By R.A. York
This examine exhibits how she sought to reconcile her attachment to the Victorian prior along with her reputation of a brand new society that undermined establishment and in doing so gave extra possibilities to ladies, stressed class-boundaries, prolonged tolerance, allowed the cult of delight and self-assertion and published the ambiguities of respectability.
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Elsa, who is in fact the murderer, is obliged to support the court verdict, and presents Amyas as an energetic and forceful man dedicated to his art and to herself and Caroline as an understandably resentful wife, dangerous because of her jealous and possessive nature. Miss Williams, the feminist governess, sees Amyas as vain, moody, lacking in self-control (as male, in short), and Elsa as trivial and self-indulgent, while she admires Caroline’s dignity and self-respect, even though she thinks her guilty.
This, it has to be admitted, despite all the controversy at the time of the publication, is fair enough. But there are other details that call for some comment. In Chapter 1, he mentions that his sister unreasonably suspects Mrs Ferrars of poisoning her husband. Two pages later he admits that he accepts her view to some extent. In fact, he must agree with the most important point of it, namely that Mrs Ferrars did in fact, as he well knows, poison her husband. In the following chapter, he remembers feeling concerned when he saw Mrs Ferrars in close conversation with Ralph Paton, and at a later meeting is relieved at the frankness of Ralph’s greeting; at the end of the book this obscure anxiety is clarified when he admits that he feared that she was telling Ralph that he himself was blackmailing her.
Poirot arriving just in time to witness the murder in The Hollow, thinks it a charade, and frequently recurs to this sense that it was a theatrical illusion (xii). This is what it proves to be; the woman he sees standing by her husband’s body with a revolver has not actually shot him – with that revolver. Other people may play a part too; acting is not only confined to misleading but also means personal magnetism. The glamorous and charismatic Linnet Doyle in Death on the Nile is perceived as a theatrical star (ii), and her rival Jackie has such theatrical quality that even when she is absent people wait for her entrance (iii).