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Our value lies not in ourselves, in what we have chosen to do or be, but in the social role we are made to play, whether by fraud, brute force or persuasion; we are pieces in a game and follow the rules of the game. Duplication allows substitution. But people can also choose to substitute a new role for their original one, and this distorts social contact. 50 from Paddington. During much of the investigation, the crime is seen from the wrong angle: it is assumed that the body mysteriously found in a sarcophagus in the Crackenthorpes’ family estate, which can be identified as French by its clothing, is that of Martine, the woman Edmund Crackenthorpe is assumed to have married in the course of activity with the French Resistance, and a good deal of attention is paid to tracing a French woman who may be Martine.
Such, in fact, is the norm of the classic detective story; the deduction in the novel must be rational, so the characters must be rational. Poirot shows his awareness of currently fashionable theory, impresses his readers by his recognition of the possible extremes of feeling, and inculcates in them a readiness to be awed at the unforeseeable violence these may produce. These abstract formulations may seem banal to sophisticated readers. But there are points where the sense of the elusiveness of personality is given genuine fictional life: Addie in The Body in the Library (xii) asserts that she wanted to be just an independent person, not the devoted widow and daughter-in-law she is expected to be.
Sir Charles is in fact shamming; Poirot congratulates him on his acting. By reenacting the crime, Poirot demonstrates that it is possible to conceal the poisoned glass; but he does so with maximum publicity and intense emotional effect. The publicity allows him to warn someone whom he perceives to be a potential victim; the spectacle, as so often, is rationalized. But the immediate impact is of his brutal display of fake criminality, as he claims to have magically killed and revived Sir Charles.