Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie
Contributed by Ariane Heyne

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Part 2 Chapter 7-9
Summary

Chapter 7

Countess Andrenyi and Count Adrenjy are asked to come to the dining car for questioning, but the Count alone appears. He declares to Poirot that he will be of no service as both he and the Countess were asleep through the entire event and they heard nothing at all. The Count shows no sign of being affected when Poirot reveals Ratchett’s identity. Monsieur le Comte indicates that he is not familiar with the Armstrong family. The Count informs Poirot that he and the Countess went back to Compartment no. 13 after dinner was finished. They then played piquet for a while, until 11. At that point, the conductor prepared his compartment and he went to sleep, too. Poirot insists that she wants to see the countess, in spite of protestations from the count.  The Count gives his and the Countess’s passports to Poirot. There is a bit of grease on Elena’s passport. Elena Maria Goldenberg is the name on the Countess’s passport. She is 20 years old. The Count reluctantly comes back with the Countess, at Poirot’s request. She backs up the County’s story and informs Poirot that she never went with the Count to America. The Countess informs Poirot that her husband smokes cigars and cigarettes. She owns a chiffon dressing gown in a corn color.

Chapter 8

Poirot asks Colonel Arbuthnot to come in so that he can be questioned. The Colonel communicates to Poirot that he ventured from India to Syria to land, “for his own reasons.” He informs Poirot that he first came across Miss Debenham on the train to Nisibin from Kirkuk. This was the same train that the two people shared with Poirot. Poirot inquires with the Colonel for his opinion of Miss Debenham. The Colonel’s response is, “She is a lady,” and that therefore he couldn’t have had anything to do with the crime. The Colonel tells Poirot that the evening before he had stayed up late conversing with Hector McQueen about Indian politics. He and McQueen got out of the car at Vincovci, but they promptly returned on account of the cold. The man enjoyed a smoke in McQueen’s compartment. The Colonel was smoking a pipe. The sole person he remembers passing in the doorway was a woman who had a fruity smell. At around 2:45, he went to his own compartment to go to bed. When he was going there, he saw the conductor at the end of the hallway. Arbuthnot also remembers the door of compartment no. sixteen was cracked open and a man was peering out in a strange and suspicious way. The door quickly shut when Arbuthnot approached it.

Chapter 9

Mr. Hardman, the American, was the man who was peeking out of compartment No. 16. He is brought in for questioning. Mr. Hardman is the last first class passenger to be questioned. Hardman’s passport indicates that he is a traveling salesman who sells typewriter ribbons. However, when Poirot informs Hardman who he is, Hardman provides his real identity. Hardman’s real name is Cyrus B. Hardman, and he is private detective. He works for  a detective agency in New York City called McNeil’s Detective Agency. He came to Europe to follow several crooks, but he was soon hired by Ratchett to provide protection. Hardman was shown some threatening letters by Ratchett. He felt certain that someone was seeking to murder Ratchett. Ratchett said that his assailant is a small man with a feminine voice and dark skin. Hardman was intended to have a compartment immediately beside Ratchett. However, he ended up in No. sixteen. He opened his door enough to keep watch of the hallway. Hardman didn’t see any strangers passing in the hallway the night of Ratchett’s murder. Hardman finds the news that Ratchett is Cassetti, the Armstrong kidnapper, very surprising. He informs Poirot that he probably wouldn’t even be able to recognize Cassetti as he was out West when the kidnapping case happened.

Analysis

There has been criticism for Christie’s books’ less-than-diverse social settings. Most of her mysteries center on the British upper-middle-class society that she came from. She puts emphasis on the leisure class and moneyed traveler, and this is especially the case in her pre-war writing. The majority of her characters have servants such as maids, butlers, and gardeners. The children have governesses and nurses. While there are men and women of the working class in the novels, they generally have only minor significance. They usually just discover the body or are the victims of murder themselves. 

We see Christie’s upper-middle-class standard adhered to in this novel’s social setting. While there are working-class people present on the train, they are all servants. Ms. Debenham is the only exception in the fact that servants have only minor parts in the story and are portrayed as being weaker than the characters with higher social standing. We see this when Poirot interviews the characters. Countess and Count Andrenyi, Princess Dragomiroff, Colonel Arbuthnot, and Mrs. Hubbard are all shown as strong while Greta Van Ohlsson and Antonio become emotional and collapse into tears.

The most accurate example of this weakness is seen in Greta Ohlsson. While it’s true that she is trained as a professional nurse, she cannot control her emotion and caring for Daisy Armstrong. When she first interviewed by Poirot, she almost gets through the interview, but when Poirot mentions Daisy Armstrong’s name, she is clearly affected by emotion and her eyes fill up with tears. This moment is the beginning of Greta’s decline all through the novel. By the time of the final scene, she is nearly constantly crying. Antonio provides another instance of weak emotion. When Poirot shows that he is Armstrong’s chauffeur, he immediately becomes angry and says, "It is a conspiracy. You are going to frame me?" He feels compelled to tell Poirot how Daisy was a wonderful child. Antonio voice becomes softer and he starts to cry.

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