Who is the character of Major Metcalf in the play The Mousetrap? What are some examples from his dialogue and body language that show his characterization? What is his intention in the play, and what are his relationships to each character?

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Agatha Christie's classic who-done-it, The Mousetrap, is celebrating its 67th year (eight months shy of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II) of being the longest-running play in the world, with over 27,500 performances to date.

Major Metcalf is first mentioned by Mrs. Boyle, who she's left in charge...

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Agatha Christie's classic who-done-it, The Mousetrap, is celebrating its 67th year (eight months shy of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II) of being the longest-running play in the world, with over 27,500 performances to date.

Major Metcalf is first mentioned by Mrs. Boyle, who she's left in charge of the luggage she left outside Monkswell Manor in a blizzard. The first thing we learn about Major Metcalf is that he's extremely accommodating.

As he enters Monkswell Manor in act 1, scene 1, Major Metcalf is described by the playwright in the stage notes as "a middle-aged, square-shouldered man, very military in his manner and bearing."

On his entrance we see that he's amiable, polite, and respectful of women. He removes his hat for Mrs. Boyle, even though she left him in the blizzard with her luggage. He remarks that he hasn't seen this kind of weather "since I was on leave in nineteen-forty," which give us another hint about his military background.

A quick exchange between Giles and Major Metcalf seems to confirm his military history.

GILES: (authoritatively) Major!

MAJOR METCALF: (instinctively the soldier) Sir!

In scene 2, Major Metcalf is on the sofa in the main room reading a book, and Mrs. Boyle is sitting in an armchair writing a letter. Mrs. Boyle is complaining bitterly about everything, including the breakfast, the lunch, and the fact she wasn't given the best bedroom.

Major Metcalf does his best to look on the bright side of things, but Mrs. Boyle's pessimism eventually wears him down, and he takes the first opportunity to get away from her, even if the opportunity is to shovel snow away from the back door.

MAJOR METCALF: I'll give you a hand, what? Good exercise. Must have exercise.

When he returns to the others, he learns that the police have been summoned, shortly after Paravicini dropped the poker in the fireplace, startling Major Metcalf, who, according to the stage notes, "stands a though paralyzed." This might be a hint as to a lingering effect of Major Metcalf's wartime experience.

Later in the scene, a policeman, Sergeant Trotter, arrives. He says he's been sent to investigate "the Longridge farm case," and he questions everyone at the Manor about the case.

MAJOR METCALF: ... Read about the case in the papers at the time. I was stationed in Edinburgh then. No personal knowledge.

Without knowing much about the case, or so he says, Major Metcalf accuses Mrs. Boyle of being the magistrate who sent three children to a foster home at Longridge Farms, where they were abused and one child died. Mrs. Boyle admits that she was the magistrate, but she denies she did anything wrong and argues that she was simply doing her duty.

Mrs. Boyle is found dead, murdered, at the end of act 1.

In act 2, Major Metcalf tries to be helpful to Sergeant Trotter's investigation of Mrs. Boyle's murder, but his efforts seem to serve little purpose. In fact, suspicion for the murder falls on Major Metcalf for a time, but he holds up well under the pressure.

In due time, the murderer is revealed, as is Major Metcalf's true identity.

MAJOR METCALF: ...I've had my suspicions about him [the murderer] all along.

MOLLIE: You did? Didn't you believe he was a policeman?

MAJOR METCALF: I knew he wasn't a policeman. You see, Mrs. Ralston, I'm a policeman.

Major Metcalf explains his suspicions, how the Longridge Farm incident relates to Mrs Boyle's murderer, and how he discovered who the murderer was.

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Major Metcalf's intention throughout the play is to investigate. He investigates the other people trapped in the house to figure out who's committing the murders. In each scene, his intention is to discover the truth.

Major Metcalf appears as a traditional English gentleman. He is first seen sitting on a couch and reading a book, and he seems like a positive person: he is happy with the breakfast he's eaten that morning and explains that his wife made it all herself. While Mrs. Boyle complains about the food, Major Metcalf finds things to compliment about it.

He's quick to help and volunteers to shovel snow, saying that he needs the exercise. He's kind when he comforts Christopher. He smokes a pipe. His only relationship with the characters in the play is that of a detective to the suspects, the victims, and the murderer. He's friendly to everyone and easy to get along with.

He is startled by things like the loud sound a poker makes when it drops. He is also loud when he's surprised or incredulous, like when calling the police is suggested and he asks again, a few moments later, why the police are coming. (He knows that he's the police officer who's supposed to be there and that Trotter, the man who appears, isn't with the police.)

Major Metcalf leaves the room often, and that appears suspicious. However, he's actually investigating the case; he's the police detective trying to figure out who's committing the murders. He uses chores as excuses to leave and investigate. This can be seen throughout as he subtly questions people with direct statements about their actions. We can also observe this in the way he moves around a room—like a detective interviewing a witness. He's often up, down, and navigating around the room.

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