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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.
~ Lawrense Wargrave in 2015 miniseries
Justice Lawrence John Wargrave is the main antagonist in Agatha Christie's mystery novel And Then There Were None.

He is a judge, whom since he was a small child, was fascinated with death. He is known as a hanging judge; however, his sentences are portrayed throughout the story as accurate. Eventually, he loses his sanity and resorts to serial killing, all for "justice".

He was portrayed by Barry Fitzgerald in 1945 film adaptation and by Sir Charles Dance in the 2015 miniseries adaptation, with the latter also portrayed Master Vampire and Tywin Lannister.

History

"Ten Little Indians"

Wargrave decides, some point after losing his sanity, that he would create a murder mystery that would be impossible to solve (as mentioned in the book's epilogue). To do this, he finds the names of nine people whom he accuses of committing murder. He decides to parallel each death he causes to a death in the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Indians". The poem goes like:

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Indian boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

Plans

Wargrave chose nine people to be the Indian boys, while he was the tenth. He then invited each person to Indian Island with varying offers under the name of U.N. Owen (a pun of the word "Unknown"). Sure enough, 8 of the guests (including himself) arrives on the boat to the island, including Wargrave. The guests are greeted by the servant and maid, Mr and Mrs. Rogers who arrived months early under an employment offer by Wargrave. Each of the guest had the nursery rhyme hanging on the wall in their room. At a large dinner, they notice ten china Indian figures on the table. Later, during dinner, a gramophone record plays, accusing each guest there (including Wargrave) of murder.

The Ten Indians

  • Anthony James Marston, a man with a well-proportioned body, crisp hair, tanned face and blue eyes. He was born to a wealthy family, he ran over and killed two youths, feeling no remorse for the incident as he lacks any kind of moral responsibility. He represented the first Indian as Wargrave believed that he was the innocent of the 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 Indian.
  • 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 Indian.
  • 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. He was the fourth Indian.
  • 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, she felt no sense of remorse for the death Beatrice. For this she was chosen to be the fifth Indian.
  • Justice Lawrence Wargrave (himself), a retired judge, well known for handing out the death penalty. He is accused of murder due to the judicial hanging of criminal Edward Seton, even though there were some doubts about his guilt at the time of the trial. He chose himself to be the sixth Indian in order to give himself enough time to convince Armstrong to assist him in faking his death.
  • Dr. Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street surgeon, blamed for the death of patient while operating under the influence of alcohol. After the deaths several of the guests, Armstrong was easily convinced by Wargrave to help him fake his death, however unbeknownst to Armstrong, Wargrave actually was the killer so when he help him faked his death, Armstrong unknowingly gave him another advantage over the remaining guests. Armstrong was chosen to be the seventh Indian.
  • William Henry Blore, a retired police inspector and now private investigator, is accused of having had an innocent man, James Landor, sentenced to lifetime imprisonment as a scapegoat after being bribed. The man later died in the prison. For this action, Blore was to be the eighth Indian.
  • Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver due being told to do so by the letter Wargrave sent him. Though he is 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 food from the tribe, thus causing starvation and death. For the 21 deaths, he was chosen to be the ninth Indian.
  • Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a young teacher, secretary, and ex-governess, who takes mostly secretarial jobs since her last job as a governess ended in the death of her charge. She let Cyril Hamilton swim out to sea and drown so that his uncle, Hugo Hamilton, could inherit his money and marry her; however, the plan backfired, as Hugo abandoned her when he realized what she had done and shortly afterwards Hugo went insane by Cyril’s death. Vera was chosen to be the tenth and last Indian.

Extra Victim

  • Isaac Morris, a shady man, accused of peddling drugs to a young woman which drove her to suicide. He goes to the island because he is hired by the murderer to make arrangements for the island. Apparently, he overdoses on sleeping pills thus killing himself, but the police suspect it was a murder. Before the events of the book, Isaac was approached by Wargrave who convinced him to help him with his plot by purchasing Indian Island and recording the accusations. Shortly after doing this, Wargrave killed him which maked him chronologically the first one to be killed.

The Murders

Just after the gramophone record plays, each guest there acknowledges their awareness and/or involvement in the deaths of the persons mentioned, while denying that it was their fault. Justice Wargrave seems to take automatic control, leading the group with his thoughts. He plans the order of the deaths specifically by order of the guest's degree of guilt. Those who had the least guilt in their crimes died earlier, while the more cold-blooded killers were saved for last, in order to put them through greater mental agony.

First to die is Anthony Marston, whose drink is poisoned 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 never wakes up, and is assumed to have received a fatal overdose of sleeping draught (one overslept himself). At lunchtime, MacArthur, who had predicted that he 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 no one. Justice Wargrave establishes himself as a decisive leader of the group; he asserts that one of them must be the murderer and is playing a sadistic game with them.

The next morning, Rogers is missing, and they notice one of the little soldier figurines is missing as well. 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. Wargrave announces that anything on the island that could be used as a weapon should be locked up, including Wargrave's sleeping pills and Armstrong's medical equipment; Lombard admits to bringing a revolver to the island, but it has gone missing. They decide to sit in the drawing room, with only one leaving at any one time—theoretically, they should all be safe that way. 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. When they return to the drawing room, they find Wargrave, dressed up in a judge's wig and gown, slumped against a chair with a gunshot wound in his forehead (one got into Chancery); Armstrong confirms his death. This was determined to be a ruse planned by Wargrave, which was revealed in the book's epilogue. Wargrave fakes his death as to not arouse suspicion.

That night, Blore hears someone sneaking out of the house. He and Lombard search the remaining rooms and discover Armstrong missing from his room—so they think he must be the killer. Vera, Blore, and Lombard, whose revolver has since been returned to him, decide it best to go outside when morning arrives; when Blore's hunger makes him go back into the house, he does not return; as Vera and Phillip search for him, they discover his body on the front lawn, his head crushed by Vera's marble, bear-shaped clock (a big bear hugged one). They assume that Armstrong has committed the murder and leave to walk along the shore. They find Armstrong's drowned body along the cliffs (a red herring swallowed one) and realize that they are the only two left on the island; 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 they lift Armstrong's body out of reach of the water, Vera swipes Lombard's revolver, kills him on the beach (out in the sun), and returns to her room (momentarily thinking the last rhyme of the poem was 'Got married and then there was none' because of her need for Hugo. Ironically, that is a version of the last line of the poem), discovering a noose hanging from the ceiling and a chair underneath it. Having finally been driven mad (or "hypnotically suggestible") by the experience, Vera hangs herself, kicking the chair out from under her, fulfilling the final verse of the rhyme (hanged himself and then there were none).


Confession and Epilogue

The epilogue consists of a conversation between Inspector Maine, in charge of the unsolved case, and the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. The man who made all the arrangements for U.N. Owen's purchase of the island was Isaac Morris, a shady dealer known to efficiently cover his tracks when doing business. However, he cannot tell the police anything; he died of a drug overdose the day the party set sail. During the period when the killings took place and immediately after, no one 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.

The police have concluded from the forensic evidence and various characters' diaries that Blore, Armstrong, Lombard, and Vera were definitely the last to die. Blore could not have died last, as the clock was dropped onto him from above, and he could not have set up 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, nor could 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 on Blore; however, 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 no notice is taken of the rhyming clue which is in each 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 by the late Justice Wargrave. In this narrative, Wargrave reveals that he has suffered from a certain sadistic temperament ever since childhood, when he performed torturous experiments on garden pests, a symptom of sociopathy. However, this quality was juxtaposed uneasily with an innate sense of justice; he considered it abhorrent that any innocent person should die by his hand. Thus he became a judge, ordering the death penalty in all cases where he firmly believed the accused person guilty, so that he could enjoy seeing them crippled with fear by the knowledge of their impending death. Unsatisfied, Wargrave always felt a deep desire to commit a murder by his own hand. After discovering that he was terminally ill, he decided to do just that by renting an island off the Devon coast and luring nine people there, all of whom have caused death and escaped justice. He then killed them one by one, reveling in the mental torture each survivor experienced as their own fate approached. In the letter, Wargrave also claims that his extensive experience as a judge rendered him capable of confirming their guilt by observing their reactions to the murders, and that he did indeed intuit the guilt of all of the victims.

Having disposed of the first five guests in the manner above, Wargrave persuaded Armstrong to help him fake Wargrave's own murder, under the pretext that it would rattle the "real murderer." Later, upon meeting Armstrong on the cliff in the middle of night, Wargrave pushed the doctor into the sea, enabling him to orchestrate the rest of the killings without suspicion. The final victim, Vera, hanged herself while Wargrave secretly watched from the bedroom closet. Afterwards, Wargrave pushed the chair against the wall. He then wrote out his confession, putting the letter in a bottle and casting the bottle into the sea.

Wargrave finishes his confession by stating that he plans to shoot himself, but he craves posthumous recognition of his brilliant scheme. He argues that even if his letter is not found, a few clues exist that should help point to him as the killer:

  1. Wargrave was the only guest who did not wrongfully cause the death of anyone before coming to the island. Edward Seton (the man Wargrave was 'accused' of killing by giving the jury a biased summation in his case) was guilty of the crime he was accused of after all; therefore paradoxically Wargrave is Mr Unknown killer.
  2. The "red herring" line in the poem suggests that Armstrong was tricked into his death, and the respectable Justice Wargrave is the only one of the remaining house guests in whom Armstrong would have been likely to confide.
  3. After he 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.
  4. After Vera hanged herself, Wargrave put the chair she used, back up which would mean that someone else was alive after her death.

Wargrave then describes how he plans to shoot himself: he will loop an elastic cord through the gun and tie one end of the cord to his eyeglasses. The other end he will loop around the doorknob of an open door. Wargrave will then sit on the bed so that, after shooting himself, his body will seem as if he had been lying there. After shooting himself with a handkerchief wrapped round the gun to avoid fingerprints, 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 Indian 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.'.

2015 Mini-Series

While the the story is largely similar, in the mini-series, when Vera is about to hang herself, Wargrave reveals himself to be the killer to her which caused her to lose her balance and the chair to fall to the side. When Vera tell him that there’s no bullets left in the gun and then attempts to plead with him, Wargrave swipes the chair from her which caused her to slowly choke to death. On the way out of the door, Wargrave tells Vera in her few living seconds that she forgot the bullet that supposedly was used to kill him. Also in contrast with the book, Wargrave decides to go to the dining room where his suicide is simpler than in the book. Rather than use the elastic cord and his glasses, Wargrave rather uses a napkin that wiped his fingerprint from the gun. Also rather than shooting himself in the head, Wargrave shoots himself in the mouth and immediately after he shot himself, Wargrave’s body flung the pistol to the other side of the table.

Trivia

  • The poem featured in the novel was originally titied as "Ten Little N*****s" which served as the previous title for And Then There Were None. However, it was changed to Ten Little Indians due to including racial slurs. In spite of this, some modern publications tends to refer the poem as Ten Little Soldier Boys instead.
  • Through murder, manipulation and even suicide, Wargrave holds the largest onscreen body counts (direct or indirect) amongst all of the murderers in Agatha Christie's novels: eleven people in all, including himself.

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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