Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

by

Agatha Christie

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Murder on the Orient Express: Part 2 Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Poirot calls Mr. Ratchett’s personal valet, Edward Masterman, a sober-minded and proper British man with an “inexpressive face.” He answers questions about his age and background in clipped phrases with little elaboration. Masterman reports that he had last seen Ratchett at nine the previous night and that Ratchett had been upset over a letter he was reading. Ratchett routinely took a sleeping draught which Masterman would administer, as he did the previous night.
Masterman is an example of a “Britisher” that MacQueen might not like, as he’s rather dour and taciturn, somewhat unlike Colonel Arbuthnot. He’s well-matched with his profession in this way, as he’s generally incurious and unemotional, which might allow him to keep his master’s confidence. His name, “Masterman,” is an obvious sign that he’s fully identified with his job.
Themes
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Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon
Masterman implies that he didn’t care much for Ratchett, although he’s too mannered to say so until Poirot reveals that Ratchett was responsible for Daisy Armstrong’s kidnapping. At this point, “The valet's tone held positive warmth and feeling for the first time.” The night before, after seeing to Ratchett, he returned to his cabin which he shared with an Italian man. The Italian, according to Masterman, spoke “a kind of English,” as he had spent time in Chicago.
Masterman displays the discretion characteristic of British servants. Even with his master dead, he’s unwilling to speak ill of him. But the fact that “positive warmth” comes into his voice at the mention of the Armstrong case illustrates that he’s not all icy deference. It also captures the hideousness of the Armstrong case that it could reach even someone so unemotional as Masterman. Despite that warmth, Masterman can’t resist a dig at the Italian roommate, with the notion that he spoke “a kind of English” displaying a stereotypically British snobbishness.
Themes
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National Identity and International Connections Theme Icon
Masterman can’t shed much light on yesterday’s events, as he was reading in his room with a toothache for much of the night. His Italian roommate also never left the cabin that night. Before dismissing him, Poirot asks him whether there was bad blood between MacQueen and Ratchett, which he denies by saying “Mr. MacQueen was a very pleasant gentleman.” Finally, Poirot asks whether he’s a pipe-smoker, but Masterman responds that he only smokes “gaspers,” or cigarettes.
The difference between the way Masterman speaks of Ratchett and MacQueen is fairly stark, showing the depth of Ratchett’s odious personality. Poirot, in these early interviews, is pushing at the passengers’ alibis for the time between twelve and two o’clock, confirming that the Italian man never left his room and that MacQueen went into Ratchett’s room before ten.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Deception and Genre Expectations Theme Icon