Agatha Christie created interesting characters covering the world of crime and detection—witty detectives, legions of suspects, cunning criminals, and naive victims. Some of these characters have come to endear themselves to readers and fans across generations and have made an impact in both literature and culture.
Hercule Poirot is the most famous and recurring character created by Agatha Christie. He is an ex-policeman and a private detective from Belgium who fled to England during the raid on Belgium by Germany. The character is featured in thirty-three novels, fifty-one short stories, and two plays by Agatha Christie and has inspired the creation of many other characters by other writers. His first appearance in the Agatha Christie universe was in her first novel ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles,’ and his last appearance was in the 1975 novel ’Curtain.’
Hercule Poirot is diminutive in stature, standing at only 5’4″ with green eyes, dark hair, an egg-shaped head, a pink-tipped nose, and a quirky mustache that has a personality of its own. He likes his physical appearance to be respectable and immaculate at all times, and any dirt on his patent leather shoes brings him as much misery as a bullet piercing his skin. He is fluent in French, English, and German, loves classical music, especially Mozart and Bach, and attends the Catholic Church.
Poirot’s intelligence and understanding of crime and the criminal mind earn him the respect of those who come across him—suspects, criminals, and law enforcement agents alike. Poirot is eccentric, pompous, egocentric, sometimes insufferable, and obsessive-compulsive. He is very particular about timing and punctuality and carries a pocket watch everywhere. Some of his other quirks are his love of good food despite his sensitive stomach and his purist views about coffee—he believes decaffeinated coffee should be an abomination.
The creation of Hercule Poirot was inspired by some of the Belgian men Agatha Christie met in England during the invasion of Belgium by Germany and also by some popular fictional detectives of the time such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes; Hercule Popeau created by Marie Belloc Lowndes; and Monsieur Poiret created by Frank Howel Evans. Agatha Christie herself is not exactly fond of Poirot and describes him as “insufferable.”
Interesting Facts about Hercule Poirot
- Hercule Poirot is the only fictional character to receive an obituary on the front page of The New York Times.
- The people of a real village called Ellezelles in the Hainaut Province of Belgium claim Ellezelles is Hercule Poirot’s place of origin. Even though Agatha Christie was never specific about the details of Poirot’s birth and childhood, this village has memorials dedicated to Poirot and even treasures a copy of Hercule Poirot’s ‘’birth certificate’’ where his father is listed as Jules-Louis Poirot and his mother Godelieve Poirot.
In his early appearances, Poirot is a conventional detective who uses ‘’order and method’’ to analyze clues such as fingerprints, cigarette ash, footprints, etc to solve a case. But in later appearances, his methods become less conventional, and he uses more assumptions based on psychology, the background of the victim, and the nature of the crime or getting all the suspects to talk until they reveal information that gives them away.
Hercule Poirot died of heart complications in his last appearance in the novel ‘Curtain.’ Although his exact age of death was not specified, it is established that he died at old age from Hastings’ description of him as a thinning old man who applies artificial dye to hide his grey hair.
Poirot has been portrayed on Stage, TV, and in film adaptations by many actors, including Charles Laughton, Francis L. Sullivan, Allan Corduner, David Suchet, Austin Trevor, Tony Randall, Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, and Kenneth Branagh.
Miss Jane Marple is another popular fictitious character by Agatha Christie. Miss Marple first appeared in the 1927 story ‘The Tuesday Night Club’ which was originally published in the Royal Magazine but was later pulled into the short story collection ‘The Thirteen Problems.’ Her first appearance in a full-length novel was in the 1930 crime novel ‘Murder at the Vicarage.’ She quickly became a well-loved character and appeared in a total of twelve novels and twenty short stories by Agatha Christie.
Miss Marple is an unlikely persona for a detective, described as a white-haired old lady with a gentle appealing manner and often fitting into the background. She has spent all her life in the small village of St Mary Mead, and has no formal education in psychology or criminology, but surprisingly knows much about the world, human nature, and crime. She is unassuming, observant, and kind but cynical, never trusting and always expecting the worst from everyone and everything.
She is an amateur detective, ‘’never paid and not often thanked’’ but that does not deter her from taking on new cases when the occasion calls for it. She was never married, and her closest living relatives are her nephews and nieces with their spouses and children.
Miss Marple spends her leisure time knitting, gardening, and gossiping while observing every detail in her surroundings and critically analyzing happenings in her shrewd and intelligent way. She is also a kind but strict employer who employs young women from a nearby orphanage and trains them in Victorian-style housekeeping.
Agatha Christie’s inspiration for Miss Marple was her grandmother Margaret Miller and some of her friends. Miss Jane Marple has been portrayed by many great actors such as Gracie Fields, Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury, Dulcie Gray, Helen Hayes, Ita Ever, Joan Hickson, Geraldine McEwan, Julia McKenzie, and June Whitfield.
The written book by Agatha Christie where Miss Marple appeared was the novel ‘Nemesis’ published in 1971. However, the last published novel by Agatha Christie featuring Miss Marple was ‘Sleeping Murder,’ the manuscript had been completed in the 1940s but had been locked in a bank vault during the war. It was then published posthumously in October 1976.
Captain Arthur Hastings
Captain Arthur Hastings (OBE) is the best friend of the brilliant Hercule Poirot. Like Poirot, he appears in Agatha Christie’s first novel ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ (1920). He is the narrator in many of Hercule Poirot’s stories and features in eight novels, a play, and some short stories. In the original Agatha Christie works, Hastings’ role had less import. However, media adaptations have exaggerated the role and made him a key character in Poirot’s chronicles.
Captain Hastings is British, an ex-army captain, and an old-fashioned gentleman. He is somewhat dim-witted when it comes to analyzing cases and clues and comes up with fanciful hypotheses that demonstrate his vivid imagination. However, despite his slowness in understanding clues and connecting details in solving mysteries, he inadvertently helps Poirot solve cases sometimes.
Captain Hastings’s weaknesses are pretty women with auburn hair and a penchant for gambling. And he has the Victorian-era idea that people ought to marry within their class. Despite his love of women with auburn hair, he falls in love with and marries a dark-haired performer and acrobat named Dulcie Duveen. He acquires a ranch in Argentina and relocates there with Dulcie, and this subplot limits his appearances in many Poirot investigations as he only joins Poirot on occasions when he visits England.
Captain Hastings appeared in eight of the thirty-three Hercule Poirot novels. Poirot is very fond of him, and despite his shortfall in intelligence, he possesses physical strength, military training, and combat skills that prove helpful to Poirot in apprehending criminals. Hastings is a recurring character in the following Agatha Christie novels: i)’The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ ii) ‘Murder on the Links’ iii) ‘The Big Four’ iv) ‘Peril at End House‘ v) ‘Lord Edgware Dies‘ vi) ‘The A.B.C Murders‘ vii) ‘Dumb Witness‘ viii) ‘Curtain,’ and in the plays ‘Black Coffee‘ and ‘Alibi’ and also in the ‘Poirot Investigates‘ Collection of Short Stories.
Chief Inspector Japp
Chief Inspector Japp, is another recurring character in Poirot’s stories. He starts as Inspector James Japp. He is the Hercule Poirot version of Inspector Lestrade in Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes‘. His first appearance was also in Agatha Christie’s first book, ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles‘ and altogether he was featured in seven Hercule Poirot novels: ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles,’ ‘The Big Four,’ ‘Peril at End House,’ ‘Lord Edgware Dies,’ ‘Death in the Clouds,’ ‘The A. B.C Murders,’ and ‘One, Two Buckle my Shoes.’ However, his major appearances were in ‘Lord Edgware Dies,’ ‘Death in the Clouds‘ and ‘One, Two, Buckle My Shoes.’
He has a penchant for easily accepting simple solutions to cases and jumping to conclusions. But over time, he becomes a more competent detective and earns a promotion to Chief Inspector of the Scotland Yard. He is at times rude to Poirot but eventually begins to respect Poirot’s aptitude for solving cases and they begin to become friends.
Chief Inspector Japp is small in stature, sharp, and with a face like a ferret. He acknowledges when he makes mistakes and apologizes when he is wrong. He loves plants and occupies his leisure time with Botany.
Tommy and Tuppence
Tommy and Tuppence are a detective duo who also happen to be married. They are fictional detectives who appeared in four novels and a short story. Their full names are Thomas ‘’Tommy’’ Beresford and Prudence ‘’Tuppence’’ Beresford (neé Cowley). They became detectives in their quest for money and adventure.
Tommy and Tuppence make a great team as Tommy’s slow manner and unimaginative assessment of facts compliments Tuppence’s intuitiveness and impetuous nature. They had been friends for most of their lives but realized they were in love with each other when they met up after the Great War, and shortly after, they got married. The characters are in their twenties in the 1920s and age into their seventies in their subsequent appearances.
Tommy is a redheaded Englishman who fought and was wounded while fighting in the war. Tuppence is a charismatic young woman with black bobbed hair and from a large conservative family. Like her creator Christie, Tuppence served as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment during the war.
Both unemployed and with scarce job opportunities after the war, Tommy and Tuppence start their private investigation firm called ‘’ Young Adventurers Ltd’’. Their first case comes from a British Intelligence leader Mr. Carter who hires them to find a shipwreck survivor who went missing along with documents of a secret treaty.
They solve cases together while also raising a family, going on to have three children and a pet dog. Agatha Christie featured Tommy and Tuppence in the following; ‘The Secret Adversary‘ (1922), the short story collection ’Partners in Crime’ (1929), ‘N or M?‘(1941), ‘By the Pricking of My Thumbs‘ (1968), and ‘Postern of Fate‘ (1973).
Mrs Ariadne Oliver
This character is considered Christie’s attempt at self-satire. Ariadne Oliver is a detective novelist who loves apples and hates alcohol. She dislikes public attention and thinks her writing should compensate for her social ineptitude. She also loves fashion, wearing dramatic clothing and hats, and sporting her large mass of hair in interesting hairstyles.
Ariadne Oliver has written fifty-six detective novels and thinks Scotland Yard would be best managed by a woman. She helps Hercule Poirot with solving cases but often bothers him a great deal with her sharp tongue and the way she finds flaws in his assumptions and theories.
Like Agatha Christie, Ariadne Oliver created a popular detective character whom she is not particularly fond of—the Finnish Sven Hjerson.
Miss Felicity Lemon
Miss Lemon is Hercule Poirot’s secretary. She is described as an efficient woman who is almost beyond human weaknesses but is, however ‘’unbelievably ugly.’’ She is prim, modest, unimaginative and an expert in many things and aspires to create the perfect filling system.
She also helps him with solving cases and assists with administrative work, and organizes his schedule.
Who is Agatha Christie’s most famous character?
Agatha Christie’s most famous character is Hercule Poirot. Poirot is an ex-policeman from Belgium who settles in London and becomes a private detective. Hercule Poirot became the most recurring character in Agatha Christie’s novels and stories, appearing in 33 novels, 51 short stories, and 2 plays.
Who are Agatha Christie’s main characters?
Agatha Christie’s main characters are Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. They are very different in personality and background but their brilliant way of resolving mysteries is something they have in common.
Other major characters that have recurred in her stories and novels include; Captain Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp, Tommy and Tuppence, Mrs Ariadne Oliver and Parker Payne.
What is Miss Marple famous for?
Miss Marple is famous for her cynicism, for being a sleuth far removed from the typical stereotype of sleuths and for her extraordinarily in-depth understanding of human nature and her shrewd way of solving cases.
Who is Jane Marple’s husband?
Miss Jane Marple was never married and therefore has no husband. She is happy in her unmarried state and lives a rustic life in the small village of St Mary Mead where she occupies herself with gossip, knitting, gardening and solving crimes.