Fox, Jo Anne S.
M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts)
Department of Theatre Arts
Christie, Agatha, 1890-1976||Detective and mystery plays--History and criticism
During the period of the "Golden Age" of Detective Writing, the 1920’s, two writers, S.S.Van Dine and Ronald Knox, introduced "rules" for all writers of crime fiction to follow as a means of giving the genre a structured framework and distinguishing it from similar forms: the horror story, the mystery-adventure, and the spy thriller. Using Van Dine's "Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories" and ICnox's "A Detective Story Decalogue" as the basis of my analysis, this thesis analyzed the style (plot, setting, characters, and theme) of five of Agatha Christie’s plays: T̲h̲e̲ M̲o̲u̲s̲e̲t̲r̲a̲p̲, T̲e̲n̲ L̲i̲t̲t̲l̲e̲ I̲n̲d̲i̲a̲n̲s̲, W̲i̲t̲n̲e̲s̲s̲ f̲o̲r̲ t̲h̲e̲ P̲r̲o̲s̲e̲c̲u̲t̲i̲o̲n̲, A̲p̲p̲o̲i̲n̲t̲m̲e̲n̲t̲ w̲i̲t̲h̲ D̲e̲a̲t̲h̲, and S̲p̲i̲d̲e̲r̲'s̲ W̲e̲b̲. Historical and critical research methods and techniques were used to conduct this study. Agatha Christie's background and career were investigated to determine biographical information which proved influential in her writing. Because of her popularity and accomplishments, Agatha Christie has been regarded as one of the most successful mystery crime writers of all times. Despite her periodic breaking of the "rules" in her novels, the Christie plays under consideration proved to follow the genre's "rules." The Appendix to the thesis breaks down each rule in comparison to each play and further proves Christie's use of the guidelines. Van Dine agreed with Knox that the detective story was an "intellectual game with definite laws dealing with fair play." All "Golden Age"' writers, such as E.C. Bently, Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkely, Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, and many others, including Agatha Christie, used these standards as a basis for detective writing.
McCormick, Lawrence P., "A comparative analysis of Agatha Christie's playwriting, using S.S. Van Dine's and Ronald Knox's rules for writing detective stories" (1987). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 84.
Northern Illinois University
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