What Is the Significance of Law and the Jury System in the Novel “Murder on the Orient Express”?
“Murder on the Orient Express” is one of the most famous detectives of the famous writer Agatha Christie. Before you begin to analyze the novel, it is worth considering the background. Hercule Poirot, a famous detective, is on the train as he needs to get to London. The train gathered a rather unusual company that included representatives of entirely different nationalities. The American Ratchett, who found out that he was traveling on the same train with the famous detective Poirot, asked him for protection, since, according to him, he was in grave danger. The detective did not take his words seriously and refused a favor. The train got stuck in the territory of Yugoslavia, and the same night Ratchett’s body was found dead.
There were twelve wounds of varying severity found on his body, only a few of which were lethal, and what is even more mysterious, all were made by both left-hander and right-hander. This fact was fascinating to Poirot, and he immediately took up this case. On the train, besides the detective himself, there were twelve others, that is, potential suspects. Attempts to pull out any evidence or clue from them did not succeed. Also, none of the passengers could give any significant testimony, which led the detective into confusion. Later, the identity of the murdered was established. Instead of Ratchett, he turns out to be Cassetti, who himself is the murderer of a small girl from the Armstrong family several years ago. At the same time, as it turned out, all twelve passengers of the express were more or less connected with the Armstrong family. From here the version emerges that all the passengers of the train are killers since there are twelve stab wounds.
Agatha Christie is not in vain considered one of the best writers of the detective genre. The number of passengers (or suspected in the murder) is not in vain equal to twelve. It is the number of juries represented at the trial in Great Britain. Thus, all the action of the novel turns into a jury trial, which is a complicated mystery for the detective. The jury system, which is so peculiarly represented in the book, is an alternative court, which can be called an “eye for an eye.” Twelve passengers were not accidentally on the same train with Ratchett, the murderer of a small girl from their family. In a way, in this novel, the jury system stands for the ideology of justice, or, in this case, vengeance. “The question we have now to ask ourselves is this,” he said. “Is this murder the work of some rival gang whom Cassetti had double-crossed in the past, or is it an act of private vengeance?” (Christie, Agatha 50). Posing this question, Poirot makes two possible assumptions: Ratchett was killed by mafia or by relatives of Daisy Armstrong, his victim. Since Ratchett, using his financial capabilities and relationships, managed to avoid responsibility for his crime and the court eventually found him innocent of the murder of the young girl. Family members could not allow the murderer to escape responsibility, which is the jury trial.
In the novel, the law is shown as an insufficient and imperfect system of formalities and corruption. “Corrupt courts denied justice to grieving family and friends; so they conspired to attain retribution outside of the law” (Moser, Maureen). Most passengers of the express do not recognize law as an authority. It can be seen when the detective finds alcohol in Hardman’s bag what was prohibited by the law. “You are not a believer in Prohibition, Monsieur Hardman,” said M. Bouc with a smile. “Well,” said Hardman, “I can’t say Prohibition has ever worried me any” (Christie, Agatha 116). Poirot himself is also more tend to believe in justice than in law. When he finds out that all twelve passengers are murderers, he does not report to the police. He understands that the law is imperfect and not always just. That is why he agrees to cover up the crime of the passengers. The entire idea of the novel was to criticize the US law and its actors. Agatha Christie’s message is that law court is not able to ensure justice anymore and that is why the jury system becomes a means of establishing justice. The novel says that those who have enough money can be acquitted in court, what states that jury system can be justified in some cases. “Ratchett had escaped justice in America. There was no question as to his guilt. I visualized a self-appointed jury of twelve people who had condemned him to death and who by the exigencies of the case had themselves been forced to be his executioners” (Christie, Agatha 166).
Therefore, the novel “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie stands for justice criticizing the law. It shows how corrupt judges can free a murderer getting enough sum of money and how the truth comes to him in the face of a jury system. Thus, the author argues that there are two ways of establishing justice. The first is law, which can be bribed and escaped if the criminal has enough resources. The second is a jury, which reflects the idea of ‘strict justness.’ However, there is a need to distinguish between justness and vengeance. In this very case, the law was powerless to establish justice, and that was a reason for such an alternative.
Christie, Agatha. Murder On The Orient Express. New York, Harper, 2011,.
Moser, Maureen. “Reasons To Believe: Getting Away With Murder.” Reasons.Org, 2010, http://www.reasons.org/blogs/take-two/getting-away-with-murder.