Murder at the Vicarage as AC's clever, covert reimagining of Pride & Prejudice

As my Discussion Title indicates, I believe that Murder at the Vicarage (MATV) is, in (at least) 16 different ways, a covert homage by Agatha Christie to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (P&P). In the following-linked blog post….  ….I have set forth below those 16 different ways which collectively establish this veiled allusion. I am curious to hear the reaction of diehard Christie fans, especially those among you who are also Janeites. I particularly encourage you to react to any or all of 16 components of that allusion, and bring them back here for discussion.  Cheers, ARNIE PERLSTEIN @JaneAustenCode on Twitter




  • I think you are on to something in terms of Jane Austen being an influence on Agatha Christie. It occurred to me on first reading of 'The Moving Finger' that Elsie Holland is figured as the poor governance type who relies on being respectable to keep her job and keep herself - just like Jane Fairfax Jane in Austen's Emma. There is even a phrase spoken by Aimee Griffiths which sounds almost exactly like the phrase used by Austen when she says of Jane that she still has her bread to earn. Aimee Griffiths says words to the effect that it is tough on the girl still having her living to earn. She says it when she is defending herself for having persuaded Megan to return to the family home.

    I also think it's quite possible that the handsome cad character which appears in a number of Christie works came to her attention as a result of reading Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. There is so much close work and insight to Jane Austen's description. I think it possible that Agatha Christie learnt to recognize the type as a result of reading Austen. I don't see that Christie would very easily have been able to observe in real life the devious ways of the unscrupulous, easy-going cad type because so much of the dastardliness of what they say takes place during private trysts. These types are so careful to hide their true colours in public. 

    Overall, though, I'm minded to think that the idea for MATV probably came from studying a real life acquaintance who then became the inspiration for the character of Anne Protheroe. The plot appears to grow from the inherent characteristics of that 'quaker' type, as she is described - I think by Griselda. The other characters - aside from Lawrence Redding - seem to belong together, and I can imagine similar types living in Christie's circle. The vicar is very similar to the one in A Murder is Announced, and seems as though he could have been an erudite padre she might have been familiar with. The theme of social climbing is largely lacking from MATV - Gladys Cram is just there to be red herring, in my view, not to lynchpin a key theme of social snobbery. 

    Incidentally, I have noted that Christie sometimes gives her caddish characters an Irish provenence - Lawrence Redding (MATV)  has 'Irish blood in his veins' according to the vicar, and the handsome husband, Patrick Redfearn, in Evil Under the Sun sometimes lets his brogue show. Doyle is an Irish name, so, though one of the Devon Doyles, Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile might have had Irish blood.

  • I found some of your points rather forced. I do think that AC got ideas (and stereotypes) from the Austen novels, as well as from others of the period, but first of all several of your points are common to other 19th or early 20th novels, and secondly they are used in very different ways in P&P and MITV. 
    Incidentially, I once made a hobby of "collecting" pairs of books with a list of similarities, and have 4 or 5 such pairs with quite a few points of similarity each: e.g. patricia wentworth's "dead or alive" and margery allingham's "tiger in the smoke", trevanion's "the summer of katia" and phyllis whitney's "the winter people", patricia wentworth's "the clock strikes 12" and paul gallico's "too many ghosts" and several others. However, I think that a lot can be put down to coincidence and the similarity of culture and cultural stereotypes.
  • I agree, you make good points, Christie and Austen would have had a similar education in regards to what they read, namely English literature, they were probably influenced by similar things, for example, in Austen's juvenilia, in a collection of letters she relates the story of Miss Jane, who had secretly married and had 2 boys and a girl, who all died along with her husband, and then felt too ashamed after her fathers death to take his name so instead choose to have no last name. This has parallels with Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, where the duchess secretly marries has 2 boys and a girl, before her and her younger two children are murdered. This text is also referenced and used in the plot of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel, Sleeping Murder, where Helen, like the Duchess, is murdered by her brother.

    It is also interesting to note that the Duchess was based on Giovanna D'Aragona, and Giovanna is often seen as the Italian version of Jane, the name of Jane Austen's character 'Miss Jane.'  

  • CT148CT148 Sydney
    edited December 2015
    I am new to site. Hi Agatha fans. I have loved this legendary author since I first picked up one if her books at boarding school in Sydney more years ago than I care to remember. I recall it could have been Affair at Styles. I was hooked. I asked my mother if she would bring me all the Christie titles she could find. Many a lonely day or nite was wiled away at that school with a good  Agatha Christie mystery. 
  • CT148CT148 Sydney
    edited December 2015
     Can someone please tell me if they know who the new Miss Marple is to be? I understand the new BBC series is premiering in England at Christmas. I am delighted that the first episode is to be  the Christie classic And There Were None. Australia should get it sometime in the new year. Here's hoping. :)
  • I don't know if there are plans for a new MM. And Then There Were None is a 'none series' novel: no Marple or Poirot in there. It's interesting that AC novels appeal to teenagers, and many of us read them during their teens.Because of all the social detail, and the way characters are introduced via anecdotes about what they've done, you'd think that all that would leave youngsters cold. It's the plot and suspense that draws in every body, I suppose, and then later we appreciate the other details. 
  • I read that there was to be a new MM when BBC announced they were taking over from ITV. May have got it wrong though. I would like to see a remake of some of the earlier shows with the original MM
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  • Griselda. You too read Agatha as a teen? I also enjoyed adventure stories such as the Bobbsey Twins and another adventure series featuring a group of teens titled Secret Five, from memory. But Agatha was my favorite when I outgrew those others..
  • I loved the Secret Seven, and Famous Five, and I think that Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie are similar writers in their economical use of detail, and approach to plotting. I've actually had an idea that some of Christie's plots may have influenced Enid Byton, who, to give examples, had one story about poison pen letters being written to lots of people to cover up the intention of doing damage to one in particular; a plot about a kidnapped child; and lots of evidence concerning foot prints.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Am I being silly? My Next Novel on my Reading list is Murder At The Vicarage and I am so looking forward to it, All those Miss Marple's to re-read and the Joan Hickson's to re-watch, Great :-) 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    While some of the Similarities may be forced (And I can't remember which ones) The Vast majority of your Article is spot on although I have not read P&P and am only going by the BBC Production, I do wonder if there are similarities between The Moving Finger and a Book written by one of The Bronte's or George Elliot or Thomas or That Writer who was known as Mrs somebody, I think that because in TMF a Man comes to Lymstock and befriend's a young Girl who has a Step parent and who is taken away from her appalling life out of herself by the new Visitor.
  • Speaking of reworkings, I have just watched two Columbo episodes on tv today, and each appeared to have borrowed heavily from an Agatha Christie plot. (I think another poster may have referred to similar before.) 'The Bye Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case' (1977) was based on the idea in Hercule Poirot's Christmas. A wire was rigged and a record player primed to set off gun sounds, and door slammings to make it look like a victim was killed after the murderer had left the room. In each mystery, the murderer had been known to have been chatting with the victim in his private room before the noisy 'incident' was heard by friends in the rooms below. In 'Death Hits The Jackpot' (aired 1991) , a lottery winner doesn't want to claim the prize money in his own name and so asks his uncle to do it for him. I'm sure this is a steal from The Sittaford Mystery. In the Christie novel, of course SPOILER ,the  murdered man suspects that the competition organisers don't like giving prizes to rich chaps like him, and so he always enters in friend's name. In the Columbo movie, the lottery winner doesn't wish to share his winnings with his soon-to-be-ex-wife. In each case temptation proves too strong for the one who is asked to help. I really see similarities between Columbo and Poirot. Both characters grew and became more typical of themselves in a deepening way as the episodes went on. Both, I feel, sussed out the murderer straight away based on body language and psychological profiling. Both then justified their hunch with detective work. Neither was averse to inventing a clue to trick their suspect, and each would use a made up nephew or aunt to seemingly innocently request information from the suspect, eg how to get their nephew into accountancy. Both praise a pretty woman's looks without being distracted by them, or by any vices or weaknesses at all. Both are kind, and sometimes loathe to shop a murderer, but will carry out justice anyway (Poirot, 'Death on the Nile'; Columbo the one where someone's daughter or neice was killed by the victim). Both have a ridiculous appearance which leads to them being under-estimated - to their advantage. A worthy successor in my book, is Lt. Columbo. (Is Peter Falk still with us?)
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