.

Whereas the letter’s previous sections show that Wargrave was able to release his cruel wishes through a lawful court system, this passages shows that those mechanisms were insufficient. Saying, “let me admit frankly” indicates that he speaks openly and without shame, confirming that this epilogue serves as a way for Wargrave to release his previously unacknowledged sentiments. This wish for release is paralleled by the way the murders on Soldiers Island allowed Wargrave to manifest his long with-held desires to kill others.

He couches those desires, more specifically, in the language of artistry. In this way, Wargrave contrasts the more mechanical and structured form of justice in the courtroom—“the exigencies of my profession”—with the creative and chaotic events that took place at Soldiers Island. This passage casts the homicides, then, as a way for Wargrave to play the “artist” and to integrate his romantic and sadistic desires. Christie thus presents an increasingly complicated moral and psychological picture for the reader—in which Wargrave is both cruel and brilliant, simultaneously an artist and a killer.

When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men.

And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Soldier Island.

Related Characters: Justice Wargrave (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Storm
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:

At the second epilogue’s end, Wargrave has finished explaining the way he organized the murder at Solider Island. He correctly predicts the way that the site of the crime will be discovered.

The text returns once more to a prophetic and spiritual tone. Wargrave imagines the necessary future of the “sea goes down” much like an oracle would, thus recalling the man on the train who predicted that a final judgement would be born on the characters. Rising and falling sea levels also calls to mind the Christian tales of the great deluge and Noah’s arc. Unlike with Noah, however, Wargrave prophesies that none will survive and that the declining sea level will only reveal “ten dead bodies.” Christie demonstrates through these religious allusions the depths of Wargrave’s megalomania: He presents himself as a pseudo-god who can pass divine justice on the other characters.

It bears noting, however, that the “unsolved problem” is in fact solved by the text’s end. Though Christie has resisted the conventions of a detective story by previously failing to reveal the outcome even in the first epilogue, the reader does finally hear the entire narrative parsed out by Wargrave’s letter. Thus even as he seeks to leave the events unsolved, Wargrave also reveals a wish for his story to be known—for his artistry of murder to be disseminated, just as Christie's own skills are made clear through her literary art.