The Nile has long been a symbol in literature and culture, going all the way back to the civilizations of ancient Egypt when it was seen as a life-giving force that governed the agricultural seasons. It is somewhat ironic, then, that Christie calls her novel Death on the Nile, given the river’s famous status as a source of life. Still, the ancient Egyptians were famous for their elaborate death rituals, most notably mummification and the construction of massive monuments to the dead. Some of these monuments feature in Death on the Nile, foreshadowing the deaths that will later occur on the steamer boat the Karnak. The river itself represents a place where all the main characters come together, much the way that various tributary rivers flow into the Nile. Despite coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, all of the characters are confined to the same steamer, and the Nile symbolizes the way that people of different cultures and classes are brought together and forced to interact.
Furthermore, the river flows inevitably in one direction, which parallels the situations that many of the characters are stuck in and serves as a symbol of impact of a person’s choices on the rest of their lives. For example, after Jacqueline makes her decision to go through with her scheme against Linnet, there is no turning back for her—she must continue on that path until she ultimately escapes or faces the consequences of her actions.
The Nile Quotes in Death on the Nile
“That’s her!” said Mr. Burnaby, the landlord of the Three Crowns.
He nudged his companion.
The two men stared with round bucolic eyes and slightly open mouths.
A big scarlet Rolls-Royce had just stopped in front of the local post office.
“Monsieur Poirot, I’m afraid—I’m afraid of everything. I’ve never felt like this before. All these wild rocks and the awful grimness and starkness. Where are we going? What’s going to happen? I’m afraid, I tell you. Everyone hates me. I’ve never felt like that before. I’ve always been nice to people—I’ve done things for them—and they hate me—lots of people hate me. Except for Simon, I’m surrounded by enemies . . . It’s terrible to feel—that there are people who hate you. . . .”
Poirot picked up the handkerchief and examined it.
“A man’s handkerchief-but not a gentleman’s handkerchief. Ce cher Woolworth, I imagine. Threepence at most.”