Throughout Death on the Nile, Christie explores the theme of romantic love through the lens of several different relationships. In addition to Jacqueline and Simon, the secret lovers who orchestrate the crime at the center of the story, there is also Simon and Linnet; Rosalie and Tim; and the triangle involving Cornelia, Dr. Bessner, and Ferguson. Some of Christie’s portrayals of love are cynical—after all, Poirot describes the book’s central murder as a product of a love in which Jacqueline cares “too much.” Yet she also portrays love in hopeful ways. Throughout the novel, Christie depicts four main types of romantic love: love so strong it leads to evil, selfish love, love that brings out the best in people, and love of convenience.
One of the defining characteristics of Jacqueline is that she “cares too much” about Simon, and Christie uses her overwhelming love for Simon to explore how love can lead to evil. Jacqueline claims that she would be happy living with Simon even if he were poor. But Simon doesn’t want to be poor, and so, because Jaqueline loves him so much, she’s willing to do anything to please him—even murder. Early on in the novel, Poirot recognizes that her deep love might lead her to such drastic actions, and he warns her not to “open [her] heart to evil.” The mention of Jacqueline’s heart makes clear the connection between love and evil—the willingness to do anything for the former can lead to the latter. And when Jacqueline describes murdering Louise in order to protect Simon, it’s clear that is exactly what happened: according to Jacqueline, she didn’t even feel anything when she committed the murder.
The novel’s main action is set in motion when Linnet “steals” Simon from Jacqueline. As it turns out, that theft isn’t quite what it initially seems, as Simon marries Linnet not because he loves her in return but as part of a plot to get her wealth. Both of these “lovers,” then, pursue each other for selfish reasons: Linnet because she desires the love that Jacqueline had, and Simon because he wants Linnet’s wealth. In the novel, such selfish love leads to disaster. Linnet gets murdered by the man she selfishly married, while Simon’s desire to live a lifestyle like Linnet’s drives him to commit murder.
In contrast to the marriage of Simon and Linnet is the new love between Tim and Rosalie, which helps both characters become better people. Christie uses their relationship to show that, despite its dangers, love also has positive qualities. Both Tim and Rosalie are flawed characters. Tim is spoiled and secretly involved in a jewelry heist scheme, while Rosalie is unhappy, mercurial, and unfriendly to people around her. Over the course of the story, though, both Tim and Rosalie are portrayed more favorably. Tim begins to open up to Rosalie and ultimately repents of his past thefts, while Rosalie’s melancholy is revealed to have been the result of her struggles with her mother’s alcoholism. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that the change in their nature is a result of their growing love for each other. In the moments after Jacqueline kills Simon as a final act of overwhelming love, the novel cuts to an image of Tim and Rosalie standing together in the sunshine. In this way, Tim and Rosalie’s love is contrasted with Jacqueline and Simon’s, and a love that drives lovers to be better people offers hope in the aftermath of a different sort of love that leads to tragedy.
Not all romantic love is actually quite so romantic, however: the love triangle of Dr. Bessner, Cornelia Robson, and Ferguson shows that sometimes love is a matter of practical convenience. When Ferguson proposes to Cornelia, he isn’t in love with her the way Jacqueline loved Simon, or the way that Tim and Rosalie love each other. Instead, in proposing marriage to the lower-class Cornelia, he is trying to prove something about himself and to define himself by his socialist politics. Cornelia, however, rejects Ferguson and instead chooses to be with Dr. Bessner, who is older and not particularly attractive. However, as she explains to Ferguson, Bessner both treats her with respect and shares her interests; being with him offers her the chance to grow. While the novel describes the Egyptology lessons that Bessner gives to Cornelia as “ponderous,” she sees that he will nonetheless always be reliable and treat her well. While not terribly romantic, Cornelia sees these traits as solid foundations for a marriage, and the novel’s portrayal of their interactions seems to suggest agreement.
While mystery and murder take center stage in Death on the Nile, love is always on the periphery, motivating many of the key plot events. Love is one of the most written-about topics in literature, and Christie attempts to add something to the conversation by portraying romantic love from different angles. Just as no two criminals are alike—some are beyond redemption, others just a little misguided—so too, the novel suggests, are no two loves alike. Any skilled mystery writer needs to be able to conjure up plausible motivations, and Christie expertly shows how love can lead to crime—as well as how it can lead to something more.
Romantic Love ThemeTracker
Romantic Love Quotes in Death on the Nile
“She cares too much, that little one,” he said to himself. It is not safe. No, it is not safe.”
“It is deeper than that. Do not open your heart to evil.”
“My dear Monsieur Poirot—how can I put it? It’s like the moon when the sun comes out. You don’t know it’s there anymore. When once I’d met Linnet—Jackie didn’t exist.”
“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. . . .”
Simon’s eyes were open. They too held contentment. What a fool he’d been to be rattled that first night . . . There was nothing to be rattled about. . . Everything was all right . . . After all, one could trust Jackie—
There was a shout-people running towards him waving their arms-shouting. . . .
Simon stared stupidly for a moment. Then he sprang to his feet and dragged Linnet with him.
Not a minute too soon. A big boulder hurtling down the cliff crashed past them. If Linnet had remained where she was she would have been crushed to atoms.
Jacqueline hummed a little tune to herself. When the drink came, she picked it up, said: “Well, here’s to crime,” drank it off and ordered another.
Hercule Poirot nodded his head.
“You did not look. But I, I have the eyes which notice, and there were no pearls on the table beside the bed this morning.”
“People think I’m awful. Stuck-up and cross and bad-tempered. I can’t help it. I’ve forgotten how to be-to be nice.”
“That is what I said to you; you have carried your burden by yourself too long.”
“Well, sir, where do we go from here? I admit taking the pearls from Linnet’s cabin and you’ll find them just where you say they are. I’m guilty all right. But as far as Miss Southwood is concerned, I’m not admitting anything. You’ve no evidence whatever against her. How I got hold of the fake necklace is my own business.”
Poirot murmured: “A very correct attitude.”
“Yes,” she said “it’s rather horrible isn’t it? I can’t believe that I—did that! I know now what you meant by opening your heart to evil . . . You know pretty well how it happened. Louise made it clear to Simon that she knew. Simon got you to bring me to him. As soon as we were alone together he told me what had happened. He told me what I’d got to do. I wasn’t even horrified. I was so afraid—so deadly afraid . . . That’s what murder does to you. Simon and I were safe—quite safe—except for this miserable blackmailing French girl. I took her all the money we could get hold of. I pretended to grovel. And then, when she was counting the money, I—did it! It was quite easy. That’s what’s so horribly, horribly frightening about it . . . It’s so terribly easy. . . .”
Mrs. Allerton shivered. “Love can be a very frightening thing.”
“That is why most great love stories are tragedies.”
Mrs. Allerton’s eyes rested upon Tim and Rosalie, standing side by side in the sunlight, and she said suddenly and passionately: “But thank God, there is happiness in the world.”
Lastly the body of Linnet Doyle was brought ashore, and all over the world wires began to hum, telling the public that Linnet Doyle, who had been Linnet Ridgeway, the famous, the beautiful, the wealthy Linnet Doyle was dead.
Sir George Wode read about it in his London club, and Sterndale Rockford in New York, and Joanna Southwood in Switzerland, and it was discussed in the bar of the Three Crowns in Malton-under-Wode.
And Mr. Burnaby said acutely: “Well, it doesn’t seem to have done her much good, poor lass.”
But after a while they stopped talking about her and discussed instead who was going to win the Grand National. For, as Mr. Ferguson was saying at that minute in Luxor, it is not the past that matters but the future.