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 Death in the Clouds (1935) 
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New post Death in the Clouds (1935)
You're invited to use this topic to discuss the quotations from Death in the Clouds (1935) – an Hercule Poirot novel by Agatha Christie.

You may also use this thread for general discussions about this literary work; you do not necessarily need to discuss specific quotations.

Or, if you'd like to talk about anything else related to Agatha Christie or Hercule Poirot, feel free to create a new discussion topic.


Mon, 26 Feb 2007, 20:09
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A user nicknamed Kazimostak inserted a quotation from Chapter 13 into this collection. I have now expanded the excerpt to give it more context.

I'd be interested to learn why Kazimostak believes this is a remarkable excerpt. It does not seem special to me, apart from the use of the word negroes that would no longer be possible today in this way. Well, those were the pre-World War II days. The mores and vocabulary were different then. Is the word negroes the main reason why Kazimostak originally posted this quotation :?: Hope not... :?

Anyway, I'm sending an email to Kazimostak, alerting him/her to this forum post, and perhaps he'll care to explain. 8)

Another interesting thing I've just noticed: the heroine's name in Death in the Clouds (1935) is Jane Grey, while the heroine's name in The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928) is Katherine Grey. Psychologically, they're similar, too – the outright positive Agatha Christie heroines.

I wonder if the surname Grey is supposed to suggest something deeper here :?: Agatha Christie, a romantically inclined person, is said to have suffered psychologically due to not having been an attractive woman. (See her sensational 10-day disappearance provoked by her husband's infidelity.) In Katherine Grey, at the very least, she portrays a heroine who is not “attractive” in the traditional way; rather, she seems “ordinary” (which might be a synonym for grey:!:) – yet she manages to win the hearts of all the glamorous men, and even the envy of glamorous women, surrounding her in The Mystery of the Blue Train.


Sat, 5 Apr 2008, 11:55
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New post Why I inserted that excerpt from chapter 13
Yes, you're right. I picked up that excerpt because Ms. Christie used that word "negro". But these's something more to it than just the word "Negro". Probably you noticed that both Norman and Jane decided that they "disliked" negro. So they were not just calling them negro (which, I understand, was quite common and not offensive in those days - but more significantly, they 'disliked' negroes. That's my problem. Why would they dislike a whole race? Just because of their skin color? That's horrible, that's utterly horrible - no matter it was pre or post WWII. That's shameful for Ms. Christie as well, because it unmistakably shows her mindset towards the blacks also - how ghastly! The couple was talking about 'negroes' as if they were talking about snakes or pigs. Shame to you Ms. Christie!


Tue, 8 Apr 2008, 5:38
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Thank you for clarifying, Kazimostak. However, I cannot join you in your condemnation of Christie. You're looking at 1930s prose with post-World War II susceptibilities.

I agree with you it's irrational to express oneself that way, and if Agatha Christie had made similar comments post-World War II, or post-Martin Luther King, or post-South African Apartheid, that would certainly deserve strong condemnation. But she didn't. Prior to World War II, these sorts of comments could simply be construed as “off the cuff” remarks, and that's what they probably were, without any writer thinking of them too much. We saw similar diction employed while examining Rex Stout's Too Many Cooks (1938) in this discussion forum. (And Mark Twain included similar comments in Huckleberry Finn.) We even saw a similar issue while discussing Rex Stout's much later Too Many Clients (1960); in 1960, feminism wasn't the force it is today, and that novel seems to include a few suspicious remarks regarding marital life and strifes that it probably wouldn't have included if it were published in the 1990s.

Plus, take instances such as Richard Wagner, one of the greatest if not the greatest operatic composer of all time. He seems to have been virulently anti-Jewish. Does that diminish anyone's appreciation of his music :?: Probably not. And I doubt Wagner would have made some or any of the statements he did make (and publish) if he had been a post-World War II, 20th century composer, instead of a 19th century composer.

Please note, Kazimostak, that in that same excerpt, Christie says that the two characters also disliked cats, Katharine Hepburn and the London “tube” (underground) among other things. Does that mean Christie looked upon Katharine Hepburn as if the actress were a snake or a pig? :lol: I don't think so... It looks to me simply as if Christie the narrator was being playful for a fraction of a second, and the way she did it may have been commonplace in the 1930s, but it looks unacceptable to us in the 2000s. :?

So, thank you for adding the quotation to the Death in the Clouds collection, Kazimostak. The excerpt may be useful for anyone who would wish to discuss these “racial diction” issues in future.

It might also be interesting to examine whether there are any similar remarks in any other books by Agatha Christie; after all, she wrote dozens of volumes. If there are no similar remarks in any other Christie book, that would support my theory that what we have here in Death in the Clouds is no more than a careless, off-the-cuff remark that we should simply ignore when reading the novel with our 21st century eyes and susceptibilities.


Tue, 8 Apr 2008, 11:45
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