Analyse how the experiences of a character were used to comment on society.
Woman are more than just their gender. In Agatha Christie’s novel ‘And Then There Were None’ Vera’s experiences as a young woman were used to comment on today’s society. The men always saw her as incapable of murder solely based on the fact that she was a small, young woman. Vera’s exclusion, her motherly figure, and then her act of murder are all experiences Vera went through that comment on the sexism present in society.
During the novel, Vera is excluded from the investigation of the island that the remaining men put into place. The men, especially Lombard, took it upon themselves to lead the group, actively discluding Vera and Emily. This active disinclusion from the decision-making group was an act of sexism. The men saw the woman as too dumb to be an asset to them, even though both proved to have strong opinions and be intelligent. All the men saw was their gender and saw this as good enough a reason to not include them in their investigations. This use of the active exclusion of Vera and the other woman was used to comment on the sexism present in the society then, and today’s society. Men take it upon themselves to take charge and not include women who are just as smart - if not smarter, just because they see their masculinity as superior to women’s femininity.
The men never even consider Vera as a threat to them. Lombard said: “At any rate, I suppose you’ll leave the women out of it.” when considering who the murderer may be. It never once crossed his mind that Vera could be responsible - or even capable of a murder. Agatha included these acts of gender stereotyping to show how in society women are constantly underestimated by men. During the men’s investigation of the island, Vera was placed in her room for protection. Meanwhile, the men were ‘hunting down’ the murderer. Agatha Christie made sure to include this detail to comment on the stereotype that men are brave and go out and hunt while women are thought to need ‘protection’. She did this to open the eyes of people who are still stuck in the 1938 idea that women are not as capable as men, because Vera very much proves otherwise.
Throughout Vera’s life experiences the stereotypical woman’s idea always affected her. Vera was always seen as a motherly figure, just as the stereotype of a woman was in 1939. Her prior job as Cyril’s nanny/caretaker fit the stereotype, her purpose was to care for that child. This stereotype likely saved her from being charged with the murder of Cyril. In the novel it says; “That she’d take a kid out to sea and let it drown – you wouldn’t think a woman could do a thing like that?” to address the idea that Vera was in fact responsible for Cyrils death. She was seen by society as a caretaker - her purpose was to care for children, so it was thought that she could never be responsible for the death of one. In this scenario Vera weaponized the gender stereotype to get herself out of the options of suspects, she knew of this false belief by men and knew they would hardly even consider her responsible for the death. This is another way Agatha proves Vera’s intelligence, she used something usually negative about her to her advantage.
At the end of the novel Vera murders Lombard. She uses his mindset of ‘gentle femininity’ to take advantage of the situation and steal his gun from him. His underestimation of her as a woman was what cost him his life. As Vera pointed the gun at him, Lombard was thinking “Which way—which method—talk her over—lull her into security or a swift dash”. Even with a gun being pointed at him, he believed that she wouldn’t have the courage to shoot him and that he’d be able to manipulate her to put the gun down. Agatha made sure that even till the time of his death it was known that Lombard didn’t think of Vera as anything more than a non-rational, passive woman. Vera proved him wrong of course by jumping on the opportunity to secure her safety. She proved herself as more than a useless woman. By Agatha making Vera the last person alive, she shows how as society develops women are proving themselves as powerful, intelligent, strong citizens of society, who deserve just as much credit as men, if not more.
The experiences Vera Claythorn had throughout her life are told in Agatha Christie’s novel ‘And Then There Were None’ and show the way society has seen women from the time of 1939 right to this current day. Women continue to defy these social stereotypes and prove themselves to men (and to themselves) as more than just non-rational, a caretaker, a cleaner - more than just a woman.