About the Book

Book Protagonist: Vera Claythorne
Publication Date: 1939
Genre: Drama, Suspense and Thriller

Themes and Analysis

And Then There Were None

By Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie made a brilliant blend of philosophy, logic, suspense, and creativity in 'And Then There Were None'. Have a look at the things to learn from this classic mystery.

‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie exhibits various themes, symbols, suspense, plot twists, and figurative devices, contributing to its enjoyment as a mystery novel. Presented below is an analysis of the literary elements within the book.

Themes in And Then There Were None

Murder mystery novels generally explore the theme of justice, so it is not surprising that justice is one of the critical themes in Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None.’ But there is a certain peculiarity to how the concept of justice and the other themes are explored in this particular mystery.

In the story, ten individuals, each with a dark secret from their past, are lured to an isolated island under false pretenses. As they gather, they soon discover that they are being targeted and punished for their past crimes by an unknown hand. The mysterious killings that ensue serve as a twisted form of vigilante justice, as each character faces their own past misdeeds catching up to them.

Christie raises questions about the nature of justice and its deliverance. Is it the role of individuals to take matters into their own hands, seeking vengeance for past wrongs? Or should justice be left to the legal system and the hands of authorities? The characters grapple with these ethical dilemmas as they confront their own guilt and the consequences of their actions.


Given the nature of the incidents that go down and how they are ultimately resolved, it becomes rather tricky to decide what precisely amounts to justice in the context of this story.

In the story, ten individuals, each with a dark secret from their past, are lured to an isolated island under false pretenses. As they gather, they soon discover that they are being targeted and punished for their past crimes by an unknown hand. The mysterious killings that ensue serve as a twisted form of vigilante justice, as each character faces their own past misdeeds catching up to them.

Christie raises questions about the nature of justice and its deliverance. Is it the role of individuals to take matters into their own hands, seeking vengeance for past wrongs? Or should justice be left to the legal system and the hands of authorities? The characters grapple with these ethical dilemmas as they confront their own guilt and the consequences of their actions. This is exemplified by Lawrence Wargrave’s zealotry. Lawrence, himself a judge by profession, thinks that it is perfectly all right for him to lure his victims to the Island and kill them on account of former crimes of murder that the said victims had been guilty of but for which they got no punishment from the law. But by making these people go through mental torture and eventually killing them, does he not himself commit an equally grave crime?

Another facet of the theme of justice in the novel is the concept of moral accountability. Each character’s crime varies in severity, but all are confronted with their own guilt and the weight of their transgressions. The mounting tension and suspense in the story stem from the characters’ internal struggles as they face the consequences of their actions.

Moreover, Christie masterfully plays with the reader’s perception of justice, blurring the lines between right and wrong. As the story unfolds, the reader is led to question the motives behind the killings and the true identity of the perpetrator. This creates an atmosphere of ambiguity, where the notions of justice and truth become elusive and subject to interpretation.

Possibly, part of the idea of justice that the author intended to explore is the inherent flaw in the human justice system in general. The fact that all those characters were able to get away with their crimes in the first place before falling into Wargrave’s snare demonstrates that. Sometimes there is not enough evidence, other times there is an alibi that can be easily made up by the offender, and other times the crime may have been committed purely by accident. All these are factors that inherently compromise the human system of justice. This is part of what the zealotry of Wargrave seeks to circumvent, thereby ending up with a rather simplistic and even more problematic brand of justice. Christie’s exploration is therefore equally a critique of vigilante justice


In Agatha Christie’s novel ‘And Then There Were None,’ guilt is a central theme that is explored in various dimensions. The author delves into both individual guilt and legal guilt, highlighting how these forms of guilt can manifest differently and have distinct impacts on the characters.

At the individual level, the characters in the novel are burdened by their personal guilt. Each of them has committed a crime or offense, which haunts them psychologically. Despite avoiding legal repercussions for their actions, they cannot escape the torment of their conscience. Christie demonstrates that personal guilt can be even more potent and enduring than legal guilt. This is evident as the characters find no peace of mind even though they have evaded the judgment of any court of law. The weight of their moral transgressions becomes an inescapable burden, leading to their unraveling as the story progresses.

On the other hand, legal guilt is also examined in the novel. The characters manage to avoid facing the consequences of their actions for a significant period. However, the island’s mysterious host, driven by a thirst for justice, becomes the judge and executioner, punishing them for their crimes. This element of the story raises questions about the nature of justice and the implications of avoiding legal accountability for one’s actions.

The character of Emily Brent brings in a religious perspective on guilt. She believes in the superiority of guilt arising from sin, asserting that her association with the maid girl’s death does not make her guilty. In her view, the maid girl’s sin against God absolves her from any responsibility for the girl’s fate. However, as events unfold and the characters face accusations through the voice recording, it becomes evident that Emily Brent cannot completely shake off her personal guilt. Despite her attempts to rationalize her actions, her conscience remains troubled, leading her to confide in Vera, showcasing the persistent power of personal guilt over an individual.


Death is a central theme in this work. Over the years, readers have had to grapple with the question of whether death was a legitimate punishment for the crimes committed by the characters lured into the island. The spectre of death is an ever-present quality in the narrative and the characters become more and more terrified of death as the body count mounts. There is also a sense that death was an unavoidable outcome or result for them all, as it appears that no matter how alert the characters were, they were bound to be killed off one by one eventually. The novel raises questions about the nature of justice and the concept of retribution.

The deaths of the characters pose a moral dilemma because they are carried out by someone who believes they are delivering justice to the victims’ families. The characters’ deaths are swift and methodical, emphasizing the unpredictability and impermanence of life. The story emphasizes the frailty of human life and how quickly it can be extinguished. The characters’ psychological defenses are weakened as a result of their fear of impending death and the tension on the island. This reveals their flaws, secrets, and fears, rendering them more human and relatable. The nursery rhyme “Ten Little Soldier Boys” is directly related to the characters’ deaths, and serves as a haunting reminder of their impending doom. The rhyme has a chilling effect.

Analysis of Key Moments

  1. Seven guests arrive at a certain point and are ferried to Indian Island by a man named Fred Naracott, who perceives them to be an odd lot.
  2. They are welcomed to the island by Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, who introduce themselves as the butler and the housekeeper of the home, respectively.
  3. Another guest arrives later on and introduces himself as Dr Armstrong. Each of the guests has misgivings about the other guests as they settle in.
  4. The guests have a tasteful and elaborate dinner which helps make them more relaxed and at ease with each other.
  5. After Dinner, they converge in the drawing room, and an audio recording is played, accusing each of them of being responsible for the death of someone in the past. Mrs Rogers faints upon hearing the recording and is taken to her room to rest.
  6. The atmosphere becomes uncomfortable after the recording is played, and each of the guests tries to justify themselves or deny the accusation levied against them.
  7. Tony Marston chokes on his drink and is declared dead.
  8. The next morning, Mrs. Rogers is found dead in her sleep.
  9. Macarthur goes to the seaside and sits resignedly, awaiting his death. Lombard, Blore, and Armstrong search the island to see if they will find the killer lurking around. When they find Macarthur sitting by the sea, they conclude he has gone nuts.
  10. The group convenes for lunch but realizes Macarthur is absent. Armstrong goes in search of him and rushes back to announce to the group that Macarthur has been killed.
  11. Rogers is discovered dead the next morning as he is chopping up wood.
  12. The rest of the group goes to the kitchen to clean up after breakfast, but Emily stays back, claiming she feels lightheaded. Blore expresses his suspicion that Emily is the killer but when they return to the dining room, they find Emily dead from poison injected through her neck.
  13. Vera goes upstairs to take a shower and screams when she finds a scrap of seaweed hanging from her ceiling. The others rush to her room in concern and try to calm her down. They realize Wargrave is not there with them and rush downstairs.
  14. Wargrave is found dead, wrapped in a red curtain, and shot in the head.
  15. Armstrong goes missing, and the remaining three argue about who the killer could be. They observe that the next killing, according to the rhyme, will have something to do with a bear and a zoo. Blore thinks the next killing is unlikely since they are trapped on an island with no zoo or bear in sight. But Blore is crushed by a marble clock shaped like a bear thrown at him from Vera’s room.
  16. After finding Blore dead, Vera and Lombard go outside to signal the mainland for help. They find Dr. Armstrong’s body on the beach, and Vera suggests they carry it out of the water. She manages to steal Lombard’s revolver while they carry out this task.
  17. Vera suddenly points a gun at Lombard and shoots him in the chest when he leaps at her
  18. Vera walks back to the house in a state of triumph and fatigue. She finds a noose and chair as she enters her room, and in a dreamlike state, she hangs herself and dies.
  19. The police arrive at the island and begin to investigate the deaths. The mystery is solved when they find a written confession by Wargrave.

Style, Tone and Figurative Language

In And Then There Were None,‘ Agatha Christie’s writing style, tone, and use of figurative language all contribute significantly to the novel’s atmosphere of mystery, suspense, and psychological tension.

Christie’s writing is known for being descriptive, which aids in the creation of a vivid and immersive setting. The isolation of the island, the stormy weather, and the eerie mansion are all described in great detail, heightening the sense of foreboding. Christie’s prose is simple and straightforward, making the story accessible to a wide range of readers. This simplicity allows the audience to focus on the plot’s complexities and the characters’ interactions. The novel employs third-person omniscient narration, shifting between the perspectives of various characters. This technique allows readers to gain insight into the character’s thoughts and emotions while also increasing suspense and intrigue as readers learn more about each character’s background.

There is also an infusion of melodrama in the narration of events in the story. Agatha Christie craftily uses figurative language to give dimension and depth to the characters and to evoke the distinctive sense of isolation in the setting. Some of the figurative devices used are imagery, metaphor, simile, allusion, and foreshadowing. The imagery of the sea highlights the nature of Vera’s offense, her memories, her witty mind, and her resilience beneath a deceptively frail outward appearance. The isolation of the remote island location also presents an image of finality and peace for General Macarthur. Also, there are metaphors and similes used throughout the story. Foreshadowing is used in many instances in the novel. The old man’s warning to Mr. Blore at the train, the nursery rhyme, and the first bible passage read by Emily Brent all foreshadow the series of deaths that take place in the novel. A good example of the novel’s use of allusions is in chapter Four when Macarthur exclaims ”Absolutely- Caesar’s wife” when denying the accusation that he had sent his wife’s lover to her death. This alludes to the proverb “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion,” which was derived from the incidents surrounding the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s divorce of his wife Pompei.

Analysis of Symbols

The storm

One of the remarkable symbols in the novel is the storm. The first mention of it is during the encounter between Blore and the old man he shares a train with while on his way to Indian Island. The old man tells him that a storm is coming and that it is judgment day on that day. But Blore dismisses the comment lightly, thinking to himself that the old man is closer to death and judgment than him.

Well, by the time the story unfolds fully, he finds how mistaken he is. The storm from the onset, therefore, symbolized the impending tragedy that would befall all the guests on the island. It is also a symbol of their separation and isolation from the outside world. No wonder that all their efforts to try and send a signal to the mainland when their travails had begun were all in vain. It also symbolizes that what they are pitted against on the island is primordial and infinitely beyond them, just like the storm. Therefore it is already inscribed in the very nature of the confrontation that they cannot possibly win. So naturally, they all go down one after the other, until there is none left.


The progressive decline in the kind and quality of the food the characters eat on the island as the story proceeds is a symbol of a decline in civilization on the island. When they first arrive, they are treated to an elaborate meal by the butler and his wife, the housekeeper. But as the deaths begin to happen progressively, the nature of their meals drops, as well as their willingness to even eat at all. By the time there are just Vera and Lombard standing, they won’t even go to the house to get any food, because at this point any semblance of order and civilization had broken down completely on the island, and all they want is to preserve their dear life from the mysterious chaos.

The Nursery Rhyme

The Nursery Rhyme symbolizes the dark side of creativity. The poem that frames the plot is a children’s rhyming song. Despite being for children, it is rife with so much violence and gruesome details that it begins to plant bizarre negative ideas in the mind of its readers. For instance, for Lawrence Wargrave, the poem inspires him to craft a plot that involves the murder of ten people. For Vera Clayton, the poem haunts her so much that even after surviving a great ordeal, she still ends up committing suicide following the poem.


What is the Climax of ‘And Then There Were None?’

The climax of ‘And Then There Were None‘ is the fallout between Vera and Lombard. They are the last two characters remaining when everyone else on the island had died, and so each naturally presumes the other to be the sneaking murderer they’ve been trying to fish out all along. In this heightened mood of mutual suspicion, Vera points Lombard’s gun at him and pulls the trigger just as Lombard leaps at her.

How is death a theme in ‘And Then There Were None?’

Death is one of the major themes in ‘And Then There Were None.’ The novel teaches the inevitability of death, which is shown in how all the characters that were mapped out to die all fall to their respective deaths irrespective of how strong they are or how carefully they try to evade death.

What does the poem symbolize in ‘And Then There Were None?’

The poem in ‘And Then There Were None‘ symbolizes the dark aspect of art and its influence over the mind. It is a children’s counting rhyme but filled with such macabre details that it inspires a zealot to commit multiple gruesome killings in the book.

What are the social issues in ‘And Then There Were None?’

The main social issue in Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ is the failings of the justice system. It points out how the justice system can be cleverly out-maneuvered by the guilty and how the legal system is sometimes handicapped to punish the guilty. The novel also explores some issues of religion and class.

Israel Njoku
About Israel Njoku
Israel has a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication. He loves entertainment, pop-culture and the arts and tries to extract themes with wider reaching implications from them through rigorous analysis.
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