Sunday, March 11, 2007


Joan Hickson, my favourite on screen Miss Jane Marple

My daughter and I recently spent a couple of hours in a large, busy waiting room. We were prepared with reading materials, but it turned out that people watching was far more interesting. I have an article from a medical journal that describes how to assess someone by just watching them walk into your office and sit in a chair opposite your desk. So much can be determined by looking at faces, hands, clothing and mannerisms and listening to their conversations. While it may be easy to misjudge people at times, our initial impressions are often accurate.

I enjoy reading a good mystery, and Agatha Christie is one of my favourite authors. I have read most of her books and enjoy her main characters, including Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence, the mysterious Mr, Quin, and of course, Miss Jane Marple. Miss Marple is my kind of hero. In one of her stories she says,

"We're all very ordinary in St. Mary Mead, but ordinary people can sometimes do the most astonishing things."

Her observations of human nature, and her quiet inquiries lead her to solving the most extraordinary cases. She loves her garden and uses her powerful binoculars to observe birds, as well as for other purposes. Her detection methods do not include collecting physical clues, but as she sits and knits, she uses her mind to sort out behaviour clues. Agatha Christie allows her hero to age, and the reader finds her becoming increasingly frail, prone to falls, and dismissed by people in the village as a fussy old spinster. But her deductive mind does not disappoint us.

I believe Agatha Christie could have been the most brilliant criminal. Her characters mirror her own intelligence and ingenuity. Agatha Christie says of Miss Marple, "Though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and is, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right."

Miss Marple says, "It's very dangerous to believe people. I haven't for years."

I don't want to be quite as cynical about people, but we do tend to hide our less desirable character traits and behaviours from others. As I observe people in a crowded waiting room, I can be sure someone else is watching and coming to their own conclusions about me.


  1. This is very thought provoking, Ruth. Judging character in an instant is more often true than not.

    Watching people, anywhere, is one of my favorite things to do. Many times I feel cynical and mistrusting, but more often that's not the case. Facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice tells the whole story!

  2. I think women in general are more intuitive when it comes to seeing someone and being able to deduce certain things. I enjoy people watching as well and wonder how close I am to understanding someone just by observing them for a bit.

  3. Anonymous9:35 am GMT-4

    I love people-watching too. It's better than television.

  4. I so agree that Agatha Christie wrote world class mysteries. What an interesting thought that she herself could have been a brilliant criminal. Takes one to know one, eh?
    NPR ran a Miss Marple series on MYSTERY over the last several years and we loved watching them--with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Jane Marple.

  5. Mary- I like to think the best of people if possible, but our instant reactions are very strong and if there is a negative first impression, it is hard to overcome.

    Jayne- I agree that most women are more intuitive than men. I'll bet you have learned a lot about human nature in your career as a nurse.

    LauraO- Of course it is way better than TV! That is why reality TV is so popular now I guess.(not that I ever watch those shows)

    KGMom- Agatha Christie is tops! I prefer heady mysteries to wild action stories. I watched the Geraldine McEwan movies as well,and she was a good Miss Marple. But I hate it when the original story is altered from a book I like. Sleeping Murder was all wrong! Some of the other episodes had strange plot twists that upset the Christie purists.


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