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The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie Analysis

I. Given Circumstances
A. Environmental Facts:
1. Geographical Location

Monskwell Manor plays the setting, located about an hour train’s ride
from London just outside a small English country-side village. It is a large
house and dates back to the 17th century when it was rebuilt on the ruins of
an old monastery, thus the name Monkswell Manor as it retains the
original monk’s wine cellar. Refurbished for a guest house – much like an
extended-stay bed and breakfast - the furniture is of the current period, but
the interior reflects its age with vaulted doors, high wainscoting, and
heavy beams. The modern conveniences are evident, but they are not up-
to-date. The home is surrounded by gardens, but there are of no
consequence at the moment as there is a nasty winter storm raging outside.
Snow piles against the large leaded window where a bare-branched tree is
silhouetted against an endless fall of snow.
2. Date: Years, season, time of day

It is late January 1949. It is around 4 in the afternoon, but the

strengthening snowstorm makes it seem later. All action occurs over a 24
hour time period.
3. Economic Environment

The after affects of World War II are still being felt. Housing and food
shortages have caused many people to seek new lodgings outside the
London area. Rationing is still in effect and taking up residence in a guest
house affords people to combine their ration cards and eat better as well as
sharing the costs of fuel and other utilities. The price being charged is 7
pounds per week for food and board. Clothing is nicely tailored but not
new and shows a little wear. The furniture has been updated, but there is
also a sparseness to the main gathering room. All characters are middle-
class – lower-income white collar, public servants sort of people. The
only one who seems to have money is Miss Casewell.
4. Political Environment

England is at peace at last after six long years of war. Law and Order is
respected, but cynicism for the system exists.
5. Social Environment
This is England. People observe the right proprieties, but it seems to be
wearing a little thin for some. They respect one another, but don’t allowed
out-dated manners to interfere with what they believe in.
6. Religious Environment

Nothing much is mentioned about religion, but it is interesting that the

home was built over the cellar of an old monastery. Again, a layer of
cynicism dusts the characters as they deal with reality.
B. Previous Action

Ten years ago, an infamous child abuse case occurred at Longridge Farm. Three
children, ages 11, 12, and 13 were fostered to John and Maureen Stanning. The
children were horribly mistreated and one of the two boys died. The remaining
children are separated. In that time, World War II broke out. After the war, the
Ralston’s, Mollie and Giles, meet, fall in love, and marry. the Ralston’s inherit
Mollie’s aunt house, Monkswell Manor and decided to start a Guest House
business. They advertised in the London Papers and are expecting their very first
guests to the opening of their hostel.
C. Polar Attitudes

There is a great deal of criticism and sniping among the characters. With the
exception of Mollie and Major Metcalf, all the characters indulge in a bit of
needling morbid behavior. Trotter is accusatory of each character, casting doubt
and sowing ill-will and fear. Paravinci delights in the situation and has a bit of a
sadistic pleasure in taunting the others. Christopher Wren snips and snaps at the
residents he doesn’t like and behaves in a very childish and circumspect manner.
Mrs. Boyle cannot be satisfied, very critical, can’t see any good in anything, and
only knows she is right all the time. Miss Casewell won’t tolerate any nonsense
or over-bearing behavior and won’t hesitate to initiate her way. Giles is quick to
anger and asserts his position of the master of the house often. Each character
hold tightly onto their traits exhibiting classic characteristics of the “murder
D. Significance of the Facts

The Mousetrap evokes an air of mystery from the moment the action starts.
Setting the play in an old English Manor house which becomes cut off from
civilization as murder starts supports the “mystery” element. The characters are
all caught in a mousetrap of their own making so to say. The Longridge Farm
case suggests the terrible effects of child abuse and sets a slight air of madness to
the story.
II. Language

Proper, intelligent language portray educated characters – definitely middle class,

respectable, people. Mollie and Giles are young educated a little more upper class than some
of the others perhaps. They speak informally as they are familiar to one another. To others,
Giles is slightly terse, a bit defensive in his language and seems to assume the role of lord of
the manor in his tone and word choice “You may leave whenever you wish as since we are
not acceptable. Shall I ring you a cab?” Mollie is more feminine as her manner is gentler
with an understanding air when she cares about one, and she has a complex way of asking
probing questions. Miss Casewell text consists of crisp, short sentences, thoughts which are
strung together. Mrs. Boyle is very proper, stand-offish, an air of discontent and fault-finding
in all she sees. Paravinci has an Italian lilt to the cadence of his dialogue. His word choices
are smirky, his phrasing always taunting. Christopher Wren’s dialogue is snappy and quick.
He’s able to quip his way through a conversation and his word choices are colorful and full
of imagery. Major Metcalf is ost proper. A man of few words, his lines are clipped and
militaristic. Sgt. Trotter’s lines are aggressive, pointing, always probing, “One of you is a
murder….one of you is a murder.” Typical of the murder mystery, the text moves quickly,
leaving questions and advancing at quick clip, retreating only to heighten the suspense from
the action of the moment before.
III. Summary of Dramatic Action

The plot bangs open with a murder , the prolonged strangling of a woman, and the plot picks
up from there. Scene I introduces the characters and their little quirks. As the snow falls,
isolating the party from the outside world, the radio informs the audience of the murder
details. Each guest seems to harbor some secret and the introductions are not as civil as the
Ralstons might have hoped. Giles finds one of Mollies gloves and removes a train ticket
hidden inside. At the end of I-I, Parvacini appears very unexpectedly and casts a pall over
the entire party. The next afternoon, the guests gather to discuss their situation when the
police ring up stating they were sending an officer out and it was a matter of life or death.
When Mollie announces that the police are on their way, the guests react in superstitious
ways to the news. Suddenly a face appears at the window and Sgt. Trotter enters the
situation informing the guests that the recent murder in London is tied to Monkswell Manor.
He reveals the fact that the murder woman was connected to the Longridge Farm child abuse
case as the victim had been no other than the very woman convicted of the crime and
recently paroled. Trotter implores the guests to tell him at once if they have any connection.
He reveals clues about who the murder might be, describing a disturbed young man or
possibly woman, suggesting they are related to the farm case. He interrogates the party to
see if anyone has had any relation to the case. Mollie and the rest of the guests deny it, but it
surfaces that Mrs. Boyle had been the judge who placed the children on the farm. Major
Metcalf discovers that the phone isn’t working. Trotter wants to ring up headquarters, but
when told the phone line is down, insists on investigating the cause. Trotter returns
informing them all that the line has been cut. As the afternoon progresses on, each guest
goes off by themselves. Mrs.Boyle enters the main room, she sees someone up the stairs,
recognizing them. The radio comes on describing a scene of terror and when the narrator
says the lights go off, the lights go off and the tune of three blind mice is heard. The radio
switches stations and blares up in volume playing loud music. Over this cacophony, we hear
Mrs. Boyle being strangled. When she expires, Mollie calls out and footsteps run off. Mollie
enters and turns on the lights. She sees Mrs. Boyle and screams.

Act II – Begins ten minutes later with everyone gathered around Mollie as Trotter
interrogates them about their whereabouts. Giles points the finger at Chris, stating he fits the
bill. Mollie defends Chris and asks to speak with Trotter alone. Everyone exits to the dining
room. Mollie asks Trotter if he believes the killer is the eldest boy from the Longridge Farm
case. Trotter rides Mollie letting her know that it could’ve been anyone, including Giles or
even herself. He plants seeds of doubts and Mollie faces uncertainty as when Trotter reveals
the London paper in Giles overcoat and leaves her shaken. Christopher Wren appears and
confesses his unhappy life without his mother. He childishly teases that he will run away on
the Sgt.’s skis. Giles enters and orders Christopher to leave his wife alone. Aware of
Mollie’s doubts, Chris refuses to leave. Mollie persuades him to go. Giles confronts her
about Christopher and she in turn confronts him about London. Giles then reveals her ticket
and demands to know what is going on between her and Christopher. As the fight is about to
escalate into a more than hurtful situation, Paravacini enters, scolding them for quarreling
and informs them that the Sgt.’s skis are missing. Trotter enters and questions everyone
about the whereabouts of his skis. He tells them that one of them is a killer and one of them
is the killer’s next victim. No one reveals any knowledge which could connect him. Trotter
proceeds to interrogate them individually. Major Metcalf is offended. Paravacini amused.
When he speaks with Miss Casewell, he twirls his hair in a nervous habit. Miss Casewell is
shaken by this. Trotter then calls everyone back in and reports that he has a plan to catch he
murderer. He wants everyone to repeat the actions of earlier in the afternoon when the
murder occurred, but he wants each to reenact everyone’s earlier movement, but by not their
own. He assigns the roles. He plays Mrs. Boyle. When everyone has exited and is set, he
calls Mollie into room. Mollie enters and he tells her he knows she was Miss Waring the
teacher to whom the dead child had written in vain for help. Mollie explains she had become
ill and had been hospitalized with pneumonia, thus she didn’t receive the letter until it was
too late. Trotter takes out a gun and Mollie states she didn’t think policeman were supposed
to carry guns. Trotter laughs and informs Mollie he isn’t a policeman – he’s Georgie the
older brother. He regresses as he talks about his “three blind mice” murder spree and his vow
to kill everyone he felt who was responsible. Just as he is about to strangle Mollie, Major
Metcalf and Miss Casewell appear. She speaks to Georgie, revealing she is his sister. He
completely breaks down and as she guides him offstage, Major Metcalf pulls a needle out his
pocket and follows Casewell and Trotter. Giles and Mollie express their great relief over the
discovery. Metcalf returns and reveals he is the policeman who was sent there. He
exchanged places with the real Major Metcalf and when Miss Casewell recognized Georgie
by the hair twirling, confided in him and they waited to expose Trotter. He reveals that
Georgie will be placed in an insane asylum. He tells them that he hid the skis and goes back
upstairs to check on Georgie. In the background, we see Paravinci exiting with the skis.
They each reveal that there were in London and exchange anniversary gifts. Major Metcalf
rushes down the stairs followed by Christopher Wren, shouting about something burning and
as Mollie runs off. Christopher Wren points to window where we see Paravinci sking off.
IV. Characters

Character Desire Will Moral Decorum Adjective Character

Stance Summary Mood

Mollie To forget the Strong, but Decent, would Somewhat shaky, but Determined, Slightly
past and haunted by always do the resilient, yet loyal, awkward, yet
move memories right thing, feels vulnerable. Later vulnerable, energetic, alert,
forward in a guilty and willing this vulnerability slightly clumsy, darting, quick
new age – to believe the begins to crack and amusingly heartbeat,
material best about she becomes tense, defiant breathless
desire to everybody – she’s more awkward than quality
make the a solid friend and before.
Guest can be a tiger if
House work you cross
someone she
cares for.

Giles To be self- Wants his way, Very stiff upper lip In control, Cocky, Hostile,
sufficient, a quick to anger if in a youngish courageous, but also Persistent, belligerent,
true he can’t get it manner as he insecure Aggressive hard line,
gentleman knows he can’t steady
behave any other heartbeat, hot
way. flashes of

Christopher To be Stubborn, much Is very gentle at Totally uninhibited, Pan Like, A very different
Wren childishly like a child’s heart, but has just like an inquisitive Ethereal angle, hyper
happy stomping of the been hurt and child, deliriously askew, off active very
foot doesn’t hesitate happy balance, tilted, quick
to snip first to heartbeat,
hide his own pain flighty
– good at heart

Mrs. Boyle To have the Abrasive, She knows what Stiff upper lip, Snobbish, Critical, over-
entire world domineering is right and that’s condescending, bullish, bearing,
adhere to the only way it is. disapproving wheezy type of
her view of No one else breathing,
the world knows better than waddling
her. intimidation

Major To put it Straightforward, to True boy scout, a A true British civil Straight-arrow, Attentive, alert,
Metcalf alright again the point, gentlemen to the servant. clever, non- steady, calm,
nonsense, but tr ladies discerning ready for
battle, but

Miss To make it To go on with life, Intelligent, won’t Cool and aloof. Smooth, level- Cat-like,
Casewell right no stones be bullied, headed cleverly
unturned believes in evasive,

Parvacini To get away To be the cat after To survive Jester like, dark, a Cat who Light on his
with it the mouse, or is it touch of the sinister swallowed the feet, almost a
clouds him canary, dancer, quick
mirthful, sprite heartbeat, a
dark gleeful

Trotter To revenge To be the cat this Twisted, abused, Aggressive, always Darting, Fast heartbeat,
his family time in a game of he can’t tell right the ever pursuing probing, quick urgent
cat & mouse, to from wrong – he detective, a sense of relentless movements,
be a righteous believes he is urgency pervades all purposeful,
avenger justified his actions attacking
V. Idea
A. Meaning of the title

The Mousetrap is just that. An old manor house is snowed in on its opening night
and murder’s afoot as the characters are trapped by a insane murderer. The
characters involved are the bait in the murder mystery. They are not the mouse to
get caught in the trap, but rather that which entices the mouse to strike out. In the
same sense, though they are the mouse. Georgie, the abused child, along with his
siblings, were caught in a trap by the Farmer and his wife, just like the old nursery
rhyme. Wishing to inflict the same fear and power over someone, Georgie sets up
an elaborate “mousetrap” so he can exercise his idea of justice.

B. Philosophical Statements in the Play

Miss Casewell sums it all up when she states, “Life’ s what you make of it – Go
straight ahead-don’t look back.” (I-1, 296) In another line from the same scene,
she states, “ Don’t give in, turn your back on them" This is telling in another
sense as WWII is still fresh in everyone’s mind and the advice to go forward and
leave the old wounds and atrocities behind is meant for that audience as well.
C. How Does the Action Relate to the Meaning?

The very presence of the isolating snowstorm sets the scene as the characters are
trapped, the bait being Monkswell Manor, until they release that the guest house is
one big mousetrap and there’s no escape.
VI. Moods

The snow is oppressive, but the mood is quicksilver as the action propels the story from one
possible solution to the next suspicion. The air of mystery is well-accomplished plants of
intrigue throughout the play, such as the opening action of Mollie and Giles hiding
something. Tension builds as the snow piles up the many mysteries of this drama.
VII. Tempo

The play immediately begins with a murder and the action builds from there. Each guest
causes unanswered questions, as the play clips along. It continues at a fast pace, with each
major beat increasing in suspense.
VIII. Tone

A quick-paced venture into child abuse, inept bureaucracy, and the need for absolution.
IX. Style of the Play

A mystery melodrama chocked full with stock characters and teasingly macabre incidents
which keeps the audience guessing until the very end. Suspense and secrecy propel the
action towards its surprise ending.
X. Dramaturgy

Still playing in the theatre in which it opened, The Mousetrap is an icon of the murder
mystery melodrama, now in it’s 59th year in London.