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Emily Caroline Brent is one of ten anti-heroes that appeared in Agatha Christie's mystery novel And Then There Were None. An elderly woman of unyielding principles, she alongside nine other guests are invited to Soldier Island where they are accused of committing a murder in a way that the law can not punish them for. She perishes along with all the other guests and is the fifth person to die.

In the 1945 film, Emily Brent was portrayed by the late Judith Anderson. In the 2015 miniseries, her character was played by acclaimed British actress Miranda Richardson, who also played Queen Elizabeth I in Blackadder II, and was the voice of Mrs Tweedy in Chicken Run.

Personality

Emily Brent is a devout Christian, noted to read her Bible daily. Unfortunately, she misuses the teachings of Christ to explain away her own character flaws and is repeatedly looking down upon other people as sinners. Despite this, she does not tolerate Lombards racist views. Viewing herself as righteous and reputable to others, Emily is shown to have a very conservative outlook on life, preferring to stick to old fashioned values in the ever-changing world. Although Emily is hinted to feel remorse for her actions, she never expresses or outwardly displays it.

History

Emily Brent was born somewhere in England, either in the late 1850s to early or mid-1860s. Growing up in a Christian family, Emily took the teachings of the Bible seriously and used them as the guiding principle for her life. Unfortunately, this caused her to lose all compassion for her fellow human beings, seeing sin all around her and she became uncompromising in her outlook on life. By the start of the novel, Emily Brent is 65 years old, is unmarried and has no children.

Despite viewing herself as pure in the eyes of God, Emily Brent's past holds a dark secret. On 5th November 1931, the elderly Emily learnt that her young maid, Beatrice Taylor, was pregnant out of wedlock. Emily, who had initially viewed the girl as nice and well mannered, immediately fired Beatrice and threw her out of the house. It is heavily implied that Emily then told Beatrice's parents about their daughter's condition. As such Beatrice was immediately disowned and evicted by her parents.

Alone, unemployed, penniless and with no one else left to turn to Beatrice committed suicide that same night, by throwing herself into a nearby river and drowning. Emily took no responsibility for her actions and showed no remorse for the poor girl's plight. On the contrary, she only considered Beatrice's suicide, an even worse sin. 

A few years later, Emily received a letter in the post. The letter was smugged, and she could only make out  Mrs U.N.O. The letter invited Emily to join Mrs Owen at Soldier Island, claiming that she had met her in the past and shared similar views. Welcoming the change of scenery and a free holiday, Emily left for the island, unaware that she was walking into a trap.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE 

Shortly before killing himself, Lawrence Wargrave (U.N.Owen) wrote a confession letter explaining the purpose of his crime, and how he carried out each of the murders. The terminally ill Judge, who was, in fact, a secret psychopath, decided to fulfil his lifelong ambition to commit a murder, before killing himself. Wargrave was, however, bound by a strong sense of moral justice and as such decided that he would only commit his crime on those who deserved it, i.e. people that had killed other people in a way that the law could not punish them for.

Remembering the poem of the ten little soldier boys from his youth, Wargrave went looking for nine victims. He heard about the case of Emily Brent and Beatrice Taylor, from an upper-class woman (most likely a friend of his) whilst on holiday in Majorca. As with all of his potential victims, Wargrave studied each case carefully, deliberating over who was innocent, who was guilty and above all else who deserved to die alongside him on Soldier Island.

Emily arrived by train alongside most of the other guests. She does not know anyone but appears to strike up a friendship of sorts with MacArthur. In an ironic (and perhaps fitting situation) before heading down to dinner, she reads a passage from the Bible about sinners receiving their punishment. After dinner, Emily comments on how lucky the Owens are to have the Rogers as their servants. However, she initially refers to the pair as the Olivers, and when told that their hosts are called the Owens, says she has never met anybody by that name. Thus, the first hints that something more sinister is afoot are sown.

Moments later the accusations play out on a hidden gramophone for everybody to hear. Amongst them is the accusation that Brent supposedly murdered Beatrice Taylor. She is one of only two people (the other being Judge Wargrave) not to react frantically to the situation or try to explain away her supposed misdeed. She shows no concern for Mrs Rogers who fainted and barely reacts when Anthony Marston suddenly dies.

When news that Mrs Rogers passed away suddenly the previous night, Brent again shows no concern or remorse. Instead, she dismisses it as an act of God and Mrs Rogers own guilty conscience. Later whilst on a walk with Vera Claythorne, the two women have a discussion about their current situation. Brent is convinced the Rogers are both guilty of their alleged crimes but dismisses all of the other accusations. When asked about her own supposed misdeed, she confesses to Vera what happened. The younger woman is left horrified by Brents callousness, and lack of remorse. 

Vera avoids Emily after this but does not tell the others what she has learnt just yet. The elderly woman is the first to notice the storm brewing, as well as the absence of General MacArthur, who is found murdered shortly afterwards. As the survivors gather together, Wargrave puts forward a damning theory: there is no murderer hidden on the island, U.N.Owen is one of them. Brent immediately accepts this.

That night Emily has a nightmare, in which she accuses Beatrice Taylor of being the murderer. She wakes up shortly afterwards and convinces herself that she is starting to go mad. This shows that despite her unwavering faith, and self-righteous view, the situation is starting to get to her.

Unconcerned about her own safety, as she is confident that no one would hurt an innocent woman, Emily goes for a walk early the next morning. She returns to the mansion just as Rogers absence is noticed, and the man is found murdered with an axe in his head not long afterwards. As such Vera and Emily both volunteer to make breakfast.

As the guests are finishing their meal, Emily suddenly starts to feel a little bit giddy and sits back down. She promptly refuses Dr Armstrongs offer of treatment for delayed shock and is left alone. Instead of becoming more alert with the short passage of time, however, Emily starts to feel more drowsy and can hear a strange buzzing noise. She soon notices a bumblebee resting on the window. 

Emily then hears movement behind her. She is convinced it is Beatrice Taylor, come to take her revenge. Suddenly she feels a sharp prick in her neck, almost like a sting. Upstairs in the drawing-room, Inspector Blore tells the others that he suspects Emily Brent to be the murderer because of her "religious mania". Following a brief discussion, in which Blore notes her lack of reaction and Vera reveals what Emily told her, the others decide to watch her cautiously. By the time the others reach the dining room, however, Emily is dead. Dr Armstrong concludes that she was killed by cyanide poisoning and would have died quickly.

Vera notices the bee in the room. Although the injection mark was certainly the work of a human hand, this again alludes to another verse from the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Soldier Boys":

Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;

A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Emily's death causes a heightened sense of suspicion and unease amongst the guests.

In his confession letter, Wargrave noted that he killed his victims in order, based upon what he perceived to be their level of guilt. He therefore, judged Emily Brent to be one of the more guilty people as made sure she, and the others of superior guilt suffered before ending their lives. This was most likely due to the senseless death of Beatrice, and Emily's apparent lack of remorse.

As to how he killed her, Wargrave used the same poison he used to kill Mrs Rogers. It was a medicine prescribed by his doctors to treat his cancer. Wargrave secretly hoarded it until he had a lethal dose. After killing Mr Rogers, he subtly slipped the rest of the poison to Emily, hiding it in her morning coffee. When the others were gone, Wargrave crept up quietly behind Emily and injected her in the neck, releasing the bee to fit with the rhyme.

Thus Wargrave avenged Beatrice Taylor's unjust death and gave the religious old spinster the justice she had so frequently read about. 

Mini-series

Emily's portrayal in the BBCs 2015 mini-series was generally consistent to her novel counterpart. One of the few differences in this portrayal was that she displayed actual fear and remorse, after being confronted by an apparition of Beatrice Taylor. The manner of her death also deviated from that of her novel counterpart. Instead of being poisoned, this version of Emily was stabbed through the neck with one of her knitting needles, which had the initials E.B. written on it. There was no bumblebee present at the scene of her death either.

Navigation

 
Agatha Christie's signature Villains
(Non-Poirot & Non-Marple)

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford

Conspiracy (Mr. Brown | Mr. Brown's decoy | Mr. Whittington) | Elise | Sir Phillip Stark | Mrs. Lancaster | Miss Bligh | N & M


And Then There Were None
Anthony James Marston | Mrs. Ethel Rogers | General John Gordon Macarthur | Mr. Thomas Rogers | Emily Caroline Brent | Justice Lawrence John Wargrave | Dr. Edward George Armstrong | William Henry Blore | Philip Lombard | Vera Elizabeth Claythorne | Isaac Morris


Other Mystery Stories

The Sittaford Mystery (1931): Major Burnaby
Death Comes as the End (1944): Yahmose | Esa
Towards Zero (1944): Nevile Strange
Sparkling Cyanide (1945): Ruth Lessing
Crooked House (1949): Josephine Leonides
Destination Unknown (1954): Thomas Betterton
Ordeal by Innocence (1958): Jacko Argyle | Kirsten Lindholm

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