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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
This book takes place almost exclusively on Indian Island, a small island of rock off the English coast of Devon. It is barely visible from the coast, and unreachable by boat when the weather is rough. Except for a boat that brings supplies each morning, it is isolated from the mainland. The house on Indian Island is modern and luxurious, stocked with food and liquor for the guests. The island has little else to offer, however, with no sandy beach or other recreation except for strolls around its rocky cliffs. In the book, Indian Island is surrounded by intrigue and has been reported in the news because its owner’s identity remains mysterious and rumors say the buyer may have been a movie star.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
Justice Lawrence Wargrave
Justice Wargrave is a retired judge, invited to vacation on Indian Island by an old acquaintance. Once the murders begin, Wargrave is one of the calmest of the group, acting as leader and helping to organize everyone’s thoughts on what to do.
Vera Claythorne is a young, single school teacher hired to work on Indian Island for the summer holidays as Mrs. U.N. Owen’s secretary. She is moderately attractive, and was recently abandoned by her lover. Vera takes pride in keeping a level head but the murders on the island gradually drive her to hysteria.
Philip Lombard, a former army captain, has a history of escaping alive from dangerous situations. He is hired to travel to Indian Island for a week, without being told any details. He gradually loses his confidence to outlive the trap on the island, however.
Emily Brent is an old spinster; invited for a free vacation on the island by an acquaintance she can’t quite remember. Pious and self-righteous, her quick judgment of others makes the other characters view her as suspect.
General John Macarthur
A retired army general who fought in the last Great War, General Macarthur has been living an isolated life since shunning his military friends for fear of gossip about his past. He is old and lonely, and comes to welcome death on Indian Island.
Dr. Edward Armstrong
Dr. Armstrong is a confident physician at the zenith of his career. He is hired to travel to Indian Island to check on Mrs. U.N. Owen’s health. As his medical mistake from the past is revealed to all on the island, the others doubt his sincerity and fear the tools of his trade - medicines and syringes.
The young and handsome man arrives in a fast, expensive car, impressing everyone from the start. He is the first to be murdered, however, signaling to the others that even the strong and beautiful are vulnerable to their mortality. Marston shows no remorse for his alleged crime - running over two youths with his car.
Blore is an ex-inspector with the police force, a large and awkward man but sharp and on his guard nonetheless. He is hired to travel to Indian Island to keep an eye on the other guests. He conceals his true identity at the start but 2is forced to reveal it when the murders begin.
Rogers and his wife are hired by U.N. Owen to serve the other guests on Indian Island. The couple impresses the group with their attentiveness and excellent cooking, but become victims along with everyone else.
Mrs. Rogers appears nervous and fearful to the other guests. She exits the plot early as the second victim of the covert murderer.
Mr. & Mrs. U.N. Owen
These fictitious hosts of Indian Island serve to lure the ten characters there at the beginning of the plot. Each of the ten guests are invited under different auspices, some by a Mr. U.N. Owen or a Mrs. U.N. Owen as houseguests, others as hired help by a Mr. or Mrs. U.N. Owen, and still others by a host of a different alias. Once on the island, the characters come to realize that the Owens’ name is a code for UNKNOWN, meaning the host is a hidden and mysterious person. When they eventually realize the murderer is one of their own group, U.N. Owen’s plot poses a greater danger.
Narracott is mentioned briefly in the second chapter as the driver of the boat that takes the doomed guests to Indian Island. His significance comes from the doomed guests’ increasingly desperate hope that he will return with the boat to take them off the island. Their gradual realization that no boat will come adds greatly to the suspense of the novel.
Sir Thomas Legge & Inspector Maine
Legge is an assistant commissioner and inspector from Scotland Yard, England’s premier crime-solving agency. They appear only in the Epilogue of the book, as they arrive on Indian Island to investigate the ten deaths. Their only purpose in the book is to summarize the mystery for the reader.
Isaac Morris is hired by Justice Wargrave to purchase Indian Island on his anonymous behalf and prepare all the arrangements for the week. Wargrave kills him as his tenth victim in the murder plot because Morris sold illegal drugs to a young girl and she commits suicide.