In to reveal himself as the killer
In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, we are brought to a startling realization when, in the end, it is revealed that our very own narrator, Dr. Sheppard, is the killer all along. However, this does not make him an unreliable narrator. In fact, Dr. Sheppard, as the “author” of this story, is a very honest and dependable narrator- using subtle clues in his writing in order to reveal himself as the killer from the very beginning. When it comes to evidence, Dr. Sheppard uses specific words in order to inconspicuously gather the clues that possibly could have made people accuse him of the crime.
When Roger Ackroyd decides to read Mrs. Ferrars’ letter, which reveals who’s been blackmailing her all this time, to himself, Dr. Sheppard says “’No,’ I cried impulsively, ‘read it now…At least the name of the man’” (pg. 54). Dr. Sheppard knows that his name is in that letter and is desperate, as seen by the word ‘cried’, to hear it come from Ackroyd’s lips. In another instance, Dr.
Sheppard uses the word ‘cried’ once again, as the narrator, in order to describe his extreme anxiety when he says “’What is it? ’ I cried. ‘What have you found’” (pg. 123).Here, the word is used when Hercule Poirot nonchalantly stumbles upon a possible clue that he doesn’t necessarily point out right away to Dr. Sheppard.
He’s constantly on his toes, fearing that any little detail could give him away, especially to Poirot, and Dr. Sheppard describes that fear perfectly to his readers. Lastly, he states in his narration that he “wanted dreadfully to understand the enigma of the boots” (pg. 211) when the boots continuously pop up as a clue. He wouldn’t have been so curious about the boots had he not used them to try and frame Ralph Paton.He uses the word ‘dreadfully’ in order to show how badly he wanted to know the boot’s significance to Poirot.
Continuing on with his intelligent choice of words, Dr. Sheppard specifically shows in the text when he’s been silenced answering other people and has to think very carefully of what to say in order to not reveal himself. He says “I was momentarily silenced. I had hoped that that visit of mine would remain unnoticed” (pg. 92) when he’s cornered about his visit to Paton after the murder took place.
He didn’t share that with the reader, but he doesn’t keep it to himself when someone else catches on.He didn’t want anyone to know about his visit because that was when he was hiding Paton. That is why he was silenced for a moment, trying to come up with something to respond back with. Another time, Dr.
Sheppard admits to us “I thought a good many things of it, but I was careful not to say them to Caroline” (pg. 162). He clearly did have plenty to say in response to her questioning, but he tends to keep things to himself, with the exception of revealing them to us in his writing. He tends to hesitate and pause a lot when faced against hard-hitting questions and he doesn’t need to share it with the readers, but he does.There also were many times when Dr. Sheppard would show his discomfort of certain situations, showing the reader that he wasn’t nearly as innocent as the other characters’ thought he was.
When Poirot gathers all the suspects for dinner, Dr. Sheppard says “His glance, challenging and accusing, swept round the table. And every pair of eyes dropped before his.
Yes, mine as well” (pg. 182). He tells us here that though no one ever accused him of the murder, he’s hiding something. If he were innocent of anything, he wouldn’t have been affected by Poirot’s accusing stare.Though he hasn’t told us what he’s necessarily guilty of, he does show us that he is, in fact, guilty of something. Later on, Dr.
Sheppard describes his reaction to Paton being found as “It was a very uncomfortable minute for me. I hardly took in what happened next, but there were exclamations and cries of surprise” (pg. 333). Not only had he been extremely uncomfortable when asked about his visit to Paton in the beginning of the book, but he also reveals to us how unhappy he is to see Paton now, face-to-face. He describes everyone else as being excited and shocked to see him, yet describes himself as being the only one who isn’t.He could have easily chose to omit this detail from his story but he shares this very crucial and very telling detail with the reader. Dr.
Sheppard has also, on several occasions, tried to convince people not to do things that would benefit them (but, in reality, hurt him). He says to Ackroyd “’I see,’ I said slowly. ‘You want to hunt him Mrs. Ferrars’ blackmailer down? It will mean a lot of publicity, you know’” (pg.
51). He uses the excuse of publicity in order to convince Ackroyd that searching for the blackmailer would just be unbeneficial to him, who’d refer to be out of the spot light. But the truth is, he’d rather not be found out. The word slowly is used here in a way that makes it seem as though Dr. Sheppard was weighing out the option when, in reality, he knew his response right away. Another time, when Flora tells him she wants Poirot to work on the case, he says to her “’Flora,’ I said gravely, ‘be guided by me.
I advise you not to drag this detective Poirot into the case’” (pg. 92). Now knowing that he is the killer, it’s not surprising to see him try and convince Flora not to hire this famously known detective.He’s commented several times on the stupidity of police officers and would have a better chance of getting away with the murder if they were on the case. He also uses the word gravely to, once again, show his unhappiness of the idea. As cunning as Dr. Sheppard is throughout his story, he’s also extremely transparent at times through obviously well thought out word choices.
In the beginning of the novel, he describes his momentary fear of being caught, saying “Suddenly before my eyes there arose the picture of Ralph Paton and Mrs. Ferrars side by side. Their heads so close together. I felt a momentary throb of anxiety.Supposing-oh! But surely that was impossible. I remembered the frankness of Ralph’s greeting that very afternoon.
Absurd! ” (pg. 50). He let’s us into his thoughts a lot throughout the book, which tend to be the most revealing clues. Since he’s the blackmailer, he feared that Mrs.
Ferrars had told Paton all about the situation, and that he eventually told Ackroyd. He shows his anxiety of the thought, and only feels better when he tosses it out as nonsense. Later, he goes on to practically admit his guilt by writing “Ackroyd was sitting as I had left him in the armchair before the fire.
His head had fallen sideways, and clearly visible, just below the collar of his coat, was a shining piece of twisted metalwork” (pg. 62). The most telling part of the quote is the very beginning, when he says ‘as I had left him’. Dr. Sheppard left him dead in the chair with the knife in him.
Adding onto that, he previously wrote “I hesitated with my hand on the door handle, looking back and wondering if there was anything I had left undone” (pg. 55). What else would have possibly needed to be done, had he not murdered Ackroyd and just left him with the note?He hesitates because any tiny mistake can be the mistake that puts him in jail, and he thinks about every little detail before he leaves, making sure nothing was left ‘undone’. Regardless of how unexpected it was to realize Dr.
Sheppard was the murderer the entire time, it still didn’t make him any less of a responsible narrator and “author” of the story. He made honest, yet understated, word choices in order to reveal his true role in the story. On top of that, he was honest about his discomfort and hesitation, his obvious attempts at convincing people to go against their wishes, and his overall telling of what really happened to Ackroyd.
In the words of Dr. Sheppard himself; “The letters were brought in at twenty minutes to nine. It was just on ten minutes to nine when I left him, the letter still unread…All true, you see. But suppose I had put a row of stars after the first sentence! Would somebody then have wondered what exactly happened in that blank ten minutes” (pg.
357). In response, yes. If he had put stars, arrows, bold colors, anything over all of his honest clues, then maybe people would’ve finally realized it was him all along. But then what kind of detective story would that have been?