Over the years, literature and arts have had a significant impact and influence on culture. Through unique styles, authors have been able to construct literature that directly affects the lifestyles of individuals during that period. To fully appreciate the literature that influences culture the most, it is crucial to isolate them. Thus, the Western Canon was created to contain all the literature that has been proven to be essential to western culture. The Western Canon includes a wide range of genres ranging from works of Shakespeare to more modern works. To be placed in the Western Canon a piece of literature must show uniqueness and create an influence on culture. An example of such a piece would be Murder on Orient Express by Agatha Christie. “Her stories give immense pleasure and fun, but they are extremely dark too. They might not focus on the gore and violence of murder, but each book demonstrates a profound understanding of the nastier side of human psychology” (_____). As mentioned, Christie uses her own type of style to portray mystery in a way that is unique from any other mystery written. As the story of Murder on the Orient Express progresses, three main themes are created within the plot: appearance versus reality, law and justice systems, the idea that everyone has something to hide.
The reason that these elements make this book canonical is due because they all focus on the Western life style and ways of thinking. For example, appearance versus reality is seem through society all the time. This fall under people seeming to know what something is by first glance and then realizing that there is a deeper meaning behind it. People always have their own prejudice over others without completely know all the facts. The justice system is having a huge impact on western culture. Although it is said to be just, year after year there have been stories of people being falsely accused or someone facing unfair sentences based on factors other than the law (ex. race). Furthermore, Christie also addresses the element of individualism, she does this by introducing the idea that everybody has their own life and secrets.
To fully understand the complex themes and motifs created in the novel Murder on the Orient Express it is important to understand its plot. The Murder on the Orient Express is the story of a murder that takes place on a train to London. The book starts off with detective Hercule Poirot traveling to take a break from his work. Unfortunately, Poirot, through a telegram, is called to London urgently. While Poirot is resting at a restaurant, he meets with his old friend and colleague M. Bouc. While on the train, Poirot notices that the train is full, which is extraordinary for this time of the year. Poirot runs across many characters during his journey. One character in particularly catches his eyes: an American that goes by Rachette. Poirot has a feeling that Rachette is evil and he has an immediate dislike for him. Although Rachette knows that he is in trouble and asks Poirot to protect him, Poirot refuses due to his personal vendetta. This was a clear foreshadowing of the murder of Rachette who was later identified as Casseti, a notorious murderer. Although Casseti had been tried for his wrongdoings, he exploited his money and resources to avoid capture. The novel then shifts tone, with the detective and his partner starting to explore the clues to find the murderer. In the end, it is concluded that not one, but all thirteen suspects were associated in the murder. Despite knowing this, Poirot decides that Casseti had gotten what he deserves and hide the truth from the officials, leaving all the murderers unpunished.
The first theme that is being depicted is appearance versus reality. This is shown when Poirot moves around the train while drawing conclusions based upon their backgrounds and appearances. At first, it seems that all the characters on the train are unrelated and ordinary passengers. They all come from different regions and have different back grounds. But, later in the book it is revealed that they share a common connection: the family of the victim. This theme of appearance versus reality is one that is reoccurring in the novel. An example would be the broken watch that is stuck at 1:15 am alongside the victim. This broken watch is a symbol and foreshadows to how not everything is what it seems. It is later concluded that there was no significance of the watch in the first place. Another example of appearance versus reality is the fact that not one but all twelve of the passengers happen to be the murders. Even though all their alibis seemed reliable and well planned, in the end it was in fact all a façade.
The significance of this theme is that Christie uses her style and her power of ethos to her advantage. Since Christie is well known for her mystery works, many of the readers would go into the novel expecting it to be the same: In the end the killer is put to justice. In fact, at the end, the killers are all set free and there are no charges for the murder that was committed, this leads to the controversial topic of the fairness of justice and law.
In this novel, Christie critiques the flawed justice system of that time, 1930s. Murder on the Orient Express is based on a true story where a man had murdered his son and was never caught due to his connections. (____) This led to a person being put to death without any evidence. This relates to Cassetti directly: he escaped his punishment because he had money and resources. Even though Cassetti was tried for his crimes, he managed to be set free. This suggests that the justice system failed and Cassetti deserves a just punishment for his actions. Because of this, the suspects decided that it was up to them to create their own jury and sentence Cassetti his punishment of death.
Even though this was cold-blooded murder, no one wanted to feel that they had killed someone and feel that burden on themselves for the rest of their lives. So, each member of the group stabbed Cassetti one time so that it would be unknown who had killed him. These people were ordinary people who were looking for justice; they wanted to do what the justice system failed to. To them, Cassetti was a murderer who deserved his fate.
Christie creates the motif that Casseti is the embodiment of evil. She uses this motif to introduce morals of murder. In the book, the people who murder Casseti did not want to live with the guilt, so they set up the murder so that no one feels that they are a murderer. Knowing that they are killing someone who deserves it is what drove them to execute this plan. Christie’s use of the justice system in the book can be used to talk about the death penalty, a high controversial topic in western culture. Although Casseti was not technically, by law, guilty, the thirteen suspects took it into their hands to do what they knew was right. There form of justice stated that: if a person has murdered someone, he deserves to die. This is something that is debated on in western culture, culture states that there are many other factors as to why a person might have committed the crime in the first place such as mental illness. In the novel there is no reason given as to why Casseti had did what he did, yet he was still put to death.
Another theme that is created is the theme stating: everyone has something to hide or individualism. When the novel starts to progress, and people’s backstories are explored, Poirot starts to notice that everybody’s stories seem too perfect. This implies that everyone is trying to hide something about themselves. This leads to individualism, where everyone is physically isolated from each other so much so that Poirot knows that something seems wrong.
This is significant because in Western Culture people in society tend to be individualists who life their own life separately. Christie uses the suspects as a motif of society, everybody is diverse and separate but, they are all connected. The world acts as though every person is different and have different goals, but, everyone wants similar things such as love and success. In western culture, people have been treated differently based on their physical orientations and backgrounds. Even modern examples exist of people being individualists.
Murder on the Orient Express. EBECOhost, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/resultsadvanced?vid=6=17bdc823-ce8d-4b6a-b35e-d3d6a7a13ec5%40sessionmgr4010=murder+on+the+orient+express=JmRiPWFwaCZkYj1mNWgmZGI9bmxlYmsmZGI9ZTcwMHNjYSZkYj1lODYyeG5hJmRiPWxraCZjbGkwPUZUJmNsdjA9WSZ0eXBlPTEmc2l0ZT1laG9zdC1saXZl.
Murder on the Orient Express. EBSCOhost, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0=5af442a3-cb3d-4def-b28a-a32122940990%40sessionmgr4007=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=126290830=f5h.