Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

by

Agatha Christie

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Colonel Arbuthnot Character Analysis

Colonel Arbuthnot is an older British soldier, a veteran of British colonial projects in India. He’s a stolid, “Anglo-Saxon” type, whom Poirot describes as being “honourable, [and] slightly stupid.” He provides an alibi for the young American Mr. MacQueen and defends Ms. Debenham when suspicion falls on her. He even invites suspicion to protect his fellow conspirators by placing a signature pipe-cleaner in Ratchett’s compartment. He was a friend of Daisy’s father, Colonel Armstrong.

Colonel Arbuthnot Quotes in Murder on the Orient Express

The Murder on the Orient Express quotes below are all either spoken by Colonel Arbuthnot or refer to Colonel Arbuthnot. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper edition of Murder on the Orient Express published in 2011.
Part 1 Chapter 1  Quotes

The Colonel sat down. "Boy," he called in peremptory fashion. He gave an order for eggs and coffee. His eyes rested for a moment on Hercule Poirot they passed on indifferently. Poirot, reading the English mind correctly, knew that he had said to himself, "Only some damned foreigner."

Related Characters: Colonel Arbuthnot (speaker), Hercule Poirot, Mary Debenham
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Chapter 8 Quotes

"In fact, Colonel Arbuthnot, you prefer law and order to private vengeance?" "Well, you can't go about having blood feuds and stabbing each other like Corsicans or the Mafia," said the Colonel. "Say what you like, trial by jury is a sound system."

Related Characters: Colonel Arbuthnot (speaker), Hercule Poirot, Mr. Ratchett / Cassetti
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
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Colonel Arbuthnot Character Timeline in Murder on the Orient Express

The timeline below shows where the character Colonel Arbuthnot appears in Murder on the Orient Express. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1 Chapter 1 
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
...well-traveled. Poirot admires her features but deems her “a little too efficient” to be pretty. Colonel Arbuthnot enters and eats with Mary Debenham, though they speak very little. Neither notice Poirot... (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Later, the Colonel says that he wishes Miss Debenham “were out of all this,” but she hushes him.... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...stop, Poirot steps out to enjoy some fresh air and overhears another conversation between the Colonel and Miss Debenham. She cuts him off and references a time “When it’s all over.”... (full context)
Part 1 Chapter 3
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Colonel Arbuthnot is behind the three women, very pointedly apart from Ms. Debenham, which Poirot believes... (full context)
Part 1 Chapter 4
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
...approaches, Poirot notices “barriers break down” and the passengers become more comfortable with each other. Colonel Arbuthnot talks at length with Hector Macqueen about politics while Mrs. Hubbard takes the somewhat... (full context)
Part 1 Chapter 5
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
...the train and refers to their present location as one of those “Balkan things,” and Colonel Arbuthnot asks Poirot about the delay, confusing him for his fellow Belgian M. Bouc. (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 1
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Pierre Michel confirms that Mr. MacQueen talked in his cabin with Colonel Arbuthnot late into the night. After making up MacQueen’s cabin, Pierre Michel talked with another... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 2
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...talked for a little bit with Mary Debenham, and then discussed world politics extensively with Colonel Arbuthnot until two in the morning. He generally finds “Britishers” uptight, but he liked the... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 8
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Colonel Arbuthnot is the next witness to be called. Poirot finds his French lacking, so he... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
...to deal with the English, as “they are very reserved.” Poirot further implies that the Colonel feels “warmly” in the matter of Mary Debenham, to which the Colonel reacts with hostility. (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Colonel Arbuthnot goes on to establish his movements the previous night, spending most of it in... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Poirot then asks him about Colonel Armstrong, and Arbuthnot names a few unrelated men named Armstrong but remembers Colonel Armstrong after... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
...a recollection of any other suspicious events on the previous night, no matter how small. Colonel Arbuthnot notes that he noticed the door in cabin sixteen was slightly open so that... (full context)
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Colonel Arbuthnot leaves but not before vouching again for Mary Debenham, calling her a “pukka sahib.”... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 12
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...of passion, and he was trying to shake Ms. Debenham’s self-possession. Given that she and Colonel Arbuthnot have a prior relationship, he expected them to provide alibis for each other, but... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 13
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...man’s existence is directly or indirectly confirmed by the testimony of four witnesses, MacQueen and Arbuthnot in addition to Hildegarde and Hardman. But supposing he exists, Poirot says, he would have... (full context)
Part 2 Chapter 15
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Next up is Colonel Arbuthnot. In the search, Poirot finds pipe-cleaners that match exactly the one found in Ratchett’s... (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...to interview her privately. Poirot confronts her with two inconsistencies. One, the overheard conversation with Colonel Arbuthnot and the reference to “When it’s all over.” Two, her anxiety at missing her... (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 1
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...most have either no motive or no evidence against them. They are of various nationalities. Colonel Arbuthnot has the evidence of the pipe-cleaner in Ratchett’s room. Princess Dragomiroff has a strong... (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 2
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...may be genuine, but the pipe-cleaner is a faked clue. As evidence, he points to Colonel Arbuthnot’s impassive reaction when asked about the pipe-cleaner. (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 6
National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Poirot turns his attention to Colonel Arbuthnot. He confronts Arbuthnot with the pipe-cleaner, but Arbuthnot is unimpressed and continues to stonewall... (full context)
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
...Armstrong’s governess at the time of the kidnapping, after there was “a minute’s dead silence.” Arbuthnot continues to evade, looking like he’s “carved out of wood, rigid and impassive.” Poirot calls... (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 7
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
When Poirot continues to press her, she’s overwhelmed with emotion and Arbuthnot yells at Poirot to leave her alone. Threatening to “break every bone in your damned... (full context)
Part 3 Chapter 9
Detective Methods and Inner Lives Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Poirot supports a closer relationship between the passengers by reference to Ms. Debenham and Colonel Arbuthnot, who know each other too well to have just met on the journey. He... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
...in the gaps of the conspiracy. Pierre Michel had been the French nursemaid’s daughter and Colonel Arbuthnot had fought with Colonel Armstrong in the war. Then, she appeals eloquently to Poirot... (full context)