Because it is largely a psychological novel, Ten Little Indians builds its themes around primal, instinctive drives. As in all crime novels, the effects of guilt and paranoia are primary themes. Christie's most remarkable achievement with this novel is to have her characters experience these psychological states in such extreme form. By isolating guilty people on an island and placing a murderer in their midst, Christie gives herself the opportunity not only to explore states of mind but also to allow them to drive the plot of her novel.
Even before U. N. Owen's voice is heard announcing the crimes of Indian Island's ten inhabitants, Christie hints at their guilt. When she first describes Vera Claythorne, sitting in the third-class carriage of a train bound for Devon, the nearness of her destination to the sea reminds her of Cyril, the boy she allowed to drown, and Hugo, the lover she killed for. Subsequent sketches of Phillip Lombard and General Macarthur allude to their involvement in shady exploits and the Great War, respectively, the vocations in which they acted to take another's life. When the record is heard, Mrs. Rogers's reaction to the announcement of her guilt is so strong that she faints, giving the murderer an opportunity to slip her the poison that kills her. The physical manifestation of her guilt, then, acts as more than a thematic concern; it is also a fact driving the plot forward.
The most explicit manifestation of...
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