The Disruption of the Peaceful Bucolic Life of Kings Abbot
Kings Abbot is described at the beginning of the novel as being “just like any other village”. However, as the plot develops and the reader learns more about the secrets and pasts of the characters who reside in Kings Abbot and, more importantly, Fernly Park, we soon realize that Kings Abbot is far from the ordinary and boring countryside village. When you reflect upon the entire storyline, the reader realizes that the murder that occurs at Fernly Park, of Roger Ackroyd, created a lot more disruption in the town than just scandalous rumors and gossip between the spinsters of the town. In fact, Dr. Sheppard was not the only villager who suffered as a result of the murder – he may have committed the crime but all the residents of Fernly Park had to reveal a secret to Poirot or have one found out without their wanting. The disruption even extends further than the immediate residents to their families, for example, Caroline or Charles Kent.
One person who suffers greatly as a result of Roger Ackroyd’s death is Flora Ackroyd. While she is an innocent young girl whom the townsfolk are fond of, she lives in a metaphorical bubble and is severely unexposed to real life situations – such as murder. Therefore, her peaceful life living in Kings Abbot is spoiled suddenly and drastically with the unexpected murder of her Uncle. However, not only does she “faint” at the horror of her uncle’s death and finds it difficult to come to terms with his death, she is also probably the most exposed character throughout the plot (aside from Dr. Sheppard himself). Flora Ackroyd begins with a peaceful and well-received engagement to Ralph Patton with the prospect of a large inheritance, which includes the large manor house. Throughout the novel she finds out that her fiancée is already married to one of the household staff, it is revealed that she stole money from her uncle and lied to the police and Poirot, sending the investigation backwards by giving false evidence as well as finding out the Hector Blunt cares deeply for her and getting engaged to him. Flora’s individually peaceful life is heavily disrupted by the murder at Fernly Park. However, it is not all for the worse as she does not have to waste time on a man that does not love her and she also shows dramatic character development, as she grows bolder throughout the storyline.
Another person who serves as evidence for a peaceful life that is greatly affected by the murder at Fernly Park is Caroline Sheppard. Caroline is thought to be interfering and nosy when it comes to gossip, she still plays a major part in the novel. Despite not being the sidekick to Poirot (like the narrator and murderer Dr. Sheppard) or a suspect in the crime, Caroline is still greatly affected by Roger Ackroyd’s murder at Fernly Park, somewhat more than some of the staff and residents of Fernly Park. Caroline is the spinster sister of Dr. Sheppard and as a result will be directly affected by the knowledge that her brother, whom she had lived and cared for, for several years, including the time during the murder investigation. While the reader does not get to read Caroline’s reaction to finding out that her own brother caused all this scandal around Kings Abbot, at the very end of the novel, Poirot turns to Sheppard and says “for the sake of your good sister, I am willing to give you the chance of another way out”. This suggests that Caroline would not only be grief stricken by the loss of her brother, who would have been hanged if reported to the police, but humiliated at the gossip of her own brother’s public hanging. Although the reader may not always consider Caroline as one of the most affected characters by the murder at Fernly Park, it is certain that her peace and quiet living in the countryside town has been vanquished without any fault of hers.
While many of the household staff were greatly affected by the murder at Fernly Park, such as Miss Rogers and the exposure of her illegitimate son Charles or Ursula Bourne and the revelation of her secret marriage to Ralph Patton, Parker seems to be the one who is most shaken up following the incident and during the investigation. The “secret” that Poirot prides himself on finding out about Parker is that her blackmailed his former boss. Parker listened at the door when he overheard conversation about blackmail between Dr. Sheppard and Ackroyd himself. He told Poirot that he was hoping to get something out of the situation for himself. While Parker originally portrays himself as the humble and loyal butler who wholeheartedly serves Roger Ackroyd, he has really retired to Fernly Park to hide from the accusations of blackmail at his former residence. The murder of Roger Ackroyd has unearthed Parker as an untrustworthy person and shines light on his manipulative personality. No longer is Parker able to portray himself as innocent and dedicated to his work, ruining his plans to either blackmail Ackroyd himself or live out the rest of his life as an ordinary member of the household. Therefore, the murder at Fernly Park has certainly disrupted Parker’s peaceful life as through the murder, he has been exposed as a blackmailer.
Ralph Paton is one of the characters that suffers most at the murder of Roger Ackroyd. Not only does the young character lose the stepfather who adopted him and took him in as his own, caring him throughout his life; despite him being a “wild boy” during his childhood, but he also is hidden away by Dr. Sheppard while constantly fearing that he will be framed for the murder or that his secret wife was the murderer. Ralph seems to have a lot of secrets, which could be to do with the fact he does not permanently live in Kings Abbot anymore (although the residents still consider him to be and he is very much a part of the community). However, Ralph is cleverly framed for the murder and is therefore under stress to hide in a mental asylum so that he does not get arrested. The other aspect of Ralph’s life that is suddenly revealed is that his engagement to Flora Ackroyd was a fake all along and he actually is secretly married to one of Fernly Park’s household staff – Ursula Bourne. Therefore, the murder has disrupted Ralph’s peaceful life while staying in Fernly Park because he will no longer be able to have a quiet marriage to Ursula and also, as the inheritor of Fernly Park, will have to spend a lot of time away from London dealing with his uncle’s unfinished business. This upheaval will not only affect Ralph but also his wife and the rest of the town as he may be forced to dismiss certain members of the house (such as Parker with his keen eye for a blackmail opportunity) and heavily disrupt the quiet countryside life.
In conclusion, while to an extent all the characters have had to suffer individually at the result of the murder at Fernly Park, their suffering as a community is much greater. It is obvious that after the novel finishes, the characters will not be able to resume their everyday lives. They will all treat each other differently and potentially respect each other more at the ordeal they have faced and the situation they have been through together. The reader is safely assured that the peaceful bucolic life that once epitomized Kings Abbot will not be the same ever again.
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