GREAT LITERARY LADY: Miss Marple
Thursday, 21 November 2013

GREAT LITERARY LADY: Miss Marple

Agatha Christie’s iconic lady sleuth

Written by Victoria Clark
‘There is a great deal of wickedness in village life,’ says Miss Jane Marple, spinster, as she surveys the genteel village of St Mary Mead over her knitting. Her unassuming facade – pink cheeks, blue eyes, snowy hair – hides a rapier intellect that can outfox any criminals who cross her path. A perceptive observer of character, she categorises people into certain groups and knows that human nature never changes: the clues to the murder mysteries lie in the people themselves.

First appearing in a short story in 1926, Miss Marple was a sharp and nosey Victorian in black brocade with cascading lace at her throat. By 1930, in Murder At The Vicarage, she had become everyone’s favourite aunt in her trademark tweeds.

Christie claimed she based her upon her step-grandmother and her friends. In their book Reflecting On Miss Marple, Marion Shaw and Sabine Vanacker present the sleuth as a feminist icon who has carved out an independent way for herself. Without family of her own, she offers support to a number of young ‘nephews and nieces’ and it is her shrewd judgement – always underestimated – that saves them when they fall foul of the law.

Often portrayed on the big screen and small – most memorably by Margaret Rutherford and Joan Hickson (left) – she even appeared in Japanese anime comics.

By giving ‘old maids’ a voice, Agatha Christie created one of the most enduring female detectives in British crime literature.


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