And Then There Were None

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Guilt Theme Analysis

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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in And Then There Were None, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Guilt Theme Icon

And Then There Were None presents two kinds of guilt: personal and legal. The majority of the characters in the novel are people who have escaped the latter but are plagued by the former. Justice Wargrave understands the power of personal guilt as shown by the fact that he guesses Vera will kill herself when she is the last one left on the island. Yet he does not believe that a sense of personal guilt is enough. Wargrave cannot stand that these people have not been declared guilty by a court of law. Agatha Christie, on the other hand, shows that the self-inflicted punishment that comes from personal guilt is often even more painful than any sentence given by the law. For example, General Macarthur wishes death upon himself because he cannot handle his guilt-ridden any longer and Vera is constantly plagued by dreams and visions of the little boy she killed for the man she loved. Agatha Christie demonstrates that guilt is not only doled out by a jury, but rather, like justice, it is a complicated concept that involves human flaws and inconsistencies.

Through Miss Emily Brent, the novel also presents a religious view of guilt. Brent's solid belief in God, and her belief that she is always in God's good graces, means that she is incapable of feeling guilty. Her understanding of guilt is similar to Wargrave's understanding of justice: Brent believes that she is not guilty because she killed a sinning woman, and Wargrave believes that he can cause ten murders if it is in the name of justice. Both of these characters show how guilt can be defined by one's own personal moral and legal system. The guests on Soldier's Island have been able to survive for so long with their own guilt because they come up with various definitions of right and wrong to pardon themselves. For example, Anthony Marston thinks that he ran over those children accidentally so it doesn't matter – everyone has their own way to cope with guilt. The central question at the end of the novel is “who is guilty?” Is Wargrave guilty because he killed ten people? Or was he only following his duty as a servant of the law? Did the guests of Soldier's Island deserve their fate, were they guilty enough to deserve death no matter what? These answers depend on the reader's highly subjective understanding of guilt.

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Guilt ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Guilt 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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Guilt 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 Guilt.
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 2 Quotes

The faded blue eyes, shrewd in spite of their age, sized up Lombard. For a moment a judgment showed in them – had there been anyone to read it.

Related Characters: Philip Lombard (speaker), Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

As they wait for their taxi, Vera meets Lombard. She examines him closely, and both characters reveal deep skepticism of the other.

This interaction foreshadows the way that different characters will try to analyze each other’s behaviors and actions. Without any rationale, Vera is already paranoid about Lombard, while he similarly questions her role as a secretary. Their suspicions function as an analogy for what the reader of Christie’s novel is doing: gathering information about new characters to try to ultimately determine a suspect. Indeed her reference to “had there been anyone to read it” is a subtle wink to the novel’s reader—who, unlike the characters, can interpret such signals.

Christie's use of the word “them” is notably vague: it could refer to either Lombard or Vera’s eyes. In the first case, Vera would be seeing the judgment in Lombard’s eyes, while in the second, she would be revealing her own judgment. In a sense, both readings are correct, and Christie therefore uses a clever linguistic trick to establish an environment of deep suspicion and uncertainty among the characters, and even in the language of the text itself.

He might have noticed that a curious constraint came over the other members of the party. It was as though the mention of their host and hostess had a curiously paralyzing effect on the guests.

Related Characters: William Henry Blore
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Blore makes the first reference to the mysterious host on Soldiers Island. Everyone is notably unnerved at his comment.

This scene shows how little information the guests have about the development of the events in the novel and how unnerved they are by what is transpiring. That their response is “a curious constraint” emphasizes that it is surprising and suspicious—as if they all have something to hide from the others. The “curiously paralyzing effect” is similarly enigmatic, and Christie resists providing information on each person’s individual response that would clarify their silence.

Yet if the allusions to “curious” behavior distances the reader from the events, we are also given relatively more information than the characters themselves. That Christie writes, “he might have noticed” instead of, say, “he noticed,” draws the reader’s attention to what the characters fail to perceive. Christie implicitly informs us, then, to not make the same mistake and to notice details, thus putting us in a position of greater awareness than the characters. In this way, Christie interweaves information and mystery for the reader, tempting us with more knowledge than the characters while simultaneously leaving much undivulged.

The sea . . . So peaceful today – sometimes so cruel … The sea that dragged you down to its depth. Drowned … Found drowned … Drowned at sea … Drowned – drowned – drowned …

Related Characters: Vera Claythorne (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Vera reads the “Ten Little Soldier Boys” rhyme she finds in her bedroom. She connects the poem to the island’s name and then looks outside to the sea.

This passage makes use of a common literary device called the pathetic fallacy: This term refers to when a text attributes human emotions and behaviors to a natural object, in order to reveal the perspective of a character or a narrator. Here, for instance, Vera’s reference to the way the ocean can be “cruel” does not actually refer to its evil character, but rather to her own nature. The reference to drowning, after all, foreshadow what we will eventually learn of Vera’s past—that she was responsible for a drowned child—and what we will learn of her future—that she will ultimately commit suicide from guilt.

Thus Christie sneaks into this simple description an indication of Vera’s guilt, as well as her eventual suicide. Though this information is not yet accessible to the reader, Christie leaves a symbolic clue here. She turns the detective game into a psychological rather than factual one, in which the reader is tasked with interpreting the thoughts of characters to ascertain their guilt. And the text of the little soldier boys becomes a way, just as the text of the novel is, to visualize her crime and to hold her accountable for what she has done.

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 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 15 Quotes

“But don't you see, he's mad? It's all mad! The whole thing of going by the rhyme is mad! Dressing up the judge, killing Rogers when he was chopping sticks – drugging Mrs. Roberts so that she overslept herself – arranging for a bumble bee when Miss Brent died! It's like some horrible child playing a game. It's all got to fit in.”

Related Characters: Vera Claythorne (speaker), Justice Wargrave, Thomas Rogers, Ethel Rogers
Page Number: 248
Explanation and Analysis:

Blore and Lombard continue to fixate on the revolver, but Vera becomes frustrated with their narrow-mindedness. She argues that each of the murders must fit into the ten little soldiers nursery rhyme in some way.

Vera’s impassioned tone shows how a sense of desperation has sunk into the characters at this point. Overwhelmed with false clues and misinformation, they have become increasingly disoriented and uncertain in how to proceed. Ironically, Vera exclaims repeatedly about madness even as she herself is becoming less mentally hinged. She thus comes to mimic the manic role of the murderer, a pattern followed by many of the characters.

Perhaps due to this increased similarity, her assertions actually interpret quite accurately the murderer’s intentions. Whereas Blore and Lombard are focused on traditional symbols in a murder case like the revolver, Vera is attentive to the specific conditions of this event. She correctly links each murder to a line in the poem and demands that each event has “got to fit in” to the metaphorical whole. That Christie makes symbolic interpretation of the poem the key to solving the murder further renders Vera an analog to a good reader of the novel.

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.

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.