Christie Agatha Criticism - Essay

Stewart H. Benedict (essay date Winter 1962)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Agatha Christie and Murder Most Unsportsmanlike," in Claremont Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 2, Winter, 1962, pp. 37-42.

[In the following essay, Benedict considers the culpability of Christie's murders, arguing that Christie may have paved the way for justifiable murders in mystery fiction.]

Just as in politics the British offspring of an American mother became the symbol of Empire in a time of need, so too the most typically English mystery novels have come from the pen of an authoress who, although she can boast of almost a hundred million sales, cannot boast of one hundred percent pure U.K. blood. The lady in question is of course Agatha Christie, whose heraldry...

(The entire section is 2021 words.)

M. Vipond (essay date Summer 1981)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Agatha Christie's Women," in The International Fiction Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer, 1981, pp. 119-23.

[In the following essay, Vipond attempts to clarify Christie's representation of women, arguing that Christie's female characters are products of the time.]

Agatha Christie's characters are stereotypes and caricatures, but they are not just that. They possess not simply two dimensions but two and a half. The little bit of fun gently poked at the "typical" figure, the slightly surprising or contradictory quality, the merest touch of real humanity—all make Christie's types just a bit more than cardboard puppets dancing to the choreography of the plot. In her...

(The entire section is 2466 words.)

David I. Grossvogel (essay date 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Death Deferred: The Long Life, Splendid Afterlife, and Mysterious Workings of Agatha Christie," in Art in Crime Writing: Essays on Detective Fiction, St. Martin's Press, 1983, pp. 1-17.

[In the following essay, Grossvogel explores why Christie's works remain popular today.]

It is not uncommon for the demise of an author's popularity to coincide with his actual death, the chance of resurrection awaiting the archaeological whims of future scholars and critics. Not so Agatha Christie: even though she has been gone since 1976, even though the worlds she described are, for the most part, no longer with us, even though the very genre she helped fashion is largely...

(The entire section is 5395 words.)

David A. Fryxell (essay date November 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "All about Agatha," in Horizon, Vol. 27, No. 9, November, 1984, pp. 42-5.

[In the following essay, Fryxell argues that Christie's works have not been successfully adapted for film.]

"Everybody loves a gossip," Agatha Christie once said by way of explaining her phenomenal popularity. That's why she thought her mysteries have outsold everything but the Bible and Shakespeare: people love to snoop into other people's lives. Christie let her readers snoop into lives—and deaths—ranging from those of the tea-cozy denizens of quaint English villages to the upper crust on board the Orient Express. And what better topic for really juicy gossip than murder?


(The entire section is 2661 words.)

Earl F. Bargainnier (essay date Winter 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Poems of Agatha Christie," in Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 21, No. 3, Winter, 1987, pp. 103-10.

[In the following essay, Bargainnier analyzes Christie's collection of poetry, discussing what her poems reveal about her personality.]

In her autobiography Agatha Christie wrote, "The creative urge can come out in any form: in embroidery, in cooking of interesting dishes, in painting, drawing and sculpture, in composing music, as well as in writing books and stories. The only difference is that you can be a great deal more grand about some of these things than others." Christie was never "grand" about her detective fiction, and was even less so about her...

(The entire section is 3233 words.)

Michele Slung (essay date 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Let's Hear It for Agatha Christie: A Feminist Appreciation," in The Sleuth and the Scholar: Origins, Evolution, and Current Trends in Detective Fiction, Greenwood Press, 1988, pp. 63-8.

[In the following essay, Slung argues that the female characters in Christie's mysteries provide role models for women.]

With all due respect to P. D. James and Ruth Rendell—to name two writers who have resisted inheriting the queenly mantle of Agatha Christie from over-eager blurb writers—there is no doubt in my mind that these women never should have been offered the honor in the first place. Bestsellerdom (in the case of James) or simply being British, acclaimed, and...

(The entire section is 2386 words.)

Nicholas Birns and Margaret Boe Birns (essay date 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Agatha Christie: Modern and Modernist," in The Cunning Craft: Original Essays on Detective Fiction and Contemporary Literary Theory, Western Illinois University, 1990, pp. 120-34.

[In the following essay, the reviewers argue that Christie's writing is more complex than critics credit her.]

Agatha Christie's position in the critical discourse surrounding the detective story is an anomalous one. While Christie is the best known and most popular writer of detective fiction in this century, she has rarely been analyzed with the kind of rigor and attention that such a position would ordinarily entail. Christie's relationship to modernism, the dominant discourse of...

(The entire section is 7886 words.)

Gary Day (essay date 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ordeal by Analysis: Agatha Christie's The Thirteen Problems," in Twentieth-Century Suspense: The Thriller Comes of Age, Macmillan, 1990, pp. 80-95.

[In the following essay, Day discusses the structure of The Thirteen Problems, refuting many commonly held beliefs about the simplicity of the formulaic mystery novel.]

Critics of the detective story have commented that its appeal lies less in characterization than in the solution of a problem. Jacques Barzun writes that 'detection rightly keeps character subordinate' while George Grella comments 'that the central puzzle provides the form's chief appeal'. Generally, characters are types who perform...

(The entire section is 6805 words.)

John Wren-Lewis (essay date May 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Adam, Eve, and Agatha Christie," in The Chesterton Review, Vol. 19, No. 2, May, 1993, pp. 193-99.

[In the following essay, Wren-Lewis analyzes what the success of Christie's The Mousetrap reveals about changes in popular perceptions of sin and evil.]

The longest-running play in human history is now well into its forty-first year on the London stage. Agatha Christie's detective-thriller The Mousetrap, which celebrated the fortieth anniversary of its opening on November 25th last year, has now become almost a British National Monument. When I went to its opening night, to see the young Richard Attenborough playing the detective, we were still only...

(The entire section is 3029 words.)