March 19, 2012

Agatha Christie and Indian Independence

Last week's Masterpiece Mystery was an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Why Didn't They Ask Evans? The story features Miss Marple, along with a set of characters that is frequent in Christie's whodunits: a culprit whose bitterness over an old wrong has twisted him or her into madness and murder, and a victim or target who was either directly or tangentially responsible for the wrongdoing.

There is a sense in these books and adaptations that, while we certainly disapprove of wrongdoing, one shouldn't let oneself become obsessed to the point of revenge, that such a thing is sad and often unfair to the perpetrators who, at this later date, may be shown to be remorseful or even ignorant of the original crime.

I wonder if Christie's attraction to this theme is partly a subconscious reaction to the end of the British imperial age and the fear of violent revenge by former colonies like India. A nervous "Can't we all let bygones be bygones?" fluttering beneath the surface.

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