All the characters of Christie's novel seem to reflect concerns raised by life in civilized society, some of them universal, some of them peculiar to Christie's historical moment. They make the reader aware that, like the characters stranded on Indian Island, we, as members of an organized society of institutions, must also live with each other, and with the consequences of other individuals' actions.
Two characters represent the institution of law: Justice Wargrave and Henry Blore. Their actions warn the reader of the consequences of a legal system, or individual keepers of the law, gone mad. Blore and Wargrave are both accused by the voice of Owen of using their power to manipulate the law and send innocent men to their deaths. A society of laws run by individuals always runs this risk: that personal feelings will inspire those who uphold the law to act outside it.
Vera Claythorne's character also calls attention to a certain risk inherent in a societal institution. As a nanny, Vera was entrusted with a family's most prized possession, its child. So confident was the child's mother in the competency of her nanny that when the boy drowned she held Vera above suspicion. Her confidence, however, was unfounded. Moved by love for Cyril's cousin Hugo, Vera conspired to send the child on a swim from which he would certainly not return. Today child care is in a crisis. Few working families can afford the best facilities, and abuses are constantly...
(The entire section is 1097 words.)
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Dr. Edward Armstrong
Dr. Armstrong is coming to Indian Island to examine and treat Mrs. Owen after receiving a letter from her husband. He takes pleasure in a reputation as “a good man at his job” and so has enjoyed a great deal of success. However, “he was very tired…. Success had its penalties.” As he travels to Devon, he alludes to a past incident that occurred fifteen years ago that “had been a near thing.” During that period, he notes that he had been “going to pieces,” and the shock of the traumatic event prompted him to give up drinking. Later his thoughts about the incident reveal that his drunken performance in the operating room killed Louisa Clees. While on the island, Armstrong is a bundle of nerves. His gullibility leads him to help Wargrave carry out his plans, which include murdering Armstrong.
William Blore pretends to be Mr. Davis, a “man of means from South Africa,” sure that “he could enter into any society unchallenged.” His true identity as a detective hired to watch Mrs. Owen’s jewels is quickly and easily exposed soon after he arrives at Indian Island. The narrator describes him as “an earnest man” and notes that “a light touch was incomprehensible to him.” Lombard observes his lack of imagination. After discovering that Blore committed perjury during the bank robbery trial that resulted in the conviction of an innocent man, Inspector Maine declares him to...
(The entire section is 1917 words.)