Analysis of Agatha Christie's “Curtain: Poirot`s Last Case“


Term Paper, 2009

17 Pages, Grade: 2.0


Excerpt

Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. The construction of the plot

3. The Figure of the Detective and his Method of Investigation

4. Characterization and Character Constellation

5. Narrative Strategies and Stylistic Features

6. Legal and Moral Aspects

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Agatha Christie’s novel Curtain: Poirot`s Last Case was written in the early 1940s. It is her last Poirot novel. The author intended to publish the novel posthumously. Therefore, the manuscript was kept in a save for over thirty years. Curtain: Poirot`s Last Case was finally published in 1975 since Agatha Christie “changed her mind and allowed the publication before her death, which followed only about three month later”[1]. Christie lived from 1890-1976. She was born in Torquay, Devon, and died in Wallingford, Oxfordshire.

Agatha Christie is regarded as the Queen of Crime all over the world. She has written 80 crime novels which include short story collections, 19 plays and six additional novels which were published under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. “Her books have sold over a billion copies in English with another billion in 100 foreign countries. She is the most widely published author of all and in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.”[2]

Agatha Christie’s novels are often related to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, which is mostly dated between the two World Wars. One of the characteristics of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction is that the so far dominated short form of detective stories has been replaced by the long form of detective stories. Additionally, the majority of the novels, which were written during this period, are so-called “Whodunnits” where the reader does not know who the villain is, until the ending of the story. Curtain was written during the Second World War and does not only show characteristics of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction but also shows modern traits of crime fiction since the detective “fails to protect his society from criminal contagion or from the dangers of the criminal voice”[3] as seen later in this assignment.

2. The construction of the plot

The detective novel Curtain: Poirot`s Last Case is divided into nineteen chapters plus a postscript at the end of the novel. All characters are mainly introduced in the first chapters of the novel. This are the sleuth Hercule Poirot, Captain Hastings and his daughter Judith, who is Dr. Franklin’s assistant, the Luttrells, Dr. John Franklin and his invalid wife Barbara, Nurse Craven, who cares for Mrs. Franklin, Sir William Boyd Carrington, Major Allerton, Stephen Norton and finally Elizabeth Cole as well as Poirot`s new valet Curtiss. Later on in this assignment, there will be given a closer view on each character individually.

The plot is set at the country estate and manor Styles Court, owned by Colonel Toby Luttrell and his wife Daisy Luttrell, in the village Styles St. Mary in Essex during the Second World War. Captain Arthur Hastings has received a letter from his old friend and detective Hercule Poirot who invites Hastings to come to Styles, where they both have solved their first case in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). Normally, the people who come to Styles are the Luttrells` friends, “or friends recommended by their friends”[4]. Styles Court has changed a lot since Poirot`s and Hasting`s last visit because it is now furnished in a cheap modern style. It consists of several rooms like a dining-room, a smoking-room and a drawing-room. Moreover, it has got an attached veranda, a garden, a studio, a separate summer-house and a laboratory. All in all, the manor is completely surrounded by fields.

When Hastings arrives at the guest house some of the other guests are already there. He directly goes to see his friend Hercule Poirot in his room upstairs in the guest-house. Poirot is sitting in a wheelchair and suffering from heart failure. He explains Hastings that he is at Styles again because he wants “to hunt down a murderer”[5]. Since Poirot is suffering from ageing he needs Hastings to be with him and be Poirot`s “eyes and ears”[6].

Hastings learns that under the guests is a murderer. Poirot shows Hastings newspaper articles about five different murder cases, which are written too suggestive and inaccurate from Poirot`s point of view. Therefore, Poirot has prepared précis of the cases which he gives Hastings to read. Poirot tells Hastings that he has found out that there is a certain person which he calls X and which is connected to each crime. As a result, X must be the murderer who is now at Styles. The detective predicts “a [A] murder will shortly be committed here ― here[7]. All in all, Hercule Poirot does not tell Hastings who X is since Poirot thinks his friend would stare at him, would be in danger and additionally cannot control his “speaking countenance”[8].

While Poirot mostly rests in bed in his room, Hastings makes some interesting discoveries the following days. It turns out that Miss Cole is connected to one of the five murder cases. Miss Cole tells Hastings that her real name is Litchfield and that she has used her mother’s name since the incident when her sister killed their father. The same day Hastings is sitting outside with the guests Norton and Boyd Carrington talking about shooting accidents while Colonel Luttrell wants to bring them some drinks. Inside the Colonel has an argument with his wife since Mrs. Luttrell does not want her husband to give out drinks for free. Outside Hastings and the others can overhear the conflict. After that, Colonel Luttrell returns without any drinks to his guests and Mrs. Luttrell goes back gardening. Colonel Luttrell sees a rabbit in the garden, takes his riffle, which he has used before for shooting wood pigeons, and fires. A scream in a woman’s voice is heard and it turns out that he has shot his wife into the shoulder. Hastings reports Poirot about this shooting incident. Hastings realizes, “I[i]f Mrs Luttrell had been killed, it would have been a case like those other cases.”[9]

From the beginning of the plot, Hastings is worried about his daughter Judith since she spends a lot of her free time with Major Allerton, who has got the bad reputation to be a “lady-killer”[10]. Also warned by Norton and Boyd Carrington, Hastings attempts several times to talk with Judith about his concerns but totally fails since Judith does not want to hear her father’s advice.

While outside with Miss Cole and Norton, Hastings grabs Norton’s binoculars when Norton spots something he does not want to tell Hastings. Hastings sees a girl with a white dress disappearing behind the trees. The next day, Captain Hastings and Norton see Judith and Allerton together and they suspect that Allerton and Judith might be at the summer-house. At the summer-house Norton and Hastings eavesdrop a conversation, where Allerton plans to meet the person he talks to in London. Furious about Allerton he mixes eight sleeping tablets into a bottle of whiskey, which he plans to offer Allerton at night. Before waiting for Allerton to come, Poirot wishes to see Hastings in his room, where Captain Hastings drinks a cup of hot chocolate. Back in his room Hastings falls asleep. The next morning, Captain Hastings is shocked about his attempt to kill Major Allerton and confesses everything to Poirot.

On that day, everybody except Allerton, the Luttrells and Poirot is upstairs at Mrs. Franklin’s room drinking coffee. The following night Mrs. Franklin is dead. The inquest shows that she has been poisoned with alkaloids of the Cabalar bean, which are the main components of her husband’s research. The investigation of the police shows that one of Dr. Franklin’s bottles contains water instead of the strong solution of alkaloids. Moreover, only Dr. Franklin and his assistant Judith have a key to the laboratory. Various guests are questioned by the police. Hercule Poirot tells them that he had seen Mrs. Franklin coming out of the laboratory with a bottle. As a result, the jury decides that Mrs. Franklin confessed suicide.

After the murder case of Mrs. Franklin, Captain Hastings observes that Norton has something on his mind. Hastings arranges a meeting between Poirot and Norton in the evening. Before, Poirot talks with Hastings about the case something might happen to him. Therefore, Poirot has locked all his clues in a despatch case. At night Hastings sees Norton on the corridor, going into his room and locking the door. The next morning, Norton is found dead, locked in his room with a bullet-hole in the middle of his forehead, a pistol in his hand and the door key in his pocket.

Hastings reports Poirot about Norton’s death. Poirot thinks Norton has been murdered and indicates that Hastings might not have seen Norton the last night since it could have been anyone dressed up like Norton. The next night Hercule Poirot dies, apparently of natural heart failure. Hastings believes that Poirot was killed. Hastings thinks “i[I]n the duel between Poirot and X, X had won.”[11] Captain Hastings wants to get the clues out of Poirot`s despatch case, but they are gone. There are only two books with the plays “Othello” by Shakespeare and “John Fergueson” by St John Ervine left. A note, which falls out of one book says that Hastings should talk to Poirot`s former valet George. The days after Poirot`s funeral Hastings learns that Judith is going to marry Dr. Franklin and plans to go with him to Africa to do scientific work. When Hastings talks to George it turns out that George was send away by Poirot and not, as Poirot told Hastings, had to leave in order to take care of his ill father.

[...]


[1] Fitzgibbon, Russell H., The Agatha Christie Companion, p.45

[2] Christie, Agatha, Curtain, p.1

[3] Delamater, Jerome H., Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fictions, p.107

[4] Christie, Agatha, Curtain, p.60

[5] Ebd., p.22

[6] Ebd., p.71

[7] Christie, Agatha, Curtain, p.30

[8] Ebd., p.42

[9] Ebd., p.128

[10] Ebd., p.24

[11] Christie, Agatha, Curtain, p.246

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Details

Title
Analysis of Agatha Christie's “Curtain: Poirot`s Last Case“
College
University of Vechta  (IKG)
Course
English and American Detective Fiction of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Grade
2.0
Author
Year
2009
Pages
17
Catalog Number
V287659
ISBN (eBook)
9783656878803
ISBN (Book)
9783656878810
File size
525 KB
Language
English
Tags
Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot, Curtain: Poirots Last Case
Quote paper
Christin Maier (Author), 2009, Analysis of Agatha Christie's “Curtain: Poirot`s Last Case“, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/287659

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