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As humans, in many cases, it is our nature to bring things together, to make sense of them, and to find the pieces of a puzzle if they go missing. Based on evidence and factual information, we collect and pan out logic in the form of events, taking it little by little, step by step. However, the fragility of the process of reasoning is something that humans do not fully comprehend. Often times, we overlook information for the benefit of our comfort or for the sake of gaining a sense of “wholeness” or “completeness. ” We, as humans, no matter our experience, have a weak spot for automatically putting things in place that aren’t meant to be. In Agatha Christie’s novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, this idea is widely apparent. Through an illusory point of view, inaccurate conclusions drawn by characters throughout the book, and initial accusations that turn out to be wrong, Christie demonstrates the deceptive nature of assumptions and suspicions as well as the importance of clear-cut rationale.
By narrating the book through Dr. Sheppard’s point of view, Christie places some faith in him. Her audience casually goes through the book by assuming that Sheppard’s amiable character and affectionate manner is accurate, without realizing or even considering the possibility of him being Ackroyd’s murderer. For example, Sheppard’s neighbor constantly refers to him as a “friend” right from when they meet for the very first time. This characterization of Sheppard shows the audience that he is a people person and that he would never come close to committing a horrendous crime. Christie plays with the minds of her audience by going against the norm of many other books where the expectation for the antagonist is usually someone other than the narrator, who is in fact normally portrayed in a more positive light. By making her audience run with this assumption throughout the book, Christie stuns them with the real murderer and proves to her audience the importance and validity of reasoning over assuming.
The danger of implementing one’s belief in a critical situation, rather than applying the scientific method or logic, is another way Christie advances her theme. For instance, the only reason that Dr. Sheppard murdered Ackroyd was because he suspected that Mrs. Ferrars’s suicide note to Ackroyd might reveal him as her blackmailer. Although Sheppard failed by trying to force Ackroyd to read her note with him, he had no other option but to assume his exposure. Integrating the idea of assuming into the lives of her characters helps Christie establish a wide sense of dramatization that shows the devastating effects of making assumptions. By making her characters assume things, and not only her audience, Christie yet again points to the immense impact that making assumptions can have on society, such as a devastating murder in this case. In the end, the reader is able to realize and value the fact that assuming things can completely alter the course of action and thereby result in flawed logic and a poor decision. The concept of correlation versus causation plays another key role in tricking the very best. Given the circumstances, many characters in the book start taking things for granted. As Raymond speculates on his way out with Dr. Sheppard, “so Parker is the suspect, is he?”, it can be seen that, just based upon a few clues the police stumbled upon earlier, people started weaving together mental stories and connecting dots in the wrong order. Similar to the idea of mass hysteria, this falsehood spread faster than a wildfire and could have turned into reality. This sense of misguidance shows how people can end up getting wrongly convicted on a daily basis based on suspicions formed from mere correlations. If it weren’t for Poirot’s in-depth analysis at a later point in the story, it is more than likely that Paton would have been found guilty in Ackroyd’s case. On the contrary, an instance which extracts the positive potential of logic and reason can be seen through Poirot’s printing of the fake news he created of Ralph Paton’s arrest by the police in regards to Ackroyd’s murder. By implementing reverse psychology, a form of logic, Poirot was able to get Bourne to confess her relationship with Paton, which highlights how important reasoning can be instead of assuming. Here, it can be seen that the only consequence of investing rationalism in a situation is positive — as opposed to the distorted path of assumptions.
Through harnessing and using the power of human assumption and suspicion, Christie constantly keeps her audience in a parallel dimension to the various hidden truths of her story. Playing with the narrator’s perspective, inaccurate ideals, and false accusations, Christie shows why logic and reasoning are crucial to success. She uses the moment when her audience learns of the real murderer as a powerful tool to engrave a lesson in their lives regarding the inherently weak nature of assumptions. By making the characters in her book take things for granted, Christie utilizes the concept of presumption to make a larger statement: nothing can be assumed because it is “obvious, ” but everything needs to be reasoned because it is obscure.
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