|“||When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men. And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.||„|
|~ Lawrence Wargrave's last message at the end of his final letter.|
|“||I had the power to condemn men and women to death for their crimes. With great power comes great responsibility. I believe that to look away as that power is exercised is both irresponsible and cowardly.||„|
|~ Lawrence Wargrave in 2015 miniseries.|
Justice Lawrence John Wargrave is the hidden main antagonist of Agatha Christie's mystery novel And Then There Were None.
Wargrave is a retired judge, who over a long, extensive career has developed the reputation as a hanging judge. Initially presented as anti-hero/protagonist, Wargrave alongside nine other people, was "invited" to Soldier Island off the Devon Coast by the mysterious U.N. Owen. There, he and the others were accused of contributing to the deaths of other people, in a way that the law could not prove or punish them for. One by one, each of the guests were subsequently murdered in scenes of escalating violence.
However, at the very end of the novel Wargrave was revealed to be U.N. Owen. Having been fascinated with death ever since he was a child, Wargrave, following a terminal diagnosis, decided to fulfill his long held ambition to commit a murder. However, since he also possesses a strong sense of justice, Wargrave only ever targeted the guilty, which eventually compelled him to take his own life.
Outside of the original novel, Wargrave has appeared in a number of film and television adaptations. His role in these productions varies, but for the 1945 and 2015 mini-series, he retained his role as the main antagonist. In the 1945 film, Wargrave was portrayed by the late Barry Fitzgerald. In the 2015 BBC miniseries, he was played by Sir Charles Dance, who also portrayed the Master Vampire in Dracula Untold and Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones.
Lawrence Wargrave was born at some point in the mid to late 1800's. As is the case of many people in the story, Wargrave's personal life is rarely touched upon. He never provides any indication as to having a wife or family.
Intelligent and perceptive, from an early age he recognized that he had an unnatural passion for death. He was a big fan of detective stories and as a youngster would experiment upon wasps and other garden pests, which is a typical sign of a psychopath. However, at the same time, Wargrave also possessed a very strong sense of justice. He vehemently believed that no innocent creature (be they human or animal) should be made to suffer for something they did not do. This opinion, influenced Wargrave's choice of career, inspiring him to become a judge.
As a result of this, Lawrence Wargrave was able to use the judicial system to satisfy most of his carnal desires. From within the court setting, he could use the evidence provided by both the police and the prosecution to lawfully condemn criminals to their deaths, whom he would watch hang afterwards. Owing to his unique perspective on criminal psychology, Wargrave could also make accurate assessments of a persons guilt. He noted that there were a couple of occasions where he realised that the accused was in fact completely innocent. In each of these cases, Wargrave made sure to highlight that the evidence proved as much, ensuring that the jury acquitted them.
Wargrave's most famous and controversial case was that of Edward Seton, a young man accused of killing his elderly landlady. Although the public believed Seton to be innocent, Wargrave after studying the evidence at hand, could tell that Seton had done it. As such, he sent Edward to the gallows, which caused a public outcry. However, the police later uncovered evidence, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Edward Seton had indeed committed the crime he was accused of, thus making Wargrave's sentence a just one.
Despite this success and his good track record, Wargrave reflected that his job failed to completely satisfy all of his desires and cravings. Deep within his heart, the sadistic Judge yearned to commit a murder of his own. He did not wish to simply kill somebody however, he wanted to carry out a theatrical one, a murder on such a grant scale, it would baffle the detectives for years to come. As had been the case throughout his life however, Wargrave was restrained by his sense of justice.
"Ten Little Soldier Boys"
Eventually, following a long and distinguished career, Wargrave retired from the judicial system. His reasons for doing so are not specified, but it is implied to be due to a combination of old age and health issues. Shortly after retiring, Lawrence underwent an operation to remove a cancerous tumor from his body. Unfortunately, the operation was not successful. Wargrave relapsed and following a second examination was given a terminal diagnosis. With nothing to do now but await the inevitable, Lawrence Wargrave did his best to cope with his new situation, believing that he would die with his ambitions unfulfilled.
Then whilst, he undergoing a routine checkup, Wargrave's doctor unwittingly made a simple innocent comment, which lit a spark in Wargrave's mind that would culminate in the carnage on Soldier Island. Fascinated by Wargrave's career, this unnamed GP noted that for every criminal convicted there must always be one that managed to escape from justice. He then provided an example from his personal experience, which in turn gave Wargrave the names of two of his future victims, Thomas and Ethel Rogers.
At once, everything became clear to Wargrave. Here at last, was the opportunity he had been looking. A way for him to achieve his ultimate ambition, whilst at the same time adhering to his strong sense of justice. As to how he would do it, Wargrave turned to a nursery rhyme from his childhood "The Tale of the Ten Little Soldier Boys" which went as thus:
Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier boys traveling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
With his plan in motion, Wargrave spent the next few years searching for and collecting the names of potential victims. He collected hundreds of names of various men and women who were accused of killing another person in a way that the law either could not prove or punish them for. Wargrave carefully analyzed and studied the evidence from each case, until finally, he whittled it down to nine people, one to represent a Soldier boy from the poem. These were people that would join him and ultimately, die alongside him on Soldier Island. Wargrave fully intended for this to be his last spectacle. Once all was said and done, Wargrave knew that from his own perspective, he would be just as guilty as his victims and must face the consequences of his actions. Since he was dying anyway, Wargrave also decided that he would prefer a quick relatively painless death, over a long protracted one.
Once he had gathered everything he needed, all that was left was the setting. Using his vast resources, Wargrave purchased on a Soldier Island under a false name of U.N. Owen (an acronym for the word "Unknown") through a third party, Issac Morris. Letters of invitation were then dispatched to each of the ten victims, including himself, inviting them to the Island, under various false pretenses.
The Ten Soldier Boys
Wargrave's plan worked. For various reason, each of his victims accepted their invitation and went unknowingly to their doom. Eight of them (including Wargrave himself) arrive at the Devon Coast, before travelling on the boat to the island. There, the group was greeted by the manservant and maid, Mr and Mrs. Rogers who had arrived months earlier under employment for Mr and Mrs Owen.
As they settled into their new accommodation, each of the guests found a copy of the Ten Little Soldier's nursery rhyme hanging on the wall of their room. Likewise, when they settled down to dinner, the center piece contained ten china figures, one to represent each soldier boy. The group enjoyed an elaborate dinner and were just settling down for after dinner drinks, when suddenly hidden gramophone played a recorded message. Instead of music, each person present was openly accused of murder.
The following is a list of all of the people mentioned in the gramophone's recording, as well as the crimes they are accused of. Although U.N. Owen judged them all to be guilty, he also took outside factors into consideration. Thus, he killed his victims in a particular order, with ever increasing levels of brutality. This way, his more innocent victims died not only early but in less stressful manners, whilst those of greater guilt were forced to endure hours and days of trauma.
- Anthony James Marston, a man with a well-proportioned body, crisp hair, tanned face and blue eyes. Born into a wealthy family, Marston, who is a dangerous driver, ran over and killed two youths who were playing out at night. He feels no remorse for the incident as he lacks any kind of moral responsibility. He represents the first Soldier Boys as his crime was reckless and he could not be broken down like the other guests.
- Mrs. Ethel Rogers, the maid and Mr. Rogers' wife. She is described as a pale-faced, ghostlike woman with shifty light eyes, who is scared easily. Despite her respectability and efficiency, she helped her domineering husband, Thomas, kill an elderly employer by withholding her medicine, so they could inherit her money. She represented the second Soldier Boy, because she was forced to commit her act unwillingly.
- General John Gordon Macarthur, a retired World War I hero, who sent his wife's lover, Arthur Richmond, to his death. Macarthur sent Richmond on a "mission" resulting in the death of Richmond. He was chosen to be the third Soldier Boy, because he felt genuine remorse and guilt for what he had done.
- Mr. Thomas Rogers, the butler and Mrs. Rogers' husband. One of the first people to come to the island, he is a very hard and good worker even in his old age. However, he killed an elderly employer with the help of his wife by withholding restorative drugs from her, in order to inherit her money and thus represents the fourth Soldier Boy.
- Emily Caroline Brent, despite appearing to be an average elderly woman, she’s of unyielding principles who uses the Christian Bible to justify her inability to show compassion or understanding for others. She dismissed her pregnant maid, Beatrice Taylor, who later committed suicide by throwing herself into a river and drowned. Despite this, Emily felt no sense of guilt or remorse for the death of Beatrice. For this she was chosen to be the fifth Soldier Boy.
- Justice Lawrence Wargrave (himself), a retired judge, well known for handing out the death penalty. He is accused of sending an innocent man, Edward Seton to the gallows, even though there were some doubts about his guilt at the time of the trial. He represents the sixth Soldier Boy.
- Dr. Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street surgeon, blamed for causing the death of a patient, having operated on her whilst under the influence of alcohol. After the deaths several of the guests, Armstrong (the seventh Soldier Boy) unknowingly gave the killer an advantage over the remaining guests, by helping them to fake their death..
- William Henry Blore, a retired police inspector and now private investigator. He is accused of having had an innocent man, James Landor, sentenced to lifetime imprisonment as a scapegoat after being bribed by the real killers. Landor later died in the prison. U.N. Owen was especially offended by the fact that a police officer allowed such an act to happen and thus Blore chose Blore as the eighth Soldier Boy.
- Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver having been told to do so in the letter Mr Owen sent him. Reputed to be a good man in a tight spot, Lombard is accused of causing the deaths of 21 members of an native African tribe. It is said that he stole their food before making his escape, thus leaving them to die of starvation and death. For this, he was chosen to be the ninth Soldier Boy.
- Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a young teacher, secretary and ex-governess, she takes mostly secretarial jobs since her last job as a governess ended in the death of her charge Cyril Hamilton. Vera let the young boy swim out to sea and drown so that his uncle, Hugo Hamilton, who was Vera's lover, could inherit his money and marry her. However, the plan backfired, as Hugo realized what she had done and abandoned her shortly afterwards. For this betrayal, Vera was chosen to be the tenth and last Soldier Boy, i.e. the one who would suffer the most.
- Isaac Morris, a shady man, accused of peddling drugs to a young woman which drove her to suicide. He helped Mr Owen to acquire the island and make all the other arrangements necessary for the event in question. Morris died shortly before the start of the story. He apparently, overdosed on sleeping pills, but the police suspect it was a murder. This assumption was correct, making Morris the first of U.N. Owens victims.
Just after the gramophone record plays, each of the guests acknowledged their awareness and association with the persons mentioned in the recording. However, most of them deny any wrongdoing or fault in the death of the alleged victims, including Wargrave. Miss Brent says nothing, but Philip Lombard and Anthony Marston both freely admit that they are guilty, whilst also making it clear that they feel no remorse for what they have done. In the aftermath, Justice Wargrave seems to take automatic control, leading the group with his thoughts. Secretly, however, he analyzed each of his "co-accused" reactions. As a result of his long experience in dealing with the law, Wargrave knew immediately, with absolute certainty, that each and every one of them was guilty. With this clarification in mind, the Judge began to enact his plan!
First to die is Anthony Marston, whose drink is later found to be laced with cyanide (one choked his little self). That night, Thomas Rogers notices that one soldier figurine is missing from the dining table. The next morning, Mrs. Rogers fails to wake up and is assumed to have received a fatal overdose of sleeping draught (one overslept himself). At lunchtime, General MacArthur, who had predicted that he and the others would never leave the island alive, is found dead from a blow to the back of his head when Dr. Armstrong calls him to lunch (one said he'd stay there).
In growing panic, the survivors search the island for the murderer or possible hiding places, but find nothing. Lawrence Wargrave establishes himself as the decisive leader of the group. As storm clouds gather overhead, Wargrave "chances upon" an unsettling discovery. He asserts that U.N. Owen is an alias, an acronym for unknown and concludes that the killer, who is playing a sadistic game, is in fact one of them. This revelation only serves to make the already uneasy atmosphere even more tense.
The next morning, Mr. Rogers is attending to his duties and the guests notice that one of the little soldier figurines is also missing. Thomas Rogers is soon found, dead in the woodshed, having been struck in the head with a large axe (one chopped himself in halves). Later that day, while the others are in the drawing room, Emily Brent stays in the dining room and she dies from an injection of potassium cyanide—the injection mark on her neck is an allusion to a bee sting (a bumblebee stung one). The hypodermic needle is found outside, thrown from the window along with a smashed china soldier figurine.
The five survivors—Dr. Armstrong, Justice Wargrave, Philip Lombard, Vera Claythorne, and Ex-Inspector Blore—become increasingly frightened. In a bid to "put everyone at ease", Wargrave declares that anything on the island that can be used as a weapon should be locked away. This includes Wargrave's own sleeping pills and Dr. Armstrong's medical equipment. It is here that Lombard admits to bringing a revolver to the island, but more importantly it has gone missing.
The group decide to sit in the drawing room, with only one leaving at any one time. Theoretically, this should mean that they are all safe. Vera goes up to her room and discovers a strand of seaweed planted there. Her screams attract the attention of Blore, Lombard, and Armstrong, who rush to her aid ... however Wargave is not with them. Returning to the drawing room, they find Wargrave lying slumped in his chair. He has been dressed in a crudely mad judge's wig and gown, the former made from a ball of wool that had gone missing from Ms. Brent's knitting basket. Armstrong confirms his death, stating that Wargrave was killed by a single gunshot wound to the forehead (one got into Chancery).
That night, Blore hears someone sneaking out of the house. He and Lombard search the remaining rooms and discover that Dr. Armstrong is missing. Concluding that he must be the killer, they stay up and search for him throughout the night but are unable to find him. Afterwards, Vera, Blore, and Lombard, whose revolver has been mysteriously returned to him, decide that it is best to go outside when morning arrives. They plan to stick together from that point onwards, so that the killer cannot target them. Unfortunately, when Blore's hunger gets the best of him, he goes back to the house by his lonesome and does not return. When Vera and Phillip search for him, they discover Blore's body on the front lawn, his head crushed by Vera's marble, bear-shaped clock (a big bear hugged one).
The pair assume that Armstrong has committed the murder and leave to walk along the shore. There they find Armstrong's drowned body along the cliffs (a red herring swallowed one). Realizing that he has been dead for some time, the pair realize that they are the only two people left on Soldier island. Even though neither could possibly have killed the Inspector, their mutual suspicion has driven them to the breaking point and each of them assumes the other to be the murderer. As such, when they lift Armstrong's body out of reach of the water, Vera swipes Lombard's revolver and shoots him dead on the beach (out in the sun).
"Victorious" and thinking that she is now safe, Vera returns to her room. In her state, she momentarily thinking the last rhyme of the poem was 'Got married and then there was none' because of her need for Hugo. Upon entering the room however, Claythorne finds a noose hanging suggestively from the ceiling above her and a chair underneath it. Having been driven mad (or "hypnotically suggestible") by her experience, Vera hangs herself, kicking the chair out from under herself and fulfilling the final verse of the rhyme (hanged himself and then there were none).
Confession and Epilogue
The epilogue of the book consists of a conversation between Inspector Maine, the man in charge of the unsolved case and the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. Maine points out that the investigation is at a dead end for several reasons.
- Issac Morris, the shady dealer known for efficiently covering his tracks made all the arrangements for U.N. Owen's purchase of the island. However, he cannot tell them anything because he died of a drug overdose the day the party set sail.
- Secondly, during the period when the killings took place and immediately after, nobody could have got on or off the island due to poor weather, ruling out the possibility that "Mr. Owen" was some unidentified person who committed the murders while evading detection from the guests.
- Whilst the police have concluded from forensic evidence and the various characters' diaries that Blore, Armstrong, Lombard, and Vera were definitely the last to die, they are unable to determine the order in which they occured.
- Blore could not have died last, since the clock was dropped onto him from above and he could not have set it up in such a way for it to fall on him.
- Armstrong could not have been last since his body was dragged above the high-tide mark by someone else.
- It could not have been Philip Lombard, since he was shot on the beach but the revolver was found upstairs in the hallway, outside the door of Wargrave's room.
- This leaves Vera, whose fingerprints are on the pistol and from whose window the clock was dropped onto Blore. Yet, the chair which she kicked away with the noose around her neck was found pushed against the wall, out of reach from where she would have had to stand on it.
In the end, although one of the guests must have been the killer, none of them could have been, leaving the two inspectors baffled. Oddly nobody notices the rhyme hanging in each of the guest's bedroom
Days later, a fishing trawler, the Emma Jane, finds a letter in a bottle floating just off the Devon coast and sends it to Scotland Yard, who recognize it as a confession letter penned by the late Justice Wargrave. In his narrative, Wargrave gives a detailed account about his sociopathy, why he became a judge and of the joy he felt in condemning guilty people through the death penalty. He then explains how he set up the events on Soldier Island and how through careful study he acquired his victims. The account reveals how he reveled in the mental torture each survivor experienced as their own fate approached.
The letter also explains what happened to Dr Armstrong, as well as how Wargrave met his own end. After disposing of the first five guests, Wargrave persuaded Armstrong to help him fake Wargrave's own death, under the pretext that it would rattle the "real murderer" and allow Wargrave to search for new evidence as to this persons identity. Armstrong later sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night in order to meet with Wargrave. Meeting him by the cliff edge, Wargrave pretended to spot something then pushed the doctor into the sea, enabling him to orchestrate the rest of the killings without suspicion.
Going back to the house, Wargrave returned Lombard's revolver and waited. When the final victim, Vera, hanged herself, Wargrave secretly watched from the bedroom closet. Afterwards, he replaced the chair, before writing out his confession. Once it was complete, Wargrave placed the letter in a bottle and cast it into the sea, leaving it up to chance whether or not it would be discovered. Wargrave finishes his letter by stating that he plans to shoot himself, but that he craves posthumous recognition of his brilliant scheme. He argues that even if his letter is not found, there are a few clues that should help to point to him as the killer:
- Wargrave was the only guest who did not wrongfully cause the death of another person before coming to the island. The police will know that Edward Seton was guilty. Therefore, paradoxically Wargrave is the unknown killer.
- The "red herring" line in the poem suggests that Armstrong was tricked into his death. Logically, the respectable Justice Wargrave is the only one of the remaining house guests in whom Armstrong would have been likely to confide.
- Once Wargrave shoots himself, the bullet will leave a red mark in his forehead similar to the mark of Cain, the first murderer described in the Biblical Old Testament.
- The location of Vera's chair would indicate that somebody else was alive after her death. If so, then who amongst the guests would have the craftiness to fake their deaths.
As to his own demise, Wargrave will loop an elastic cord through the gun, before tying one end of the cord to his eyeglasses. The other end will be looped around the doorknob of his open bedroom door. Wargrave, once again dressed up as a judge, will then sit on the bed so that, after shooting himself, his body will seem as if he had been lying there all along. To prevent himself from giving the game away, he will pull the trigger with a handkerchief wrapped round the gun so as not to leave any fingerprints. Once this is done, the recoil will snap the gun towards the doorknob. The gun will strike the doorknob, detaching the elastic, which will snap back (closing the door in the process) and lie dangling innocuously from his eyeglasses. The gun will be found in the corridor outside the closed door and a dead body on the bed. Thus the police will find ten dead bodies and an unsolvable mystery on Soldier Island.
The 1945 Film
In the film version, titled 'And Then There Were None,' Wargrave is changed considerably. He is renamed Francis J. Quincannon, an Irish judge, and played by Irish actor Barry Fitzgerald. Instead of tricking Vera Claythorne into hanging herself, he reveals that he is alive to her at the end, and urges her to do it rather than be accused of the other murders, as he is about to take cyanide and kill himself. Unknown to him, Claythorne and Lombard have guessed his involvement, and Lombard has faked his death. Lombard walks in to join Claythorne as he finishes his confession. The Judge dies a moment later muttering 'Never trust a woman.'.
The mini-series, is arguably Wargrave's most accurate portrayal to date. His role across the three episodes is largely unchanged when compared to his novel counterpart, with only a few deviations from the original source material:
- Greater emphasis is put upon the death of Edward Seton. This was done so that when Wargrave reveals himself to be U.N. Owen, he simultaneously reveals that Seton had figured out that the Judge was, to uses Wargrave's own words, "a kindred spirit".
- This version of Wargrave seems to be more interested in creating an unsolvable mystery than being remembered as the killer. Shortly before his death, he gloatingly refers to himself as "the unimpeachable judge".
- Wargrave does not write out a confession letter. Instead he has a final conversation with Vera Claythorne, in which he admits to his guilt.
The biggest difference between the book and television show, was the manner of Wargrave's death. In the book, Wargrave watched Vera die from her bedroom cupboard. Only once she was dead, did he replace the chair, write out his confession, before going to careful lengths to insure that his death matched the descriptions found in his victims' diaries.
In the mini-series, just as Vera is about to hang herself, Wargrave enters the room, the shock of which, causes Vera to lose her balance, knocking over the chair. Ignoring Vera's predicament, Wargrave casually sits across from her and the two killers have a short conversation. In it, Wargrave reveals how he faked his death with Armstrongs help (using liver and kidneys), that he is dying and is a secret psychopath, though when prompted by a comment from Vera, he does say that he is still passing judgement on the guilty. He then gloatingly informs her about how they will both soon be dead and that when the police arrive, they will find an unsolvable mystery.
Spotting a chink in Wargrave's armor, Vera informs him that she emptied the gun when she killed Lombard, before attempting to reason with Wargrave. She says they can cover up the crime, by blaming it all on Philip Lombard. Wargrave lets her think that she has him beaten, but self preservation is the last thing on his mind. After letting Vera believe that he is going to help her, he swipes the chair out from under her, causing Vera to slowly choke to death. Placing the chair against the wall, Wargrave stops in the doorway and reveals that he had in fact taken a bullet out of the gun, the bullet that was supposedly used to kill him.
Picking up the revolver, which Vera had dropped on the stairwell, Wargrave goes downstairs to the dining room. There he sets up an elaborate, but much more simpler form of suicide. The victorious judge pours two glasses of wine, one for himself, the other for "somebody else". He also closes the door to the room and opens the window. This will make it appear as if Wargrave survived the original attempt on his life, but was subsequently captured by Mr. Owen, who forced him at gunpoint to pour the drinks, close the doors and open the window, making his escape through the latter once all was said and done.
With everything set, Wargrave loads the last remaining bullet into the gun, using a napkin to wipe his fingerprints off of the weapon. Following a final drink and triumphant look at the statues of the soldier boys, Wargrave shoots himself through the chin, using his his death throw to launch the pistol across the table to the other side. Thus to the authorities, it will look as if Wargrave had a final conversation and drink with U.N. Owen, who then marched over to him, shot the judge at close range, before depositing the gun and making their escape.
- Through murder, manipulation and suicide, Justice Lawrence Wargrave holds the largest onscreen body count (direct or indirect) amongst any of the murderers in Agatha Christie's novels with a total of eleven people, including himself.
- He is also one of the very few Agatha Christie villains to not only get away with his crime, but succeed in his objective.
- Fans have speculated as to why Wargrave chose to confront Vera in the mini-series, rather than just let her hang herself like he did in the book. The most widely accepted theory, relates to Wargrave's sense of justice. He wanted to confirm that she was guilty of her crime, since Vera's was the only one to have any reasonable doubt behind it. This is demonstrated by the fact that Wargrave only acted after Vera (in her desperate state) confirmed that she had indeed killed Cyril.
- Wargrave's quote in the mini-series about "with great power comes great responsibility" is a reference to the Marvel Hero Spiderman.
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