Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile

by

Agatha Christie

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Death on the Nile Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie was arguably the most popular fiction writer of all time, having sold over two billion copies of her novels. She was born to an upper-middle-class family in Devon, England, where she had a relatively happy childhood until her father died when she was eleven. In 1907, after finishing her education, Christie and her mother spent the winter in Egypt, which was then a popular tourist destination for Britons who could afford it. Christie was interested in reading and writing from a young age, and she published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles in the early 1920s. It featured the eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, perhaps her best-known recurring character (although Christie is also famous for her spinster sleuth, Miss Marple). In 1930, Christie married her second husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, and in the following years, she accompanied him on several digs around the Middle East, including in Egypt. Her knowledge of Egypt from these various trips informed her writing of Death on the Nile. Christie wrote over 60 detective novels, as well as several short stories and the world’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap. She died of natural causes in 1976.
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Historical Context of Death on the Nile

Many of Christie’s most famous novels were written between the two World Wars, and in creating Hercule Poirot, Christie drew on her experience treating Belgian soldiers in World War I. Meanwhile, Death on the Nile was first published about 15 years after Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun—a landmark event in archaeology and particularly Egyptology (the study of ancient Egypt) that brought a lot of new attention to the region. Carter himself was from England, where “Egyptomania” was strong (and this may have played a role in Christie’s husband’s decision to embark on archaeological digs). Modern European interest in ancient Egypt began when Napoleon invaded the country in the late eighteenth century, which led to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799. The Nile has supported civilizations in Egypt for thousands of years. The remains of these old civilizations feature prominently in Death on the Nile.

Other Books Related to Death on the Nile

Although the mystery genre has ancient roots, Edgar Allen Poe is often credited with popularizing the modern English-language detective story. He created C. Auguste Dupin, a brilliant detective (although not a professional one) who first appeared in Poe’s 1841 story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and who set a template for all future detective protagonists. Arthur Conan Doyle’s amateur sleuth Sherlock Holmes, who appeared in over 60 stories written around the turn of the twentieth century, is arguably the most famous detective of all time. Christie was a fan of both Dupin and Holmes, and they are clear influences on her famous detective Hercule Poirot. Christie’s own work was enormously popular, and Death on the Nile references some of it: Poirot refers to a kimono that was a key clue in Murder on the Orient Express and Colonel Race references a strange dinner party that occurred in Cards on The Table (in which Poirot and Race both previously appeared as characters). Poirot would continue to appear in Christie’s novels until his death in the 1975 novel Curtain. Like Dupin and Holmes, Poirot’s influence can be felt in some form in virtually every modern detective story.
Key Facts about Death on the Nile
  • Full Title: Death on the Nile
  • When Written: 1930s
  • Where Written: Egypt
  • When Published: 1937
  • Literary Period: Golden age of detective fiction
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Setting: A steamer boat on the Nile, traveling to and from the Second Cataract
  • Climax: Revelation that Jacqueline and Simon carried out the murders together
  • Antagonist: Jacqueline de Bellefort and Simon Doyle
  • Point of View: 3rd person omniscient

Extra Credit for Death on the Nile

At the Movies. Agatha Christie famously hated most film adaptations of her works. While she generally liked the 1974 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, she complained that the actor who played Poirot (Albert Finney) had a weak mustache compared to the magnificent one she’d written. She wasn’t alive to comment on the mustaches of future on-screen Poirots, which include Peter Ustinov, David Suchet, Alfred Molina, and Kenneth Branagh.

Christie and Coronavirus. Like the Olympics and the New York City subway system, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap was another long-running institution that temporarily stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The play had been running continuously on London’s West End since 1952 until it was forced to close in March 2020. After a failed comeback attempt later that year, the play ultimately did reopen in the spring of 2021.