Is ‘Lord Edgware Dies’ Fair Play?

I’m still musing over the question posed in the last post and am interested in your thoughts.

Until I decide, I’d like to hear everyone’s thought on this post, from the former blog for now sadly-vanished “GAD Fiction Forum”: I never before thought that Lord Edgware Dies might not be fair, but the argument presented here makes sense, at least to me.

What say you?

Golden Age of Detective Fiction Forum

I’ve recently reread Christie’s “Lord Edgware Dies” (aka “Thirteen at Dinner”) and was again troubled by the question of whether one of the key moments of misdirection is fair.

Hastings has narrated a scene between Poirot and Jane Wilkinson which concludes as follows. [Jane Wilkinson is speaking.]

“‘I shall always think you were wonderful.’

“I only saw Jane Wilkinson twice again. Once on the stage, once when I sat opposite her at a luncheon party. I always think of her as I saw her then, absorbed heart and soul in clothes . . . ” etc.

The tone of this passage is brilliantly designed to be valedictory. By ending with a line of dialogue that sounds like an envoi, and then recounting how he only sat opposite her once at “a luncheon,” Hastings is giving the impression that Jane Wilkinson will vanish from our story. But of course she doesn’t…

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4 Responses to Is ‘Lord Edgware Dies’ Fair Play?

  1. Brian says:

    I’ve been re-reading the post, over and over, but I’m not grasping the point that’s being said as to how Lord Edgware Dies doesn’t play fair.

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    • I think this is the point, Brian: in phrasing the paragraph so that it seems that Jane vanishes from the story, the narrator is purposefully misleading the reader. Which is no bad thing, except that the narrator (in-story) is not Agatha Christie, a third-person narrator, but rather the first-person narrator of Captain Hastings.

      And Hastings has neither motive nor rationalization to mislead the reader (as, for example, Dr. Sheppard did), which he goes out of his way to do here. (It breaks his character, if he goes out of his way to misdirect the reader, and makes him an unreliable narrator.)

      Therefore, the fairness question is in order if we have a narrator who, without reason, misleads the reader.

      Does that clarify it a bit?

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    • The comments clarify the point, I think: Hastings has no “motivational justification to be tricky,” unlike the first-person James Sheppard or the third-person Agatha Christie.

      Like

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