And Then There Were None, written by Agatha Christie, is an intriguing murder mystery that finds eight people, all strangers to each other, are invited to Indian Island, off the English coast. On the island already are two people, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, the butler and housekeeper. The killer follows the lines of a poem, “Ten Little Indians”, for each victim’s death. Several critics claim the novel should not be considered an important literary piece because its characters are not fully developed.
Through reading the novel, I discovered several very well developed characters.
One character we are able to learn a lot about is Vera Claythorne. Because that she is the tenth little Indian, she lasts to the end; and, because of the setup of a good murder mystery, we get to see the many sides of a character’s psyche which allows us to better interpret the characters full personality. When the novel begins Vera Claythorne is a former governess who is working as a “games mistress at a third-class school”.
She takes a summer job on Indian Island, believing that she has been hired to serve as a secretary to a Mrs. Una Owen. Like the other characters, Vera has a dark secret. At her last job, she was governess to a spoiled little rich boy named Cyril Hamilton. She let Cyril drown so that his relative, Hugo, would inherit his money and then be rich enough to marry her. An inquest cleared her of any wrongdoing, but Hugo, certain that Vera had let Cyril die, would have nothing more to do with her.
Throughout the novel, Vera’s guilty memories of her crime plague her. She often thinks of Hugo and feels as if he is watching her.
In some ways, Vera is one of the most intelligent and capable characters in the novel, which explains why she is one of the last people left standing. She outwits the resourceful Philip Lombard, who thinks she is a murderer, by stealing his gun and then summoning up the courage to shoot him when he leaps at her. Despite her strength, however, Vera is not emotionally stable. In addition to her recurrent bouts of guilt over Cyril’s death, she is strongly affected by the almost supernatural nature of the events on the island and prone to attacks of nervous hysteria. More than anyone else, she fixates on the “Ten Little Indians” poem that lends an air of eerie inevitability to the murders. The confluence of these factors-her guilt, her tendency toward hysteria, and her fascination with the nursery rhyme-enables Wargrave to create a suggestive environment complete with a noose and the smell of the sea, which inspires Vera to hang herself and fulfill the last line of the poem.
As the second to last to die, Philip Lombard is well defined and can be understood with ease. There is a lot of information received from his past that becomes apparent in his behavior as the story progresses. Lombard has the most mysterious past of anyone on the island. He is a world traveler and a former military man who seems to have served as a soldier of fortune in Africa. In the epilogue, one of the policemen describes him as having “been mixed up in some very curious shows abroad … [the] sort of fellow who might do several murders in some quiet out-of-the-way spot.” He comes to Indian Island after Isaac Morris hires him, supposedly because Mr. Owen needs a “good man in a tight spot.” Clearly a dangerous man, Lombard carries a gun and is frequently described as moving “like a panther.” He is bold enough to initiate several searches of the island, perceptive enough to suspect Judge Wargrave of being the killer, and brave enough to voice his suspicions. Lombard is also honest: he owns up to his past misdeeds. When the recorded voice accuses him of leaving twenty-one men from an East African tribe to die in the bush, Lombard cheerfully admits to it, saying there was only enough food for himself and a friend, and so they took off with it. The other characters cannot bring themselves to admit their own guilt, but Lombard has no such qualms.
Lombard does display a weakness, however, that ultimately brings about his downfall: his chivalrous and old-fashioned attitude toward women. In the first group conversation about the murders, he suggests excluding the women from the list of potential suspects, since he considers them incapable of homicidal behavior. Lombard’s tendency to underestimate women enables Vera to steal his gun. Lombard figured all his life had taken the risky way, mine as well take it now, but as he leaps at Vera to retrieve the gun she shoots him in mid-flight. His death actually brings Vera and Lombard into a strange alliance, since it makes them the only two characters to die at the hand of someone other than Wargrave.
These characters are only two out of ten who are introduced distinctly and display obvious, rational changes throughout the novel. The characters are greatly believable and because of their true to life human characteristics and mood changes you find yourself constantly second-guessing yourself. Agatha Christie ties all the characters together nicely with no loose ends or confusing explanations.