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We're not going to leave this island ... None of us will ever leave ... It's the end, you see - the end of everything...
~ General MacArthur to Vera Claythorne shortly before his death.

General John Gordon MacArthur is a minor villain/anti-hero, who appeared in Agatha Christie's novel 'And Then There Were None'.  One of the ten people summoned to Indian Island off the Devon coast by U.N.OWEN (later revealed to be Lawrence Wargrave), he along with all the other guests is accused of committing a murder in a way that the law cannot prove or punish them for. It should be noted that whilst he did indeed commit an evil deed, he is a generally nice person and ultimately judged to be more innocent than most of the other victims in this story.


A retired World War I hero, John MacArthur's crime was committed when he discovered that his wife (Leslie) was having an affair with a family friend Arthur Richmond, who was serving under MacArthur's command. The affair was exposed when John found a letter to Richmond penned by his wife which she accidentally put in an envelope addressed to John by mistake. In retaliation, MacArthur sent Richmond out on an unspecified "mission" resulting in the younger man's death. It is implied that John knew this mission was doomed to fail from the start but sent Richmond anyway.

Shortly after the war, Leslie died from the Spanish flu presumably coupled with grief. At first, MacArthur was a celebrated hero, but in time some of his fellow officers (including Arthur Richmond's friends) began to suspect that the young officer's death was no accident. Whispers eventually began to spread and MacArthur's reputation was ruined. He stopped attending reunions and soon moved away to a small village. For a time all was well, but eventually, the rumours caught up with him.

By the time the story begins MacArthur is old, partially deaf and has become a withdrawn, depressed man, consumed with guilt, not because of the rumours but genuine remorse over what he did.

And then there were none

In his confession letter, at the end of the novel, Wargrave reveals that he heard about the case of General John MacArthur from two old military gossips veterans, whilst in his local club. As with all his victims, Wargrave carefully assessed each case to confirm that the "accused" was indeed guilty of his/her crime. Under the guise of U.N.Owen, Wargrave then invited MacArthur to the island to meet up with some old acquaintances.

Seeking a change of scenery MacArthur arrives on Indian Island along with most of the other guests. When the accusations are made later that evening, MacArthur denies murdering Richmond (which is true in a sense since he did not murder him physically) and claims that he sent Richmond on a reconnaissance mission, where he later fell in duty to his King and Country. The meticulous Wargrave later admitted in his letter that MacArthur's confession, along with those of all the other guests was sufficient enough for him to confirm that all of them were guilty.

Within twenty-four hours of their arrival on the island, two of the ten people are dead, in a manner that matches the poem about the ten little soldier boys, Anthony Marston (one choked his little self) and Mrs Rogers (one overslept himself). As the others pack their bags and prepare to wait for Mr Naricot, MacArthur looks out across the sea to the mainland and realises that he doesn't want to go back - to all the rumours, speculation and isolation.

At this point, MacArthur quickly deduces what is going on here and decides he wants to die! 

Vera Claythorne finds John later that day alone on the beach, staring out across the horizon. He confesses his guilt to her, admitting that he should have just stepped aside and let Arthur and Leslie be happy. MacArthur tells Vera quite calmly that this is the end, none of the guests will leave this island alive and that he accepts his punishment and has found peace with his impending doom. Vera insists he is wrong and leaves MacArthur's presence. When she relays this to the others, the men think MacArthur might be crazy.

MacArthur's body is found by the other guests later that day resting by the sea, dead from a heavy blow to the back of the head, which as noted would have killed him instantly with little to no pain. Again this corresponds with the 'Ten Little Soldiers' rhyme, 'One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.'  

It should be noted that Wargrave killed his victims according to their level of guilt. This means he judged MacArthur less guilty than many of the other guests, and as such chooses him to be among the first to die. Marston was killed first not because he was the less guilty than MacArthur but because Wargrave knew he could not break the rich young man, and Mrs Rogers had committed her actions unwillingly under the influence of her husband. MacArthur was possibly chosen as the third victim because his case was a spur of the moment crime of passion, where many factors were left to chance and he felt genuine remorse for what he had done.

In the 2015 BBC adaptation, he was portrayed by Sam Neill. His character was genuinely unchanged from the original, the only major differences are that this version outright shot Arthur in the back, rather than simply sending him to his death. He also appears to have seen Wargrave approaching him in his final moments, and his body was found by Emily Brent not Dr Armstrong.

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