There are many symbols and motifs used throughout the novel. These help keep the reader interested and give the novel it’s mysterious feeling. The two main motifs used in this novel are Ten Little Indians and dreams/hallucinations. The “Ten Little Indians” rhyme guides the mystery and horror of the novel. The poem, childish verses tell the story of the deaths of ten Indian boys and end with the line that gives the novel its title: “and then there were none. A framed copy of the rhyme hangs in every bedroom, and ten small Indian figures sit on the dining-room table. The murders are carried out to match, as closely as possible, the lines in the poem, and after each murder, one of the figures vanishes from the dining room. The overall effect is that the people get paranoid ; eventually, all the people on the island realize that the next murder will match the next verse, yet they are unable to escape their fates.
The poem affects Vera Claythorne more powerfully than it affects anyone else. She becomes obsessed with it, and when she eventually kills herself she is directly following under the power of the poem’s final verse, which is suicide. Dreams and hallucinations recur throughout the novel, usually as a reflection of various peoples’ guilty consciences. Dr. Armstrong has a dream in which he operates on a person whose face is first Emily Brent’s and then Tony Marston’s.
This dream likely grows out of Armstrong’s memories of accidentally killing a woman on the operating table. Emily Brent seems to go into a trance while writing in her diary; she wakes from it to find the words “The murderer’s name is Beatrice Taylor” (69) scrawled across the page. Beatrice Taylor is the name of Emily Brent’s former maid, who got pregnant and killed herself after Emily Brent fired her. Brent’s unconscious scrawl demonstrates, either her guilty conscience, or her preoccupation with the death of her servant.
Vera Claythorne often feels that Hugo Hamilton—her former lover, for whom she let a little boy drown—watches her, and whenever she smells the sea, she remembers the day the boy died, as if hallucinating. All of the hallucinations and dream further enhance the characters’ pasts and conclude the reason why they are on the island. This motif is very important to the novel. Throughout the novel, the motifs or the poem Ten Little Indians and dreams/hallucinations come up. These motifs help the reader further understand the context. The use of the motifs also aids in the mystery side of the novel.