Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies



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5Women Assistance


All the four novels provide excellent examples of female aid to the investigation. The women protagonists supply the crime story with a subordinate but contributory intellectual part and their sensation presents an alternative view of the case and murder. They produce some suggestions that eventually lead to the denouncement of the crime. These women “include a feminine structuring of knowledge, as a valuable and necessary mode of detection alongside the traditionally masculine gendered methods of the law” (Rowland, 25), as Susan Rowland puts it. There occurs the competition between the professional masculine techniques and the feminine gossipy intuitions and sometimes even the female protagonist stands in the center of the investigation even though there usually appears her male counterpart to coordinate the investigation.

5.1Christie’s Heroine


Christie challenges the social diversion in her novels and endeavors to stabilize the social structure in the modern times to avoid a chaotic confusion in social ties. Her characters experience social problems in which the protagonists fall under suspicion because of their class and gender situations. The female characters have a vitally important role in society and stand out with their attitudes and behavior. Light states that “older distinctions between gentry, clergy and the professions became less and less serviceable in a class which included financiers, businessmen, growing service industries […] people of moderate incomes were less and less likely to remain in the place in which they had been born” (Light 98). Such a social shift causes the decline in domestic service and undoubtedly the appearance of single women in the labor market. “Christie’s favourite women are ‘nice’ girls, like the plain Jane Grey in Death in the Clouds or Katherine Grey in The Mystery of the Blue Train, sensible and unassuming, whose sexuality is muted and lies in their quality of reserve” (Light 105). Women must stand up for their traditional role of taking care of husbands and children, but at the same time they achieve to be more independent and they occupy various kinds of jobs which used to be only male-oriented in the past.

An interesting woman from Wychwood-under-Ashe in Christie’s novel is embodied by Bridget Conway who works for Lord Whitfield as a secretary for the last two years. She clearly constitutes the female protagonist of the novel. Bridget might be about twenty-eight or nine, as Luke thinks, she has brains and she is “one of those people about whom you knew absolutely nothing unless they chose that you should…” (MIE 39). Bridget defines the villagers as follows: “Relicts, mostly. Clergymen’s daughters and sisters and wives. Doctors’ dittoes. About six women to every man” (MIE 45). That means that the community is rather female oriented, but the men rule and Lord Whitfield governs the village. Bridget uses the word ‘relicts’ through which she clearly criticizes the situation in the structure of the village. She stresses the female majority of the community since there are six women to one man, as she says; however, the rural society was then a traditional group of people led by a single powerful man. The social structure and attitudes in the village might be seen as more conventional in comparison with the town of the twentieth century between the two world wars. Bridget also ranks among women who have “force, brains, a cool clear intelligence” (MIE 54-55) and Luke has no idea what she might think of him. As Frances Fyfield comments on in her novel, men can never understand women and, therefore, Luke assumes that Bridget can hardly be deceived in his little trick about a book on local superstitions. Bridget does not reveal everything and may seem as a scheming and calculating person. Her lower position in society as an ordinary secretary does not prevent her from getting what she wants and keeping her personal charm and freedom. Bridget becomes part of the investigation when she decides to help Luke. She does so without his knowing about it first, then as his female assistant. She introduces him to the village community and becomes his guide in the village. Luke, indeed, worries about her since she represents a heroine in his inquisition and in his life too, but Bridget comforts him that the heroine never dies, although she is constantly in danger, she must live forever.

Major Horton evaluates women in the following way: “Women are a rum lot. It seems sometimes that there’s no pleasing them. But by Jove, they keep a man up to the mark” (MIE 148). This image can be equated with the social role of a caretaker or a supervisory landlady even though Horton’s view might sound too harsh and masculine. On the other hand, Luke’s attitude earns him more respect from women in general, in particular when he behaves like a gentleman and listens to various women’s opinions and theories, which eventually lead him towards the evidence and the murderer. The female advantage in the investigation is that they “are good observers” (MIE 181), as Miss Waynflete argues in the discussion with Luke, who immediately agrees. Therefore, Luke visits, for example, Miss Waynflete several times to be sure that she tells him everything she knows and is eager to ask about some thoughtful ideas of hers as well since he assumes that elderly ladies “illustrate the triumphs of guesswork over logic” (MIE 238). Such a female characteristic can be the source of successful disentanglement and might lead to some significant clues in the investigation.

Bridget becomes the real heroine when she guesses the murderer’s identity and wants to find more evidence by herself. Bridget somehow knows instinctively that there is something wrong about Miss Waynflete and manages to outwit her first. She decides that her only chance to reveal Waynflete’s intentions is now and pretends falling asleep, when supposedly drugged. Meanwhile Miss Waynflete admits her guilt, and explains her relationship to Lord Gordon and to his house which used to belong to her family, which uncovers her motives for destroying her former suitor. Bridget’s death should become the last step in her evil project to ruin Gordon’s life, so that her revenge would be complete. Fortunately, no more murders are committed and Bridget survives Miss Waynflete’s attack as Luke rescues her in time. Despite this, Bridget is depicted as a courageous young woman, who does not only support her boyfriend Luke but also acts independently and makes her own decisions.


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