International Journal of Advanced Academic Studies
2022, Vol. 4, Issue 2, Part C
Crime and punishment: Re-reading Agatha Christie’s novel murder on the orient express
Author(s): Rituparna Chakraborty
Abstract: Agatha Christie was one of the most prominent writers during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. She was at the height of her success in the 1920s and 30s and was often called the “Queen of Mystery” by her fans and lovers. She is even more important in the historical context since she started writing at a time when not many female authors were writing. Her contemporaries and predecessors mostly included male writers. When she started writing, Sherlock Holmes was at the pinnacle of stardom and it was a challenge for Christie to create a detective that would be different than Sherlock and yet appeal to the readers. Credit goes to Christie for taking up this challenge and making a position of her own. It is said that only Bible and William Shakespeare have outsold her. Many of her novels were listed in Guinness World Records for the number of copies sold. Christie wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short stories collection. She also wrote 5 novels under the penname Mary Westmacott. Among the many sleuths and detectives whom she created, two became widely famous and enjoy the immense amount of success even today, namely Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. “Murder on the Orient Express” is one of the most famous and successful novels written by Agatha Christie featuring Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective. It has been adapted into popular culture such as TV and cinema number of times. Poirot has stood the test of time and remains one of the most popular detectives in the literary world. This research paper will critically analyse and evaluate the novel “Murder on the Orient Express”. The reason for selecting this novel was its fame, success and the author who wrote it. This novel has been adapted into cinema various times. Two such noteworthy movies would be one from 1974, directed by Sidney Lumet and another one released in 2018, directed by Kenneth Branagh. This novel has been reprinted hundreds of times. Many readers have reread it. Being a mystery novel, once a reader has read it and has known the mystery, one would think there would be no incentive behind reading the same mystery novel a second time. But this is not the case with Christie’s books. MOE is one such novel and thus it was felt that a deeper understanding of this mystery novel by a critical evaluation is essential from the academic context. Another reason for selecting this novel for the purpose of analysis is that this novel was a lot different than the other whodunit mystery novels penned by Christie. The setting of the story is the same. There are typical elements in the novel one would see in any Agatha Christie novel. What sets this one apart is the number of culprits involved in the murder, the way all the suspects are related to each other and the victim and the moral issues and sense of justice served in the end. In fact, the sense of justice as shown by Poirot in this novel differs from his usual mannerisms in the other novels. This novel is important because Christie chose to break away from the formulaic plot and broke the rules of the genre to write a story which was a breath of fresh air. This paper will critically analyse the aspect of justice, ethics and morality and will try to analyse if the victim in the novel was really the victim or whether the 12 suspects were the real victims. This research paper will also analyse the source of inspiration for the novel, narrative style used in the novel and the presence of stereotypes and their importance in the novel. This research paper will also critically analyse the aspect of moral judgement and justice shown.