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Extra resources for Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion
Second, he knows well that no one is going to answer the bell, since Trevelyan is dead, and he repeats the ringing presumably to give the wrong impression to any passer-by (and to the reader). We read Christie in order to be misled; we are delighted, as Barnard says, to find that she has been fooling us throughout (1980, 55). The genre itself is an art of misleading (Porter, 1981, 33); it is a form of seduction, an art of framing lies (Sayers, 1988, 31). We read to submit to an author’s creation of the unreal.
The reader may be annoyed by this transformation of an apparently minor character (this is an unusual instance of what Christie and some of her critics are reluctant to admit in her writing, the least likely character as murderer). The implications, however, are serious: the social relationship between the helpless young woman and the kindly, experienced, competent, older person is a mask for the social and legal convention that privileges family connections, however vacuous or malign. The instability of the self is particularly acute when it affects the individual’s own sense of who he or she is.
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. Angela, the victim’s daughter, a girl of fifteen at the time of the crime, has little 30 Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion psychological perception; above all she is conscious of the need for parental care and affection and regards Elsa as an unwelcome intrusion.