Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 379

The themes of Agatha Christie's 1937 murder-mystery novel Death on the Nile include deception and greed.

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The exotic setting of Egypt was likely inspired by Christie's husband, Max Mallowan's, vocation as prominent archaeologist. Death on the Nile is one of her Hercule Poirot novels, which features the idiosyncratic Belgian detective as its primary protagonist. The cast of characters is extensive and diverse, as is the case with many of Christie's murder mysteries, wherein seemingly secondary characters develop primary roles.

The central figure is one Linnet Doyle, who is a wealthy and beautiful socialite who recently married a man called Simon Doyle. She approaches Poirot during her honeymoon on a Nile River cruise, where Poirot also happens to be vacationing. Linnet requests his intervention with her husband's former lover, Jackie, who has followed them on their honeymoon, dogging their steps so as to prevent them from enjoying themselves. As early as the first few chapters, Poirot suspects that Simon might have married Linnet for her money. Nevertheless, Poirot takes the initiative of speaking with Jackie and discouraging her harassment of Linnet.

An attempt is made on Simon's life by a gun-wielding Jackie, a falling statue nearly misses Linnet (who is finally killed by a gunshot to the head), and Linnet's maid is then killed in her cabin. It is also observed that Linnet's pearls are missing.

The themes of deception and greed are highlighted in two ways during the novel's resolution. First, Poirot confronts Simon explaining that he knows that Simon killed his own wife. It turns out that Jackie shot Simon only as a ruse, and the two together planned to manipulate and kill Linnet for her money. Poirot earlier suspected this motivation, owing to his keen awareness of the human capacity for greed. Thus discovered, Jackie kills Simon and then herself to avoid being charged upon returning to port.

The other instance of deception and greed surrounds the missing pearls—a circumstance in fact unrelated to the murder. It turns out that one Mrs. Van Schuyler is a kleptomaniac and stole the pearls, only to later surrender them to one Miss. Bowers.

Deception is a common theme among Agatha Christie's words (as well as the larger genre of murder mysteries), wherein things and people are seldom what they seem.

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