Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files) by Richard York PDF

By Richard York

ISBN-10: 0230525016

ISBN-13: 9780230525016

ISBN-10: 0230590780

ISBN-13: 9780230590786

How comfortable are Agatha Christie's novels? they could appear to depict a solid international of appreciate for culture, shared tradition, settled gender and sophistication roles, political conservatism and unambiguous morality, during which cause suffices to manage affliction. yet this international is threatened by means of modernity and uncertainty: conflict, social mobility, extremist politics, ethical liberalization. admired electorate should be criminals, detectives usually are not entirely not like murderers, social lifestyles is essentially theatrical, and violence can result in concord.

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It may arise from a sense that is in the air in the early twentieth century, and expressed in much major literature of the modernist period, that the self is elusive (one recalls Virginia Woolf’s claim that the sense of identity disappeared in about the year 1910 and her exploration of a “world without a self”). It may arise from some knowledge of the denial of any firm substance Actors and Imposters 39 of individuality by existentialist writers such as Sartre. Hence Birns and Birns’s very perceptive and forcefully argued – almost too forcefully argued – perception of Christie as a modernist pre-occupied with the unreality and destructiveness not only of deliberate deception but also of social roles as such: in her characterization, she “is less probing the souls of her characters than seeing how their enactment of social roles implicates them in carceral circumstances that are sometimes apprehended as ‘criminal’, sometimes not” (1990, 122).

The detail is fascinating: from Poirot’s initial viewpoint, Dickensian fiction coincides magically with reality. From his final viewpoint, the conspirators have humorously displayed their inventiveness (they could have chosen any other name for the nonexistent character) and crime becomes an act of literary fancy. Finally, a brother to Mrs Harris appears in They Came to Baghdad (xxii). Playfulness does not exclude seriousness; Christie is obviously fascinated by the idea of someone who can act like a person, by for instance booking a ticket, but isn’t one.

Of the five other people in her household, Julia is not Letty’s distant cousin but a relative of the dead millionaire Randall Goesler, and Philippa is not a war widow but the wife of a deserter and the twin sister of Julia. Nick in Peril at End House is really Nick, but her given name is actually Magdala, as is that of her cousin Maggie, and she has used the fact to dishonestly claim the money left to Maggie by her fiancé. Her cognomen itself is a sign of an odd indistinctness of identity: she shares her name with her grandfather, Sir Nicholas.

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Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files) by Richard York

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