The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Typically for a traditional English whodunit, the book has a gallery of stereotypical characters commonplace to the genre. Roger Ackroyd is a standard victim: someone the reader scarcely gets to know before the murder, a man to whom the reader has formed little attachment. What little Christie tells about him is largely unfavorable: He is wealthy but stingy, and though he respects the law, he lacks compassion, even when it comes to the woman he plans to marry. Then there are the servants—Bourne, Parker, Russell—who have pasts they are trying to hide. In addition, there are family members who dislike the victim and would benefit from his death. For example, Ralph Paton, Ackroyd’s twenty-five-year-old stepson, is a dissolute gambler who is alienated from his father but dependent upon him for support. Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd and Flora also are dependent upon the largesse of a man they dislike and thus crave release from what they regard as a lamentable situation. Still another standard character-type present here is a mysterious stranger, Charles Kent, who is revealed to be connected to at least one person in the household.

The major characters in the novel are Poirot and Sheppard, and even they are stereotypical. The former is in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes: a self-centered, eccentric, but brilliant detective who utilizes his powers of ratiocination in order to solve crimes. A small but dignified man of advanced age, he speaks with a cultivated...

(The entire section is 552 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot (pwah-ROH), a famous Belgian detective. A member of the Belgian police before World War I, he entered private practice in Great Britain during the war. Poirot has temporarily retired to King’s Abbot and is busily engaged in growing marrows (squash) when he is caught up in the investigation of the murder. He is short and lean, with many mannerisms, dyed black hair, an enormous mustache, and a great love of hot chocolate and sweet liqueurs. Many people think lightly of the Belgian when they first meet him. Poirot ignores the slights, however, and puts his complete faith in the “little grey cells” of his brain.

James Sheppard

James Sheppard, the local doctor and the narrator of the action. He is the most important witness to the events that precede the murder and acts as Poirot’s aide. The quiet, middle-aged physician is the friend of many of the people directly and indirectly involved in the mystery surrounding his friend Ackroyd’s death and so is able to supply Poirot with information about their personalities, and even about some of their medical problems.

Caroline Sheppard

Caroline Sheppard, the doctor’s elder sister, who lives with him. She is one of the best sources of village gossip, and her brother is always trying to circumvent her curiosity about his medical practice, usually with little success. Caroline is sure of her own opinion about everything, including that everyone in the village, even her beloved brother, has to be watched for his or her own good.

Roger Ackroyd

Roger Ackroyd, the murdered man, a middle-aged and very wealthy industrialist. According to Dr. Sheppard, he looked like a beefy local squire from a Victorian melodrama. His fiancée, Mrs. Ferrars, committed suicide the night before his murder. The day of her suicide, she confessed that she had murdered her...

(The entire section is 803 words.)