Agatha Christie: Power and Illusion (Crime Files) by R.A. York

By R.A. York

This examine indicates how she sought to reconcile her attachment to the Victorian previous together with her attractiveness of a brand new society that undermined status quo and in doing so gave extra possibilities to girls, pressured class-boundaries, prolonged tolerance, allowed the cult of enjoyment and self-assertion and printed the ambiguities of respectability.

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A particularly fascinating example of the exploitation of the theatrical occurs in Death in the Clouds, where Poirot requires Norman Gale to act the part of a blackmailer. In order to conceal the fact that he is really an accomplished deceiver, Norman has to act at acting badly, appearing in an absurd disguise of false beard and eyebrows – the opposite of the minimal but effective disguise in which he has carried out the murder. There is a second level of artifice, an artifice which displays itself as such; the sense of another, unrecognized artifice is all the more sinister.

In Appointment with Death, Lady Westholme disguises herself as an Arab servant in order to approach the victim, sitting in wide public view (a Father Brown story points out that no one notices a postman; no one notices an Arab servant either); in Third Girl the central character’s (false) step-mother Mary Restarick is disguised as her flatmate Frances Cary. In the case of Lady Westholme, a good deal of attention is given to making the disguise plausible; she is a tall woman, capable of passing for a man, and attention is drawn to the checked cloth with which she cleans her shoes and which she uses as a headdress in her disguise.

The term is important; the right angle of vision matters because it enables people to attack things, to change things, in this case to liberate the wrongly accused fiancé James Pearson. Emily associates the angle of attack with determination: it is a matter not just of perception but of will (xvii). As with Poirot, but perhaps more radically, she sees the angle as a part of the personality: a person’s angle of vision is unique to them and no one can take someone else’s angle (xvi). This looks like a serious threat to the idea of rationality, so far as reason is assumed to be impersonal or supra-personal.

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