Agatha Christie

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Student Question

What character traits does Poirot display in the first chapter of Agatha Christie's The A. B. C. Murders?

He dyes his hair, he chooses an apartment for its symmetry, he speaks formal English with French words, he eats at the Ritz, he knows where to find the A.B.C letter to show Hastings, he objects to the idea of using instincts to solve crimes, and he calls Hastings his "mascot."

Quick answer:

We can deduce from the details we learn about Poirot in chapter 1 of The A. B. C Murders that he is vain, orderly, methodical, has refined taste, and likes to work with Hastings, regarding him as a good luck charm.

Expert Answers

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Early in chapter 1, Hastings learns that Poirot is dying his hair so that it won't look gray. This, along with the information that Poirot is "inordinately" proud of his mustaches, reveals that he is vain about his appearance.

When Poirot objects to Hastings calling his worries about the A. B. C. letter "instincts," this too suggests he is vain: he wants Hastings to understand that it is his long experience and expert abilities as a detective that lead him to be suspicious, not vague intuitions. Poirot also wants to establish that he is a person who works from evidence and experience, not mere instincts.

Hastings notes that Poirot knows exactly where to find the A. B. C letter: this suggests that Poirot is a very orderly and methodical person.

His symmetrical apartment building also shows he is a person who loves order, logic, and method—good traits for a detective. Hastings says,

I accused him (and he admitted the fact) of having chosen this particular building entirely on account of its strictly geometrical appearance and proportions.

When Poirot speaks formal English and throws in French words such as recherche, we see he is groping to say precisely what he means, another indication of his orderly mind.

The Ritz was and is a very fine luxury hotel in central London. Dining there attests both to Poirot having some money and to his exquisite and refined taste.

A mascot is a good luck symbol or charm. Poirot explains calling Hastings his mascot by saying,

As soon as I heard you were coming over I said to myself: Something will arise. As in former days we will hunt together, we two. But if so it must be no common affair.

Poirot considers Hastings his mascot because Hastings's presence, he believes, brings him especially good cases. He also thinks they work ("hunt") well together.

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