Question: Analyse how language techniques were used to stimulate an emotional response.
(I got an E7 on this essay and am wondering what areas I need to improve in order to get a higher mark. Thanks!)
You cannot judge a person on their reputation alone. In her 1939 novel And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie proves this to her reader through several of her characters, notably Philip Lombard, Emily Brent and Justice Wargrave. Christie uses several language features when describing these characters and the actions they take in order to stimulate an emotional response of a sense of security in her readers and engage them in the novel.
One way that Agatha Christie stimulates an emotional response of suspicion through the use of language features in And Then There Were None is her use of simile to describe Philip Lombard.
Lombard was a mercenary who was charged with the crime of killing 21 natives and now carries a revolver with him on the island. He is described in the novel as “panther-like” with a “wolf-like smile”. These similes connote predatory, animalistic characteristics. This stimulates a feeling of fear and distrust in the reader, setting them up to believe that Lombard is the killer as he seems the most likely.
This emotional response is held by the reader right up until the end of the novel as Lombard is one of the last characters left alive. This only makes the reader surer and surer of the identity of the killer and leaves them shocked when the true killer is revealed. Christie uses Lombard as a sort of red herring character, a safety net for the reader’s suspicions; given his history, the reader feels safe in their response and a sense of superiority in that they feel they have solved the mystery before any of the characters. Christie then pulls this rug out from under the feet of the reader with Lombard’s death and the revelation of the true killer, making this twist much more impactful. These similes-”wolf-like smile”, “moving like a panther”-sets up an immediate suspicion in the reader; combined with insights to Lombards inner monologue, such as in chapter one when he notes he would like to “take on” Vera, creates a sense of confidence in the reader that they have figured out the killer, only for Christie to tear this down in the reveal. Through Lombard, Christie proves the theme that “you cannot judge a person by their reputation alone” by revealing the reader’s own prejudices.
Another language technique that Christie uses in And Then There Were None to create an emotional response of suspicion in the reader is constant use of allusion to the Bible.
This begins in chapter one, when an elderly man tells Blore that “the Day of Judgement is near”. This is a clear allusion to Judgement Day in Christianity, the belief that upon the return of Jesus Christ we will be judged for our sins.
Biblical allusion is continued throughout the novel through Emily Brent, a woman of 65 whose religious beliefs drove her to cast out her maid who was pregnant out of wedlock.
Brent constantly refers to her Bible, which the reader sees through her internal monologue. Parts of scripture that the reader sees through Brent are Numbers 32:23 which states that “Thy sins will find thee out” and a passage from Revelations which states that “the wicked shall be cast into Hell”. This continuation of alluding to passages about the end times stimulates an emotional response of suspicion in the reader, and they begin to understand that things are not quite as they seem.
And Then There Were None was set and published in late 1930’s England following the Great Depression. This was a time of immense return to fundamental religious views as people grappled with the effects of a post war crash. Alluding to the Bible is the best way for Christie to ensure that he readers of the time could sense the imminent danger within the novel. Christie exemplifies these beliefs through Brent, encouraging her reader to emotionally relate to her and believe that, due to her righteousness, she could not be guilty of the crimes she was convicted of. This creates a sense of security within the reader; this is a character that, in the midst of the search for the killer, they can trust and connect with. Brent’s eventual punishment-death-for her crime is a warning by Christie to her readers that no matter how upstanding a person seems, guilt is guilt and deserves to be punished. The constant allusion to the Bible throughout And Then There Were None is Christies way of playing with the emotions of her readers of the time of publishing and the guilt of Emily Brent proves to them the theme that ‘you cannot judge a person by their reputation alone’. This allusion is also seen in the first ‘death’ of Wargrave; the wound on his forehead resembles that on the forehead of Cain, showing his turn from God. For Wargrave this represents his turn from “good” through the murders he commits on the island. Biblical allusion is therefore a key language technique used by Christie to stimulate an emotional response of a sense of security in the readers of And Then There Were None.
Another example of the use of language techniques by Christie to stimulate an emotional response of a sense of security in her reader is through the character of Wargrave.
Christie appeals to the reader’s sense of logos, or logic, through Wargrave to make the twist of the novel more impactful and unexpected. Wargrave is a justice-an example of dramatic irony- which encourages the reader to trust him; he is an upstanding member whose successful career has been built on being fair, so why would he be the killer? The reader feels a sense of security in knowing this and trusting that Wargrave could never be the killer.
The constant referral to Wargrave as ‘Justice’, although he is retired, is a subtle hint at his true identity. Christie also uses descriptive language to describe Wargrave. He is “tortoise-like”, which evokes feelings of sympathy in the reader; he is slow, he is elderly, which stimulates an immediate sympathetic response in the reader. Logically, these two things, Wargraves reputation and his physical appearance, rule him out as the killer in the eyes of the reader, stimulating a sense of security in their decisions as they search to find the true identity of the murderer.
Wargrave is used in a similar manner to Brent in that he earns the trust of the reader before it is revealed that he is not what he seems. Readers of And The There Were None do not expect an upstanding and fair citizen to be capable of such crimes, therefore proving the theme that “you cannot judge a person on their reputation alone”. Characters within the novel, notably Armstrong, do exactly this and pay the fatal price.
The red herring of Wargrave’s death stimulates this sense of security again in the reader.
The reader believes Wargrave is dead based on Armstrong’s diagnosis, feeding into the earlier sense of security that Wargrave could not be the killer. This creates an opportunity for the reader to feel secure in their suspicions as numbers on the island begin to dwindle. This acceptance of death makes the final twist of the novel all the more shocking for the reader.
The revelation of Wargrave’s guilt forces the reader to evaluate their ideas around guilt and justice. Was Wargrave wrong for succeeding where the justice system failed? Would they do the same thing if they were in the same situation? These emotional responses and questioning of ideas has the most significant impact on the readers of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.