Revenge goes hand in hand with justice in various works of fiction, and Murder on the Orient Express demonstrates it once again. The author, Agatha Christie, examines these themes, describing how horrible events—the death of several people and the killer’s escaping—affected the individuals involved. Their vengeance comes from searching for a fair outcome, which is revealed in a conspiracy between the other characters. Thus, justice is the central theme of the book, with the topic of revenge supporting it.
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There are two key views on justice and revenge that the reader can see in the novel. One belongs to the detective, Hercule Poirot, while the other one to the mastermind behind the murder, Linda Arden, who first appears in disguise as Caroline Hubbard. Each character considers the notions from different perspectives as the former relies on law, and the latter acts according to what is fair.
Being an investigator, Poirot condemns vengeance as an excuse to commit a crime. As a detective, he has investigated numerous murder cases, arresting criminals and defending innocents according to the legal system. He relies on the power of law and acts like a morally superior figure, being a “symbol of a judge” (Aditya 367). In his mind, justice should be restorative, therefore determined and delivered by law enforcement, while revenge is an illegal action defined by emotions. He values the first concept and disapproves of the second one, having dealt with it throughout his career. For Poirot, justice is the main motivation behind his actions and thus becomes a principal theme for the novel’s main character.
Despite his beliefs, Poirot is a man of high moral principles and unwilling to defend Cassetti. This man bribed the court and ran away, escaping restorative justice, and the detective thinks that he deserved consequences (Christie 39-40). Having learned the story of Linda Arden and other passengers close to Cassetti’s victims, Poirot excuses them. He acts not according to the law but to what is fair, just as the characters who committed this crime.
Unlike the detective at the beginning of Murder on the Orient Express, Linda Arden does not change her opinion. She sees revenge as a punishment for atrocities that were ignored by the law. The woman came up with a plan to bring Cassetti down for all the sufferings he had caused the Armstrong family and their loved ones. Murdering him on the train without repercussions is to both avenge and get the justice that he evaded. Linda Arden views revenge as a justifiable action due to the unfairness of the events.
Nonetheless, instead of approaching the murder as ruthless vengeance, Linda Arden creates a performance. Being a talented actress, she knows how to gather a cast of characters for twelve jurors who condemn the criminal (Christie 136). The involvement of several people makes the crimeless personal and splits the burden which each of them has to carry after. This plan shows how revenge does not control Linda Arden and other characters but serves as an initial motive (Aditya 369-370). The real reasoning is the search for true justice that is retributive for the lack of restorative.
By the end of Murder on the Orient Express, the characters agree on covering up the murder and blaming it on an anonymous figure. During his career as a detective, Poirot has encountered revenge plenty of times. Usually, it is the prime reason why people bring retributive justice when law enforcement is helpless. For him, the outcome of the case should have been the same as always, with criminals in jail. However, Poirot reconsiders his views, taking into account how the victim was far more dangerous and guilty than the murderers. He decides that those individuals were the only people who were both entitled and able to deliver justice, even though it was fostered with vengeance in mind. Christie highlights it through Linda Arden’s words, “Society had condemned him—we were only carrying out the sentence” (136). In this case, even Poirot, the legal system’s representative, willingly acknowledges it.
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As a result, the reader can see that both Linda Arden and Poirot search for order, basing their actions and decisions accordingly. Even when the murder and hiding the truth are essential components to restoring balance and punishing the real criminal, they are still ready to commit the crime. This makes their viewpoints similar at the core, showing that they value true justice above all. The topics of justice and revenge became interlaced when retributive justice appeared the only option to re-establish peace. All the characters agree with it, thus proving Linda Arden’s opinion to be superior. Justice has the upper hand, defying all the viewpoints characters may have had about revenge and its violent nature.
To conclude, both revenge and justice comprise the essence of Murder on the Orient Express, even though the latter is more significant. Hercule Poirot’s view on the concepts depended on the formal justice system. This changes due to Linda Arden’s justification of the murder, influenced by what is fair. Agatha Christie explored the situation when law enforcement failed society. Only the vigilante can punish the criminal, restoring the balance between good and evil.
Aditya, Lucky. “Understanding the Justice in Agatha Christie’s Murder on The Orient Express.” Kata Kita, vol. 7, no. 3, 2019, pp. 364-372. Kata Kita.
Christie, Agatha. Murder on the Orient Express. Harper Paperbacks, 1991.