The Moving Finger or Oh Where or Where Did Miss Marple Go?

AnnikaAnnika United States of America Investigator
I just finished rereading The Moving Finger. I have read it numerous times but haven't read it in several years. I was struck this time by how little Miss Marple is in The Moving Finger. I kept waiting for her to show up and it wasn't until the last 50 pages that she quietly makes an appearance and solves the case. I can't believe I never noticed this before and I think it can only be because I have watched the TV adaptations multiple times and she is in the entire show of course.

Is anyone else surprised by how little Miss Marple appears in this story?  Does anyone think perhaps she needn't have been written into this particular mystery?
Annika
Blogger at The Season Ahead
"You'll turn out ordinary if you're not careful." - Ann Brashares
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Comments

  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    I think there is a clue to what Christie intended  when Miss Marple tells Jerry that he has a gift for unravelling mysteries, and that he just doesn't believe in himself enough. I think that Christie might have meant this story to be about an amateur/novice finding themselves gifted as a detective and being what say, the vicar,  Leonard could have been in Murder at the Vicarage, if , as one of our members suggested, he had solved the whole crime in that novel, rather than Miss Marple.. She wants Jerry to have the credit.  Miss Marple is an amateur too, of course, but an experienced amateur sleuth.  Although Miss Marple solves the mystery in The Moving Finger, she does say that Jerry recounting his dream - what he has subconsciously deduced about the crime, is what had put her on the correct path. She is not the type of character to flatter, so I think she meant it.

     This isn't the only story in which the narrative form makes it difficult to deal with the issue of the sort of climax surrounding who has got it right and has  seen what is going on all along. In The Crooked House, the narrator and hero's dad, ( the Scotland Yard detecive)  at the end, seems to suggest that he, all along, has had  firm idea of who has committed the murder, and that is why he has warned his son,  Charles, to watch out for that person, but Charles takes it, as intended, as for that person's own safety. It is a bit odd, because in The Crooked House, here is Clever Clogs popping up with the knowledge, and we readers are rapt in admiration, only we don't really know the guy, other than as a suit, a big detective, so we can't really feel anything admiring about him, or wonder how he knew who did it. It isn't very satisfying for the reader, in my opinion in The Crooked House.  I think that, as far as a writer goes, that once committed to an excellent line of narrative, it must be difficult to break it by having the thoughts and impressions of another, a sleuth, interfere too much. It breaks a brilliant flow, and TMF does have an amazing flow and feel-good feel to the narrative.

     I think, Annika, that your question also highlights what is missing from TMF. It isn't just the number of times Miss Marple pops up which makes her seem absent, but the lack of that narrative form which I can't remember the word for, when the text is written in the third person but using the sort of words, syntax and reasoning sequences of a character. So in At Bertram's Hotel, many of the observations about the furnishings and staff are expressed from the sort of outlook and referencing the same attitudes as Miss Marple would have,  even thought it doesn't say 'Miss Marple thought...'  At Bertram's Hotel is more MM's story. Miss Marple is almost objectified in The Moving Finger, as though being seen as a strange type by an outsider. I think AC meant to experiment with this way of presenting her gentle star sleuth. In Murder at the Vicarage, a book with a similar feel-good vibe, she is presented as one of them, part of the community with shared values. I think that TMF s trying to do a different novel, thinking how Londoners would view the likes of the Dale-Calthorpes who would fit into MATV and other villagey novels. At the the end Jerry and his sister SPOILER join the village community, so perhaps AC decided that she identified with that world too much to want to objectify and sort of poke fun at it.





  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States mod
    The original American edition of Moving Finger had about a quarter of the book edited out to save paper during WWII, but I don't think much of Miss Marple's appearance was cut.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom ✭✭✭✭✭

    On Wiki it states there is a Phrase which describes when a Writer doesn't know how to move on, This seems to be why Miss Marple was included in The Moving Finger as there is no earthly reason why Jerry and The Policeman couldn't solve the Murder either the 2 should have just solved it or Miss Marple should have gone to Visit the Calthorpe's at the beginning, I like Both this one and Murder At The Vicarage but The Vicar could have solved MATV just as Jerry and maybe the Policeman could have solved TMF,To go Off-Topic for a bit I think Ordeal By Innosense would have been better with Poirot

  • AnnikaAnnika United States of America Investigator
    I did a little research to see if Agatha Christie intended this to be a Miss Marple mystery from the beginning and according to Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran that is indeed the case. He notes the oddity of her appearing so late in the book but doesn't comment on it much more than that. I thought that if AC included MM as an afterthought or at the behest of her publishers her late appearance would make much more sense, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

    I can only speculate that as TMF is one of AC's earlier MM novels maybe she wasn't quite sure yet how she wanted to work her in the stories. As Griselda mentioned above At Bertram's is definitely much more of a traditional MM story as is A Murder is Announced.

    GKCfan: I did read about the UK and US text discrepancies and wonder if anyone has looked at the two editions side by side and noticed whether MM makes an earlier appearance in the UK edition.

    On a side note I did find it interesting to learn that in TMF we learn who the killer is before MM's explanation. This is highly unusual in her writing.


    Annika
    Blogger at The Season Ahead
    "You'll turn out ordinary if you're not careful." - Ann Brashares
  • Well in The Moving Finger Jerry Burton is the narrator and maybe she wanted Burton's character to shine a bit and have the reader's eyes on him for a bit....in other words see Jerry and his view of village life through his eyes. 


    “People in the dark are quite different, aren’t they?”  ― A Murder Is Announced 
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States mod
    Miss Marple still makes a very late "third act" appearance in the original full version.  When I made my comparison, I learned that most of the cut scenes were "slice of life" village scenes, most of which had minimal direct bearing to the mystery.
  • Does anyone know how I can obtain a copy of the UK edition of The Moving Finger? I've come to realize that the US and the UK editions are both different in some manners. I've read in John Curran's "Agatha Christie's Notebooks", "While the basic story remains the same, many minor characters have disappeared from the US edition and some passages, including the opening scene, are significantly different. Apart from puzzling references to characters who do not (seemingly) exist the overall effect is to leave the US edition a shorter book."


    “People in the dark are quite different, aren’t they?”  ― A Murder Is Announced 
  • taliavishay-arbeltaliavishay-arbel ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2016
    I know there are e-books of both versions. You can tell them apart by the opening: the first sentence of the English version starts: "When at last I was taken out of the plaster, and the doctors had pulled me about to their hearts’ content..." The first sentence of the U.S. version talks about the first anonymous letter. (I didn't keep it, so I can't quote exactly).
  • GKCfanGKCfan Wisconsin, United States mod
    The latest edition of Moving Finger in the US is the unabridged version.  (https://www.amazon.com/Moving-Finger-Marple-Mystery-Mysteries/dp/0062073621/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466884912&sr=1-1&keywords=moving+finger).  Pretty much all of the earlier US editions are edited.
  • @GKCfan:

    So is this particular US edition edited as well? 

     

    This is the edition that I have. How is the edition that you posted (from the link) different from this edition, if there are any differences? 


    “People in the dark are quite different, aren’t they?”  ― A Murder Is Announced 
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