A recently retired judge, Wargrave is intelligent, cold, and commanding. During his years on the bench, he had a reputation as a “hanging judge”—a judge who persuaded juries to bring back guilty verdicts and sentenced many convicted criminals to death. Christie describes Wargrave as wizened and ugly, with a “frog-like face[,] . . . tortoise-like neck,” and “pale shrewd little eyes”; his ugliness makes his appearance more forbidding. Once the situation on Indian Island becomes clear and the guests realize that a murderer is hunting them, they look to Wargrave for leadership, and he obliges. He is the first to insist publicly that they are dealing with a homicidal maniac, and the first to acknowledge that the killer must be part of their group. When leading group meetings on the island, he often acts like a judge presiding over a court. Wargrave analyzes evidence, authorizes searches both of the island and of people’s possessions, and takes charge of drugs and other potential weapons, ensuring that they are safely locked away.
It is partially Wargrave’s experience with criminal proceedings that makes the others go along with his leadership, but he also has a confidence-inspiring ability to project an air of cold reason in a time of crisis. In a standard detective story, Wargrave’s behavior would make him the detective figure, using his experience with the criminal mind to unmask the killer. But as we learn at the close of the novel, when a local fisherman recovers his confession, Wargrave himself is the killer. He plans the entire enterprise, selects his ten victims, buys the island, and then pretends to be one of the group. Despite his identity as murderer, however, Wargrave is not entirely unlike the detective in a traditional mystery story. Since all of his victims are supposedly guilty of murder, Wargrave, like the detective, acts as an agent of justice, making sure that murderers are punished for their crimes. Nevertheless, in spite of his victims’ obvious guilt and Wargrave’s insistence that he would not let an innocent person suffer, we are unlikely to find him a sympathetic character. Far from being a disinterested agent of justice, Wargrave is a sadist, taking perverse pleasure in murder. As a boy, he killed insects for sport, and he brings the same zeal to his task on Indian Island. He never shows pity for his victims; instead, he regards them as pawns to move around and kill in order to create what he terms a “work of art”—his perfect killing spree.
More characters from And Then There Were None
Judge Lawrence Wargrave - A recently retired judge. Wargrave is a highly intelligent old man with a commanding personality. As the characters begin to realize that a murderer is hunting them, Wargrave’s experience and air of authority make him a natural leader for the group. He lays out evidence, organizes searches, and ensures that weapons are locked away safely. Wargrave’s guilt is revealed at the end of the novel in a confession that illuminates the characteristics that drive him to commit the series of murders: a strong sense of justice combined with a sadistic delight in murdering.
Read an in-depth analysis of Vera Claythorne.
Read an in-depth analysis of Philip Lombard.
Dr. Edward George Armstrong - A gullible, slightly timid doctor. Armstrong often draws the suspicion of the other guests because of his medical knowledge. He is a recovering alcoholic who once accidentally killed a patient by operating on her while drunk. Armstrong, while professionally successful, has a weak personality, making him the perfect tool for the murderer. He has spent his whole life pursuing respectability and public success, and is unable to see beneath people’s exteriors.
William Henry Blore - A former police inspector. Blore is a well-built man whose experience often inspires others to look to him for advice. As a policeman, he was corrupt and framed a man named Landor at the behest of a criminal gang. On the island, he acts boldly and frequently takes initiative, but he also makes frequent blunders. He constantly suspects the wrong person, and his boldness often verges on foolhardiness.
Emily Brent - An old, ruthlessly religious woman who reads her Bible every day. The recording accuses Emily Brent of killing Beatrice Taylor, a servant whom she fired upon learning that Beatrice was pregnant out of wedlock. Beatrice subsequently killed herself. Unlike the other characters, Emily Brent feels convinced of her own righteousness and does not express the slightest remorse for her actions.
General John Gordon Macarthur - The oldest guest. Macarthur is accused of sending a lieutenant, Arthur Richmond, to his death during World War I because Richmond was his wife’s lover. Once the first murders take place, Macarthur, already guilt-ridden about his crime, becomes resigned to his death and sits by the sea waiting for it to come to him.
Ethel Rogers - Rogers’s wife. Ethel is a frail woman, and the death of Tony Marston makes her faint. Wargrave believes her husband dominates her and that he masterminded their crime.
Anthony Marston - A rich, athletic, handsome youth. Tony Marston likes to drive recklessly and seems to lack a conscience. He killed two small children in a car accident caused by his speeding, but shows no remorse.
Isaac Morris - A shady, criminal character hired by the murderer to make the arrangements for the island. Morris allegedly peddled drugs to a young woman and drove her to suicide.